Director's Message:  Gregory E. Saunders' farewell letter 




The Defense Standardization Program Office (DSPO) Director, Gregory E. Saunders, to retire on 31 December 2018.  In an internal e-mail to staff, colleagues and the defense standardization community, titled “Final Director's Message,” he details the decision to retire after nearly five decades of civil service. Here’s the full email message: 


On New Year’s Eve I will turn in my DoD credentials and will cease to be a US Government employee for the first time in 49 years.  It’s been quite a career.  I began as a GS-3 co-op engineer during my sophomore year in college and came to OSD and Defense Standardization in 1976.  These days, few people stay with one job or organization for a long period, but when I first came into the standardization program I was in the predecessor office to the one from which I am now retiring as director.

When I started, telephones had rotary dials; computers were as large as buildings and lived in big, environmentally controlled rooms; letters, reports, studies and so forth were written in long-hand and given to a secretary to type on a typewriter – often with carbon copies; urgent messages were sent using teletypes; copies were literally “burned” onto thermal-reactive paper (that would yellow and turn crispy in a few weeks); large portions of offices were occupied by filing cabinets full of paper; coffee was percolated; and most cars rode on bias-ply tires – radials had just entered the mainstream.  There was no Internet, email, or cable TV; Lyndon Johnson was president, and everyone wore suits and ties or dresses and heels to work.

Saying that a lot has changed seems trite.  I’ve had the opportunity to help lead the reaction of the standards community to many of the changes that have taken place.  I rarely thought about just how influential decisions made at DoD were to the rest of the world – but it’s true.  I had the privilege of leading one of the largest standards organizations in the world, and representing the United States of America in international standards fora.

I have led, or watched over, or been a part of so many advances in the standards business - moving from paper to electronic libraries; moving from static documents to ones with active links, charts and formulae; moving from sending out paper “change notices” directing pen-and-ink edits to automatic, near-real-time updating; receiving bound copies of documents in the mail to having nearly instantaneous access on line; and so many others.  And perhaps more important than any of these physical manifestations I take some credit for having helped move the Department of Defense, and indeed the entire Federal Government, to greater reliance on private sector documents; that has been accompanied and accomplished by greater and more effective participation of Federal stakeholders in the activities of private sector SDOs.  If there is something I’d like for folks to remember about my career in standardization it is that I helped to build and to use the bridge between private sector and public sector standardization activities.

My career has let me visit over 20 different nations; I’ve met with Senators and Congressmen, with three different Secretaries of Defense and numerous other Deputy, Under, and Assistant Secretaries; I’ve testified before Senate Committees; worked on several Defense Science Board and think-tank studies; became a leader in several different Standards Developing Organizations, most notably becoming Chairman of the Board at ASTM, Aerospace VP at SAE, and long-time Board member at ANSI, and chairing the Standardization Management Group at NATO.  I could go on – it has been a fascinating, exciting, and varied career offering lots of opportunities.

I have always had difficulty talking about my accomplishments.  A huge part of that is the fact that none of the things for which I’m given credit could have been accomplished without support, cooperation, guidance, and collaboration from my own staff, and from peers, colleagues and bosses.  I can’t overstate how much I have appreciated the relationships I’ve had that have made accomplishments possible.

Each of the positions I’ve held has provided rich opportunities, great challenges, and the chance to work with some incredible people.  I won’t even begin to name people – this message would get way too long and inevitably I would forget to mention someone vitally important.  Suffice to say that I have learned from each encounter, I have enjoyed the relationships, and I have been honored to have served in the various positions.  We accomplished a lot together and I am indebted to each of you for your support and patience.

Standardization is, as they say about beer, wine, or opera – an acquired taste.  I’ve never met anyone who grew up dreaming of being a professional standardizer.  But once into the field it’s hard to let go.  And now I find it hard to let go.  We are an amazingly cohesive family.  I will miss the day to day interaction with my many colleagues and friends.  But I am also looking forward to spending time devoted to working in my woodshop, practicing music – vocal and instrumental, and spending more time with various church activities.

I was fortunate to have the chance to recruit and train my successor, and if I do say so myself, I made an excellent choice.  Michael Heaphy will become the new director of the Defense Standardization Program Office on New Year’s Day, 2019.  He is a Naval Academy Graduate, systems engineer, and has been working here since September, 2017.  He has gained my confidence and support, the confidence of our leadership and of the staff here at DSPO, and has already begun to make his reputation among colleagues in DoD, at other Federal Agencies, and within the private sector.  I am comfortable in turning over the “keys” to Michael.

In closing let me just say thank you! – for the opportunities, for the support, for the learning, for the guidance, for the challenges, and most of all for the friendships.