Engineering director encourages cost-consciousness
James Lackey is the new director of the Engineering Directorate at the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center.

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Former Naval Air Systems Command test project engineer James Lackey has joined the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center as director of the Engineering Directorate.

A native of Maryland, Lackey had a near 25-year career at the Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River, Md. He was a strike aircraft flight test project engineer for more than a decade, and between 1999 and 2008 held a variety of program management assignments.

Lackey said he is looking forward to applying his background from the Navy to the Army and multiple-service customers supported by AMRDEC.

"It's a new area for me, but it's very similar in terms of how AMRDEC operates versus what I'm used to at the Naval Air Systems Command. The reimbursable work force customer and supplying skills and experience is very similar to what we did at Pax River," he said.

Upon his appointment to the Senior Executive Service in 2011, Lackey assumed the role of deputy director for Air Warfare, Strategic and Tactical Systems within the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics in Washington, D.C.

The lessons he learned from Undersecretary Frank Kendall on buying better, buying smarter and being cost-conscious, Lackey wants to implement at AMRDEC.

In particular, engineers must be affordable-conscious of everything they do because this translates into the technical world and how they think and make decisions and make recommendations to their customers, Lackey said. "What is the smart cost-conscious way of doing business? I want to try to infuse that because obviously with the budget challenges that we have it's going to be incredibly tight for the next couple of years."

Lackey is enthusiastic about the opportunity for rapid work through the Prototype Integration Facility but also desires for the Engineering Directorate to continue focusing on its core mission of providing expertise in work force support to program and project offices.

"Being able to manage rapid response efforts is really exciting in that if you think about the era that we live, in terms of the war fight and the rapid evolution of threats and how to address those threats and the pop-up demands of customers, we can't afford to necessarily go through a traditional acquisition process because it costs time and money," he said.

"Do it when it's smart to make it rapid, and the PIF is a huge element to make that happen. But I also want to make sure that ED is balanced in the viewpoint that it's not just about the PIF, it's about our core mission."

As the joint force increases its reliance on unmanned systems and the integration of manned and unmanned systems, and developing a fleet of vertical lift aircraft, Lackey wants his ED work force ready to support.

"Our organization is all about people, and if we fail to demonstrate value to our customers, that's going to cause a lot of challenges not only for how we operate here at AMRDEC (but) for also for getting products to the warfighter. Excellence in terms of work force development and how we support the customer is key," he said.

Lackey credits the leadership of Patti Martin, former ED director, in establishing an organization that is focused on supporting the war fighter today and in the future.

"What Patti has done in terms of setting up a strategic orientation here at the Engineering Directorate has been huge, and you can see that in the language and behaviors of everybody here. They're very strategically aligned with visions, missions and goals of the larger organization," he said.

Lackey holds a bachelor's in aerospace engineering from Virginia Tech and a master's in engineering management from Florida Tech. An acquisition professional community member since 1994, he holds Level III certificates in program management; systems planning, research, development and engineering; and test and evaluation.

Page last updated Wed April 10th, 2013 at 12:36