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New Strategic Systems Programs STEM Leaders Pave the Way

27 March 2024

From Shelby Thompson

WASHINGTON NAVY YARD - Strategic Systems Programs (SSP) recently added three new senior leadership STEM positions, increasing opportunities for STEM professionals to advance their careers within the command.
Scientific and Professional (ST) positions are specialized roles above a GS-15 and involve high level research and development in a variety of STEM-related fields. Many of the Federal Government's most renowned scientists and engineers, such as Dr. James Weber, Principal Director for Hypersonics in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Critical Technologies, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (OUSD(R&E) and Dr. John V. Amy Jr., Senior Technologist, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division Naval Sea Systems Command, serve in ST positions. Introducing ST positions to SSP provides an alternative path to technical leadership and provides early and mid-career STEM professionals with a roadmap for a future outside of traditional management roles. 

The highly competitive ST positions were filled by Mr. Mike Guidotti, Distinguished Engineer for Shipboard Systems, Mr. Barry Willhite, Distinguished Engineer for Flight Systems, and Ms. Vanessa Gentzen, Distinguished Engineer for Hypersonic Weapon Systems. 

Military commands can be revolving doors, with uniformed personnel receiving new orders and rotating to new commands and roles every 2-3 years typically. ST positions are intended to alleviate parts of the knowledge gap that occur by providing a continuity of technical leadership.  

“STs are responsible for technical stewardship,” said Mr. Guidotti. “They also have a crucial role in ensuring key domain expertise is developed and maintained across the technical workforce at [SSP] headquarters and to provide continuity of leadership in a military-civilian model.”

In addition to bringing more long-term stability to technical leadership roles, these positions are creating a visible, impactful roadmap for career progression within SSP’s workforce. 

“Having ST positions in the command offers a promotion pathway for individuals that are best suited for or may simply prefer technical roles,” said Ms. Gentzen, who further highlighted ST positions also increase collaboration across acquisition and technical aspects of the program, with STs driving discussions and decision points that bring in all pieces of the puzzle. 

“We've really only begun to tap into the talent we have across the command, and to harness the innovation and benefit that comes from a fully collaborative approach,” says Mr. Guidotti. 

Even though these positions have just launched, SSP’s new STs are excited about how they can continue to grow this area of SSP and showcase the possibilities of a government career in STEM to a younger generation.  

“The creation of ST positions at SPHQ is an excellent addition to the command, and to SSP's culture as a whole,” said Fernandes Boyd, an Industrial Engineer for Missile Production and Operations at SSP. “For younger professionals coming into the program, it creates various opportunities and possibilities on how you want to shape your career. With ST positions over multiple disciplines, it really enables the workforce to be able to map their career to their niche and aim high based on their desires.”

Strategic Systems Programs is the Navy command that provides cradle-to-grave lifecycle support for the sea-based leg of the nation’s nuclear triad. This includes training, systems, equipment, facilities and personnel responsible for ensuring the safety, security, and effectiveness of the nation’s Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) Trident II (D5LE) Strategic Weapon System.  

A credible, effective nuclear deterrent is essential to our national security and the security of U.S. allies. Deterrence remains a cornerstone of national security policy in the 21st century.

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