A T&E Career of Learning by Doing: A Conversation with Mr. Edward R. Greer

JUNE 2024 I Volume 45 Issue 2

Edward R. Greer

A T&E Career of Learning by Doing: A Conversation with Edward R. Greer
Mr. Greer is retired U.S. Navy civilian and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Developmental Test and Evaluation


Interviewed by J. Michael Barton, Ph.D., Parsons Corporation

Q:        Give us some background on your childhood and the impact it had on your career.

A:         I grew up working in a TV repair shop with my father, Aaron Greer.  My father was born and raised in Southwest, Virginia and started as a blue-collar worker at Patuxent River in 1947 after serving three years in Italy during World War II. He worked two jobs most of his life. He worked 33 years as a civil servant for the Public Works Department, Patuxent River, at the steam power plant. He retired in 1980 as a Wage Grade 10. He also had a part-time job repairing TV’s.  He took a home study course on TV and radio repair in the mid-1940s and averaged 98 percent on the exams. My father died in June 1996.

As a result of my interest in TV and radio repair, I chose to go to the St. Mary’s County Technical Center (vocational center) to study electronics. I took the vo-tech training for half a day during the last two years of high school. One of the lessons that I learned from my father centered on education.  He said, “Son, there are a lot of things in this world that you can earn, but they can be taken away – education is not one of those things.  Once you earn a degree, no matter what you do subsequent to that, no one can take that degree away from you.”  My father had to quit high school in the ninth grade to provide for his family during the great depression. Honesty, integrity, and forthrightness were the values that our father stressed most with his children.

After High School, I attended Virginia Highlands Community College (VHCC).  My mother and father were born and reared in that area. At VHCC, I majored in Engineering.  Just prior to my registering for college, my brother, Rick, who had already spent two years at VHCC, approached me and said, “Ed, I’m not trying to tell you what to do with your life, but if I had to do it again, I would not major in electronics technology, I would study electrical engineering.”  Although I never prepared academically for the rigor of an engineering degree, I took his advice and went right into an engineering program. I soon realized I was behind most of my classmates because I did not take college preparatory courses.  Most of them had already taken Pre-Calculus, Physics, Chemistry, etc.  I don’t regret going the vocational-tech route, but I do wish I had taken the academic college preparatory courses.  I made up for the lack of academics with persistence and hard work.

I decided to major in engineering, unlike Rick who spent two years at VHCC and earned an Associate’s Degree in Electronics Technology.  After the first year of being in the VHCC Engineering program, the college closed the program due to lack of student enrollment.  I found myself as one of eight students at the end of my freshman year wondering where to go next.  This forced me to move back to Maryland and attend Charles County Community College (now the College of Southern Maryland) where I continued in engineering.  While attending college full time I worked 30 to 40 hours per week at Patuxent River, I repaired TV’s at my father’s TV repair shop, and I taught adult education classes in electronics at the St. Mary’s County Technical Center at night to pay for my tuition. After attending Charles County Community College, I transferred to the University of Maryland at College Park and majored in electrical engineering. I was still employed as a contractor working 30 to 40 hours per week for DynCorp—mainly from noon on Friday to 8 PM Sunday night.

I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering in 1980 and started to work that following Monday as a civil servant.  In 1996, I earned a Master of Science degree in Management from Florida Institute of Technology, and I graduated from the Defense Systems Management College and the Senior Executive Management Development Program.

Q:        You have quite a family legacy at Patuxent River – parents, siblings, wife, children. It was a natural step for you.

