Achieving buy-in is a tough task for any leader. But when you’re Brigadier General Roger W. Teague and the people you need to get on board include senior Department of Defense leadership, Technical Intelligence community and even U.S. Congress – achieving buy-in is a grand feat, indeed.
As Commander of the U.S. Air Force Space Based Infrared Systems Wing, Space and Missile Systems Center, Teague had to build and maintain the trust of these key stakeholders after the $10 billion program faced some initial challenges and delays.
By ensuring communication through daily progress reviews and uniting teams around common goals, Teague lead the program past obstacles toward success, delivering unprecedented infrared surveillance to the country.
Because of this, Smart Business, ThinkASG, IBM and Union Bank named the decorated commander to the class of 2011 Smart Leader honorees. He shared how he leads his team to tackle tough issues, innovate with leading technology and give back to the communities they protect.
Give an example of a business challenge you and/or your organization faced, as well as how you overcame it.
The Infrared Space Systems Directorate is a national leader in technology. Our space and ground systems feature cutting-edge technology and provide the United States with the world’s best missile warning and technical intelligence capabilities. The Space Based Infrared Systems (SBIRS) Program has been in development since the mid-1990s. As a new development, the highly technical $10 billion program experienced several unforeseen challenges during early stages of development. These challenges were mitigated through proactive leadership, teamwork and an unfaltering dedication to our No. 1 customer: the warfighter.
Recognizing successful programs must be based on solid teamwork and collaboration among each of the participating organizations, we placed great importance on establishing and maintaining trust, communication and mutual understanding of a common program vision and goals. We ensured an emphasis on teamwork, trust, respect, and team behaviorsguided by jointly defined core values implemented across all program elements, including team members of the U.S. Air Force and our valued mission partners from industry. The program defined core functions and responsibilities across all program segments and held key leaders and managers accountable for performance.
We also focused on daily progress reviews, tackling tough issues that were imacting program progress, and developed individual action plans to resolve each of them. Technical discussions were frank and focused on reaching solutions and consensus on a path forward. This helped the program to identify, address and eliminate dozens of technical and program risks associated with first-time integration of the SBIRS geosynchronous satellite, and to successfully field the system.
Firm program commitments were established and the team continued to build positive relationships critical to program success. The program soon began making major strides to successfully deliver this critical national security space program and fulfill our commitments and vision to deliver unprecedented global, persistent, infrared surveillance capabilities to our warfighters and the Nation.
In what ways are you an innovative leader, and how does your organization employ innovation to be on the leading edge?
We receive continual feedback from space operators and warfighters that the capabilities and products from our system are outstanding. There is a strong appetite for delivery of more Overhead Persistent Infrared capabilities, more data and faster transmission of data.
As a reflection of the program’s positive performance and criticality of this mission area, the SBIRS program was given additional funding by Congress, encouraging us to continue to find ways to better exploit and deliver the data being provided by on-orbit sensors. In an era of shrinking government budgets, this additional funding was a big vote of confidence for the program and reflects the outstanding performance our systems are providing to ground troops and intelligence community users.
The Infrared Space Systems Directorate continually provides relevant “lessons learned” feedback from our developmental and operational experience, gathered across our portfolio of space-based infrared programs, to the wide array of Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) programs. Many of our ideas and experiences are cited as best practices at the Center.
How do you make a significant impact on the community and regional economy?
The Infrared Space Systems Directorate, as a leading member of the Space and Missile Systems Center, is involved in many local community activities. Many members of our team participate in Career Days at local schools where students are informed about how education leads to exciting job opportunities, the experiences of being deployed to locations around the world as a member of the U.S. Air Force, and the importance of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in education.
We also organize and participate in food drives for local food banks, beach cleanups, clothing drives for the homeless and visits to Veteran’s Hospitals, as well as providing care packages to those deployed from the Space and Missile Systems Center. We are always willing to pitch in at a moment’s notice to support others.
The Space Based Infrared Systems (SBIRS) program reaches across the United States and the world, contributing to our national and international economies. The Space Based Infrared Systems Program employs more than 9,700 personnel across 23 states and works in partnership with more than 50 large and small businesses, providing a multitude of parts for the construction, integration and launch of the payloads and ground facilities.
The SBIRS payload is built right here in Southern California, and the satellite is integrated in Sunnyvale, California. SBIRS satellites are launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and the satellites will be operated by Air Force crews located in Colorado. All across these locations are thousands of people at work daily - designing, building and integrating key systems and assemblies for the Space Based Infrared System.
Internationally, the SBIRS program employs hundreds of people specializing in payload component production and sustainment of our crucial Relay Ground Stations (RGS). Just as our domestic suppliers and their employees, our international partners continue to proudly represent critical assets to the SBIRS program.
How to reach: Los Angeles Air Force Base, (310) 653-1131 or www.losangeles.af.mil