Michael Metzger: Thriving on unpredictability

As special assistant to the Defense Department's deputy chief management officer, Metzger can spend one day working with Congress and the next day briefing top-level Pentagon officials on efforts to reform DOD's financial management.

Michael Metzger

The duties of a "special assistant" can vary widely, and Michael Metzger prefers it that way.

As special assistant to the Defense Department's deputy chief management officer, Metzger can spend one day working with Congress and the next day briefing top-level Pentagon officials on efforts to reform DOD's financial management.

"I get to dip my toe into processes, standards and architecture, and I get to have a broad-based view of business operations of DOD," Metzger said. "I really don't know what my day is going to be when I go into the office, and I like that."

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It has been an unorthodox path to the Pentagon for Metzger, a history graduate from Bates College who is fluent in Mandarin Chinese. He credits another unusual aspect of his education for his success: the debate team.

"It teaches you how to organize your thoughts and think critically about different topics, and it really makes you cognizant of everything going on in the world at any given time because [you] never know what the debate topic is going to be," he said. "It's helped in my career, being able to use that critical thinking and organization of thought in writing, project management and being able to communicate in DOD."

His boss, Elizabeth McGrath, said those abilities make Metzger a standout.

"Mike understands the big picture…and communicates in a way that is comprehensive and collaborative," McGrath said. "Not everyone can do that. It's about achieving the end goal [and] winning the war, not the battle. He understands how to navigate that and does it in a way that makes people want to be on his team and be part of the solution."

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