A:         I am a native of St. Mary’s County, Maryland and we are a close family. My father worked at the Naval Air Test Center (NATC) from the early 1950’s until his retirement in 1980. I wanted to follow in his footsteps working locally for the Navy. My wife (Phyllis) and siblings worked at NATC. I worked for a contractor part-time while attending college. In fact, I paid for my college tuition, room, and board with the money I earned working part time at NATC. I started to work at Patuxent River in 1976, where I secured a job with DynCorp in the calibration lab repairing electronic equipment. I started out repairing voltmeters, oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers, signal generators, RF generators, etc. My TV and radio repair experience provided me with the necessary background to work on any piece of electronic equipment. Now my son, Derek, daughter, Angela, and son-in-law Cameron work at NAWCAD at Pax. River. A picture of my family is below. My daughter-in-law Linda works full time at Father Andrew White Catholic School. My wife, Phyllis and I love spending time with our four grandchildren, Evan, Ava, Zach, and Lilly.

Q:        What was your role in the test process at NATC?

A:         I worked a variety of jobs at NATC including instrumentation, metrology, range operations, flight test, and post-flight data reduction. I valued jobs that were hands-on. That philosophy carried over to my future positions. I learned the basics of flight test during my employment in instrumentation and metrology. The key to understanding flight test characteristics is governed by how you instrument the aircraft. Understanding the accuracy of measuring devices is equally important.

Q:        Did you know early in your career that you wanted to pursue a management path, or did that evolve as your experience broadened?

A:         I feel very fortunate, in that management came about as a natural progression at NATC. I started my career as an Electronics Engineer in the Laboratory Instruments and Standards Section, Technical Support Directorate in 1980. I was promoted to Head of that section in 1987, managing more than 70 people conducting acquisition and calibration of precision support equipment.  I served as Head of the Mathematical and Engineering Analysis Department in the Computer Sciences Directorate from 1989 to 1991, responsible for formulating and implementing long-range development and investment plans for computer resources.  I transferred to the Range Directorate as Head of the Software and Engineering Applications Department in 1991, responsible for real-time and post-flight data reduction, and computational structural analysis support to test engineers.

From 1993 – 1995, I worked in the office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). I returned in 1995 to Patuxent River as the Airborne Command Post Integrated Product Team Leader for the acquisition, development, and deployment of the E-6B Aircraft. I was later promoted to Principal Deputy Program Manager of Airborne Strategic Command, Control, Communications Program Executive Office for Air Anti-Submarine Warfare, Assault & Special Mission Programs.  From 1995 to 1998, I served as Principal Deputy Program Manager for the E-6B Aircraft. More on these assignments later.

Q:        Prior to your political appointment, did you have assignments outside of the Navy?

A:         I did. From 1993 to 1995, I took an assignment in the Pentagon as a Staff Specialist in the Office of Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology, Test, Systems Engineering and Evaluation, Test Facilities and Resources (TFR). I also managed the Test Technology Development and Demonstration program where several new T&E assets were successfully developed and tested. The TFR Director was Mr. John Bolino. He was of the most respected Senior Executive Service (SES) leaders in the Pentagon. John was not only my supervisor, but he was also my mentor. John took a personal interest in my career, and I attribute my success being promoted to SES at the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and later as a political appointee to John. He is still my mentor today. When I returned to Pax. River, I asked RADM Joe Dyer to be my mentor. He said yes. Having two well respected executives as mentors provided great insights into areas such as program management. As with John Bolino, now retired Vice Admiral Joe Dyer is still my mentor.

Q:        You worked in a program office at Pax. River after your stint in OSD. How did that experience help your career?

A:         From 1995 to 1998 I served as Principal Deputy Program Manager for the E-6B Aircraft Program Executive Office for Air, Antisubmarine Warfare, Assault & Special Mission Programs. I was responsible for all aspects of acquisition including systems engineering, logistics, training systems, and test and evaluation. Initially, I was assigned as the Integrated Product Team lead for the E-6A to E-6B upgrade, which consisted of migrating the Air Force EC-130 Airborne Command Post to the E-6A platform. The result was a major upgrade; hence, we renamed the platform E-6B. I was then promoted to the Principal Deputy Program Manager, Air position. I have always been a “hands-on” engineer and leader throughout my career. Every chance I had, I took advantage of flying onboard our weapon systems to see first-hand how the systems work, to seek feedback from operators on what challenges they were facing, and to listen to their input on how to resolve them. It was the sailor and me talking about how best to fix the current limitations. It started with the E-6A and E-6B.

