After a 35-year career that began as a flight test engineer at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Dr. Steve Butler will retire from his post as Air Force Materiel Command’s executive director June 28 and return once more to Fort Walton Beach.
“I will enjoy spending time with my family in Florida,” Butler said. “In the future, I hope to teach, lead local Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics activities and even provide some form of technical consulting.”
Butler became the command’s most senior civilian leader in September 2008. As the AFMC executive director, he provides counsel on a variety of topics ranging from acquisition to science and engineering, and deals with union issues.
After Butler’s first assignment at the 3246th Test Wing at Eglin, he continued to subsequent assignments that ranged from developing precision guided weapons to senior advisory roles in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
He served as the Deputy Program Director for the F-22 and the Technical Director for most of the Air Force’s munitions inventory, including the Joint Direct Attack Munition. Butler also served in the Air Force Research Laboratory and the 46th Test Wing, where he was known for his hands-on expertise in electro-optical and radar guided weapons.
His most recent honor includes the 2011 Distinguished Executive Presidential Rank Award, an award specifically for Senior Executive Service members who achieve extraordinary results.
“When I got word that I earned this award, I was just surprised and amazed by this recognition,” he said.
Excerpts from the interview with Butler follow:
Q: What would you say have been some of the greatest command accomplishments during your time here as executive director?
A: Some of AFMC’s top accomplishments during my tenure include establishing a robust civilian development program to create future Air Force senior leaders; improving relations with the union; increasing our investments in small business; and, implementing a major command reorganization that focused on the life cycle management of programs.
As the command’s executive director, I also serve as AFMC’s Service Contracting Advocate. This calls for the management oversight of AFMC’s entire services portfolio — that’s about 42 percent of the Air Force budget. Establishing this as part of the job ensured bringing consistency and better value to the use of taxpayer dollars.
Q: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced during your time here at AFMC?
A: It goes without saying that with every success there’s also a challenge. By far one of the biggest obstacles we face right now is transitioning from a growing organization focused on recruiting the best and brightest to a shrinking organization working hard to retain our best and brightest.
Q: What legacy do you hope to be remembered for as AFMC executive director?
A: My hope is that I’ve left a lasting impression through the emphasis placed on developing civilians to become senior leaders, and also through the work accomplished to form a solid partnership with the union — with a nod to how this greatly benefits the Air Force. As for my immediate and day-to-day surroundings, I hope to be remembered as a strong technical presence in AFMC’s front office.
Q: If you could pick one day during your Air Force career that has been the most memorable or stands out, what would it be and why?
A: While it seems like an obvious answer, I would say the turning point in my career came on Sept. 11, 2001. I remember being at a conference about improving warfighter capabilities and watching coverage of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. As we were watching, we saw the second plane hit.
We all immediately knew that this was no accident, and that our lives — and those of the warfighter — were about to change. I think most of America understood in that moment that something different was happening on that day. I had grown accustomed to service in a peacetime Air Force, and the rest of my career has been spent in an Air Force focused on war.
Q: Is there a parting message that you would like to share with the AFMC workforce?
A: It’s been such an honor to serve in AFMC and work to support the warfighter. The Air Force is a great place to work. The list of positive attributes is long – a skilled workforce, opportunities for varied assignments, work autonomy and the satisfaction that comes with service to a higher calling. The Air Force, and AFMC in particular, places strong emphasis on professionalism and developing its people – and those traits have been evident to me each and every day.