Smith's public service is second nature
- By Frank Tiboni
- Mar 07, 2004
Ask Al Smith about his devotion to government service, and he hearkens back to his parochial education in Watertown, Mass. "The nuns had a great sense of giving back to the community," Smith said.
After graduating with an electrical engineering degree from Northeastern University, Smith received several job offers in industry, but an interview with the CIA hooked him, and he worked for the agency for 13 years.
"I learned, as most people do, that the CIA is not about the excitement," Smith said. "It's about the mission. It's about giving back to the country." That is something the nuns taught him, he said.
Smith left the CIA in 1975 and joined the former Lockheed Corp. as director of communications systems engineering in its Space Systems Division. During the next 10 years, he advanced through jobs of increasing responsibility, including working on the military's current Milstar communications satellite program. Last month, the company's first Milstar satellite marked its 10th year of orbit.
Smith continued his rise through the company, which merged with Martin Marietta in 1995 to form Lockheed Martin Corp., becoming president of Lockheed Martin Aerospace Electronic Systems and, in 1999, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space Systems, overseeing ground systems and space and launch
In recent years, Pentagon officials have been moving toward a joint approach to defense, combining each service's best capabilities and linking them through information technology. So, Lockheed Martin officials created a new business unit last June by aligning the company's command, control and communications; geospatial and classified intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; combat support; and homeland security specialties. And the military's largest prime contractor — with $21.9 billion generated in fiscal 2003 — chose Smith, now 54, to lead this organization.
"Al is a smart, hard-working person," said Peter Teets, undersecretary of the Air Force. "He works as many hours as he needs to get the job done."
Smith said he understands that Pentagon officials want a national security strategy that is linked to programs and their systems, and they want to quickly share information among those systems, he said.
"We created Integrated Systems and Solutions basically to respond to what we see as a rather dramatic change in the way the customer is looking at its needs," Smith said.
Times are definitely changing, he said, and he talked enthusiastically about the milestones the company has recently achieved on a program to help military systems rapidly exchange data.
Still, Smith knows he and his co-
workers can deliver more data-sharing improvements to the military. Operation Iraqi Freedom proved the need for persistent surveillance and time-critical targeting, and demonstrated that the national intelligence community must get more involved in the fight, he said.
The technical knowledge Smith honed at the CIA helps him solve military and intelligence data-sharing problems, said Teets, who is also director of the National Reconnaissance Office, the intelligence community's spy-satellite agency. "Al is an excellent systems engineer," Teets said. "He's been involved in some major systems development, such as Milstar and classified [reconnaissance] systems."
Despite Smith's technical acumen, he does not get bogged down in technical details, Teets said.
"He's quite a strategic thinker," Teets said. "And quick on the uptake. You can explain a difficult, theoretical problem then engage in a substantive discussion because of his ability to assimilate a lot of information."
The Al Smith file
Title: Executive vice president, Integrated Systems and Solutions, Lockheed Martin Corp., Gaithersburg, Md.
Assumed position: June 27, 2003.
Born: Watertown, Mass.
Resides: Bethesda, Md.
Education: Bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, Northeastern University; graduate of executive programs at Dartmouth College and Stanford
Industry jobs: President, Lockheed Martin Aerospace Electronic Systems; director of communications systems engineering, Lockheed Martin Space Systems.
Government experience: The CIA.