Charting a New Course

Joe Herzig

How can a retired Navy officer continue to serve his country? He can join MITRE—a company whose mission is helping our government sponsors keep our nation safe.

Joe Herzig was about to retire from the Navy after 28 years of service when he began talking to his old friend David Wirth about his transition to civilian life. Wirth and Herzig had been stationed together several times during their Navy careers, after which Wirth went on to join MITRE's San Diego site.

At the time, MITRE needed a systems engineer in San Diego and thought that Herzig's IT expertise and deep insight into the Department of Defense would make him a great fit.

But there was a hitch. After having uprooted his family every couple of years during his Navy career, Herzig had recently settled everyone back home in Alabama. He was finally within striking distance of his alma mater, Auburn University, and its powerhouse football team. His elderly parents and in-laws were close by and needed family support. He didn't want to relocate.

"I had a conversation with MITRE and they understood my situation vis a vis this particular position. But they really appreciated my military experience and asked if I would be interested in working as a contract engineer," Herzig says. "It took me about two seconds to say 'yes.'"

Advancing U.S. National Security Interests

He accepted the contract position in August of 2015. Nine months later, he joined MITRE as a full-time systems engineer, working from his home office in Montgomery, Alabama. Herzig now travels to MITRE's McLean, Virginia, campus frequently to meet with his sponsors and team members, many of whom are equally geographically dispersed.

"I love the MITRE culture. It's such a great opportunity to continue to serve," he says. "I get to help the government solve some of its biggest challenges."

One of these challenges is to help advance U.S. national security and foreign policy interests by building the capacity of foreign security forces to respond to shared challenges. That's the mission of MITRE's sponsor, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA). As project leader for DSCA, Herzig provides systems engineering, program management, enterprise architecture, strategy, cybersecurity expertise and analysis to support the Chief Information Officer (CIO).

"The CIO manages a portfolio of mission systems and services to efficiently and effectively enable the DSCA mission for the Security Cooperation community," he says. "My role is to help her develop and achieve her vision and strategy to better position DSCA for success."

A Leader Who Inspires Success

Herzig is also the tactical communications group leader for the Defense Technology department in MITRE's Office of the Secretary of Defense Program Division. In this role, he is the first-line supervisor and technical leader for a team of ten engineers. He is responsible for staff management, including helping his staff understand MITRE's strategy and how their work aligns to their own goals and the goals of the corporation.

"I love to work with folks, get to know them, and equip them with the skills and resources they need to be successful," he says. "I want them to walk through the doors of MITRE and be excited about coming to work—just like I am."

Herzig's leadership role at MITRE is a natural extension of his career as a Naval officer. As Chief of Staff for a destroyer squadron, he was responsible for ensuring that the needs of each ship were met and that each ship was ready to take on immediate day-to-day work, as well as being mission and deployment ready. 

His Navy career likewise nurtured his strong expertise in IT and deep understanding of the DoD. His last position before joining MITRE was as Deputy Director Navy Enterprise IT Architecture Integration in the office of the Chief of Naval Operations. He was in charge of strategic, long-term IT service planning and technology implementation, providing critical direction and guidance for numerous programs and commands.

"MITRE allowed me to further develop my leadership style and continue my selfless service to others and the nation," says Herzig. "That's why I love my job."

by Twig Mowatt

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