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General outlines focus areas, philosophies, expectations at HRA meeting

LEXINGTON, Mass. – Program Executive Officer Brig. Gen. Michael Schmidt presented an overview of his strategic focus areas, leadership philosophies and key expectations to the Hanscom Representatives Association during a luncheon meeting Aug. 8.

The general, who began his Air Force career at Hanscom in 1991, told the audience of current and potential industry partners that he’s enthused to be back in the area. As PEO for Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks, he now manages an $11.4 billion portfolio, developing, deploying and sustaining Air Force, joint and coalition cyberspace, networks, cryptologic and data link systems to enable decisive combat operations.

Schmidt praised his C3I&N team as he highlighted the directorate’s six main strategic focus areas. With the first three – cyber weapons systems; agile and resilient comms; and command and control, communications and computers, or C4, integration – he emphasized the importance of integrating the architecture of disparate systems.

The topics of artificial intelligence/machine learning and IT modernization/transformation followed, both of which Schmidt considers up-and-coming areas. And while IT may only comprise 25 percent of his portfolio, it often takes center stage in today’s tech-driven world, he said.

“We’re going to totally change the way we do IT in the Air Force as we move to a commercial model and enterprise IT as a service,” Schmidt said.

The PEO used a high-tempo video to highlight the mission of the sixth focus area: multi-domain command and control. The visuals captured the essence of MDC2, harnessing vast amounts of information and developing seamless connections to integrate all war-fighting domains and functions.

Achieving that objective – or success on any front – requires confidence in one’s organization, but also a willingness to fail, according to the general.

“We would rather learn from a failure than never try new things,” he said. “So I push this a lot within my teams; I delegate as much as I possibly can – both the responsibility and the authority. We have some really sharp people out there.”

Schmidt closed out his presentation the same way he ends weekly emails to his 2,000-plus member staff: with his PEO expectations of deliver, innovate and grow.

“We’re only here to deliver warfighting capability to our warfighters out there; otherwise, we have no reason to be here,” he said.

And while the general promotes innovation, he realizes it may not be each employee’s number-one strength.

“Some people are better at being innovators, some are better at taking innovative ideas and turning them into something. Rarely, do you find someone who’s good at both,” he said. “So I think every good business needs an innovator combined with someone who knows how to make stuff happen.”

Regardless of where someone falls on that spectrum, Schmidt encourages all managers to bring out the best in their personnel and allow them to grow and flourish, whether in their current positions or if opportunities arise elsewhere.

But he admits he’s concerned that with the fast pace of business these days, the younger generation of employees in particular may be missing out on the mentorship that spurs growth.

“We used to have more time to mentor people and spend time explaining why we do things and why we don’t do things,” Schmidt said. “We need to fix that and continue to grow our entire government civilian, contractor and military team.”