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News > ESC’s new Engineering director returns to acquisition roots
 
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Thornton on board
Susan Thornton, new Electronic Systems Center Engineering director, speaks to Dr. Susan Arnold, Engineering Resource Management Division chief, about plans for the organization during a Nov. 15 staff meeting. (U.S. Air Force photo by Rick Berry)
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ESC’s new Engineering director returns to acquisition roots

Posted 11/17/2010   Updated 11/17/2010 Email story   Print story

    


by Patty Welsh
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs


11/17/2010 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Susan Thornton, new Engineering director for the Electronic Systems Center, said she is excited about returning to the acquisition world, describing her job as a sort of homecoming.

Although her most recent position was as director of the Directed Energy Directorate at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland AFB, N.M, most of her previous experiences have been working in engineering for acquisition programs of all scopes and sizes.

She worked at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, for 20 years before moving to Kirtland to be the Engineering director for the Airborne Laser Program. In that role, her job was to organize, train and equip the program with engineers.

"Obviously, the scope of this new position is much larger in terms of number of people, dollar amounts and variety and type of programs," Ms. Thornton said. "But my roots are in acquisition and I've been an acquisition engineer for most of my career."

In her previous jobs, she has worked on all phases of acquisition programs, from the very beginning when the program is conceptual, through engineering and manufacturing, production and development and even sustainment.

She also had the chance to work on policy, application and process development while chief of Technical and Acquisition Policy in the Aeronautical Systems Center's Engineering Directorate.

"One area I focused on was operational safety, suitability and effectiveness," Ms. Thornton said, "which is a big part of what acquisition engineers look at now."

As the majority of her past experiences have been supporting aircraft programs, she said she is looking forward to being involved in a different aspect of the Air Force mission.

"To be able to be involved in the mission ESC has is particularly exciting in this era of information technology and global communication," she said.

Her first priority as ESC Engineering director is to continue to grow and re-invigorate the organic engineering workforce here.

"I want to support ESC's mission by providing the PEOs [program executive officers] and programs with world-class engineering to make that happen," said Ms. Thornton. "We need to have the right mix of organic, FFRDC [Federally Funded Research and Development Center], contractors and A&AS [Advisory and Assistance Services] support."

A challenge she foresees is making sure the directorate has the right people with the right skills in the right job.

"I want to ensure we continue to hire good people and develop those people well, so we can create and maintain the right workforce mix," she said. "I want to make sure the engineers are equipped to support the mission of programs."

Ms. Thornton has a passion for service, which is why she started working for the Air Force originally, and why she has stayed with the Air Force for almost 30 years as a civilian employee, ultimately rising to the senior executive service level.

"I strongly believe in the Air Force core values of integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do," she said.

She added that she is a forthright person who values open communication, cooperation and teamwork, a positive attitude and a work/life balance.

"I have a life outside of work and feel that you can't be as effective at your work without that balance."

She has one son, one daughter, two stepdaughters and six grandchildren.

Ms. Thornton previously lived in Cambridge, Mass., while working on her master's degree at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
"I loved my year here," she said. "The history, the art, the culture, the food - I'm looking forward to experiencing all that again, plus more."



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