Maj. David Richardson, Special to Horizons

Mr. Thomas Fitzgerald, the Director of Engineering for the Space & Missile Systems Center (SMC) in Los Angeles, visited Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) last Friday. Mr. Fitzgerald is a member of the Senior Executive Service and has served as the Director of Engineering at SMC since 2011. He has over 45 years of experience in missile operations and R&D acquisitions.

Mr. Fitzgerald met with the Chancellor, Dr. Frank Ayers, and the Dean of Engineering, Dr. Ron Madler, to discuss opportunities that exist for ERAU graduates in the space industry. He highlighted that people do not have to be in the military to work in military acquisitions and that his engineering force at SMC is made up of 25 percent each of military, government civilians, contractors, and federally funded research and development corporation contractors. Mr. Fitzgerald also lauded the reputation of ERAU and pointed out that every graduate that works for him is exceptionally sharp.

Dr. Ayers was impressed by the opportunities for ERAU graduates at SMC, stating, “The strength of our space track, engineering, and physics programs are such a great match for the mission of SMC that we see more partnerships between ERAU and SMC on the horizon. We really appreciated Mr. Fitzgerald taking the time to visit.”

Dean Madler had high praise for the mission of SMC. “Many of our programs are well aligned with, and our students are well prepared to contribute to, the mission of SMC,” said Madler, “The space, missile, and cyber arenas are exciting, rapidly changing, and challenging but also provide so many opportunities for fulfilling and meaningful work. We hope to build a build a relationship with SMC so that our graduates explore the opportunities at SMC whether as civilians or active duty.”

Mr. Fitzgerald spoke at Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Detachment 028’s Dining-In. After giving an overview of the Center, he emphasized how the military space mission has evolved from simply putting the next satellite of a constellation into space to a vision of building a space program that can survive conflicts in space. He explained that the space domain is contested for the first time in our nation’s history.

“Up until ten years ago, the United States operated without contest in space. Today’s Air Force mission dictates that we ‘win in air, space, and cyberspace.’ The threat today dictates that we evolve our space capabilities to meet potential threats. Acquisition and programmatic decisions can no longer occur in space mission stovepipes and must be driven by an overarching space mission enterprise context.”

Mr. Fitzgerald underscored the importance of developing a Space Enterprise Vision that creates a joint partnership between all national and international space organizations to deter and, if necessary, prevail in a war that extends in space.

“We now have capabilities in space that allow us to use our own satellites in both offensive and defensive ways to navigate in close proximity to an adversary’s satellite and determine what its purpose is. Our space operators no longer operate as Airmen who are only tracking satellites and space debris; when one of our capabilities go down, they are picking up checklists and running them like warfighters to determine if we are under attack.”

Mr. Fitzgerald’s official biography can be found at the following website:

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