Mike Butler wants to card you

Leader of GSA’s smart card program will use his vision to guide the HSPD-12 effort

The Mike Butler File

Current Position: Program manager at the General Services Administration’s Managed Services Office.

Career highlights: Served 26 years in the Navy, including 10 years as an engineering officer on aircraft carriers. He retired as a commander. While in the Navy, he spent eight years in gas turbine control systems and repair operations. After leaving the Navy, Butler spent two years working in industry on ship design and propulsion. He returned to the government in 2000.

Education highlights: Graduated from the Naval Academy in 1979. Graduated from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1993 with a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering.

Honors: Received a Fed 100 award in spring 2007 and a CIO Council Leadership Award in May.

Hobbies and interests: He is interested in U.S. history from 1775 to present, with a special interest in the Revolutionary and Civil wars. Butler also is interested in antiques, especially oak furniture.

Last book read: “Washington’s Crossing” by David Hackett Fischer.

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Mike Butler worked a six-month stint last year at the General Services Administration to help set up a governmentwide shared services smart card identity verification program. Many in the agency got to see him apply his technical skills. His former boss said Butler brings leadership capabilities that he will also use as he settles into a new permanent position at GSA.

“A lot of people can bring technical expertise to the table,” said Mary Dixon, director of the Defense Manpower Data Center and director of the Defense Department’s Access Card Office, where Butler formerly worked. “Mike understands the real benefits this program can bring to an organization.”

That vision will be important as Butler, program manager for GSA’s Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 Managed Services Office (MSO), works with agencies that must implement smart card identity verification programs. HSPD-12 is a complex mandate. It requires agencies to conduct security clearances and issue secure identity credentials to employees and contractors by two deadlines: Oct. 27 this year and Oct. 27, 2008.

The card products and services Butler and his staff provide through the MSO will be important in defining the security infrastructures that many agencies rely on for years to come. Large organizations such as DOD are depending on internal resources to fulfill the mandate, but many others are looking to GSA to guide them. More than 65 federal agencies already use the MSO. By October 2008, GSA expects to have issued at least 950,000 cards.

The challenge of that complexity and the influence GSA can have in guiding agencies convinced Butler it was a good time for him to leave the military, where he had spent most of his career. He began working in the credentialing business in 1997 when he still was with the Navy, before moving to DOD to do similar work. Butler helped DOD issue more than 11 million cards since the Common Access Card program started in 2000.

At DOD, Butler saw how the Common Access Card program fortified a cohesiveness and shared sense of purpose at the department. He said he thinks GSA’s HSPD-12 program has the potential to do the same for the rest of the government.

“Even people who aren’t under the HSPD-12 requirement see the value in being a part of it, because they believe that by wearing [the smart card identifier] everyone will know they work for the government,” he said. “It’s projects like this that make people work globally.”

Despite the obvious differences between military and the civilian agencies, Butler said his DOD experience translates well to his new job. “People think that, in the DOD, everybody just salutes and goes off and does what you tell them to do,” he said. But that’s not how it is. “You still need to create consensus, and you still need to find the right solution that everyone can sign on to.”

Randy Vanderhoof, executive director of the Smart Card Alliance, an industry association, said he thinks Butler’s greatest strength is his ability to see across the range of challenges facing organizations that undertake complex programs.

“Many people are typically strong internally on the management needs but are not as strong on dealing with the technology side of things,” Vanderhoof said. “Mike has the ability to talk about the technology and what it all means.”

Vanderhoof and Dixon said Butler’s approach to building relationships almost always guarantees a positive outcome.“He starts slowly and builds connections between people and organizations, and he’s willing to compromise,” Dixon said. “It’s a step-by-step, spiral approach.”

The HSPD-12 program, in many ways, is just beginning, Butler said. “I say to people all the time that we are just at the 1- or 2-percent point [in] all of this now.”

Dixon described Butler as “certainly an intense individual.” Butler put it differently: “People have had to deal with my stubbornness from the very beginning.”

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