Q:        When did you enter an executive leadership role at Patuxent River?

A:         I was selected for Senior Executive Service in October 1998 as the Director, Atlantic Ranges and Facilities, Naval Air Warfare Center, Aircraft Division (NAWCAD). I was responsible for all facets of development, maintenance, and operation of the open-air ranges and installed systems test facility components of the Navy’s principal Air Combat Systems test activity. Atlantic Test Range (ATR) controls fully instrumented and integrated test ranges that provide full-service support for cradle-to-grave testing. Airspace and surface target areas are used for test and evaluation of aircraft and for warfighter training missions. In addition to radar and optical tracking systems, fixed and mobile assets provide the necessary capabilities for diverse testing and training scenarios.

The Telemetry Data Center provides real-time radio-link reception, translation, processing, and display of test data using the Real-time Telemetry Processing System. This widely used system provides real-time test information from up to nine separate in-flight aircraft to ground engineering personnel. Test teams operate the system from any of the nine Project Engineer Stations. The inshore operating area, known as the Chesapeake Test Range, consists of selected targets and airspace covering regions over the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia. Additional air/sea space is available in the Atlantic Warning Areas, located east of the Delmarva Peninsula over the Atlantic Ocean. ATR controls an aerial firing range and two exclusive-use surface target areas in the Chesapeake Test Range restricted areas.

The 1,000-acre Webster Field Annex is about 13 miles southwest of Patuxent River. Webster Field is an auxiliary field for daylight testing and is home to VC-6, a squadron devoted to maintaining the Pioneer Unmanned Air System (UAS). ATR provides real-time connectivity to NASA Wallops Flight Facility; Fleet Area Control & Surveillance Facility, Virginia Capes; NAVAIR simulation and stimulation laboratories; and other NAVAIR and Department of Defense (DOD) major test ranges. ATR’s open-air range and ground test facilities developed for research, development, test, and evaluation also have tremendous application for fleet and warfighter pre-deployment systems grooming and readiness training exercises. ATR coordinates multiple training events in airspace at ATR or at sites around the country. Carrier Strike Groups and Expeditionary Strike Groups are routinely supported, from small, unit-level events to large-scale, joint exercises.

My hands-on flying continued. We were experiencing multiple spill-ins and spill-outs of our restricted airspace. The pilots explained what the issue was, but I insisted on flying in the back seat to experience it myself. As it turned out, it was a combination of problems. Our local radar did not have a high enough sample rate to our local air traffic controller to give the pilots enough lead-time to start their turn. I funded and acquired new radars for ATR and the spill ins and spill outs were reduced by 80%.

Q:        What was your next SES assignment?

A:         I later held two major positions simultaneously – one as Executive Director of NAWCAD (SES Tier III), and the other as the Deputy Assistant Commander for Test and Evaluation, NAVAIR. As Executive Director, I oversaw a Command of 14,400 employees and ensured that technical, business, and financial objectives were met.  The Aircraft Division spanned three sites:  Patuxent River, Maryland; Lakehurst New Jersey; and Orlando, Florida.  We had a total operating budget of about $4 billion.  The mission of the Aircraft Division was to serve as the  Navy’s center of excellence for fixed and rotary wing aircraft and their propulsion systems, avionics systems, training systems, take-off and landing systems, associated support and equipment including air traffic control and communications, and ship/shore/air operations. As the NAVAIR Deputy Assistant Commander for Test and Evaluation, I was responsible for planning, executing, analyzing, and reporting all Naval Aviation test and evaluation across three sites:  Patuxent River; China Lake, CA and Point Mugu, CA. There were about 6,600 employees who made up the Test & Evaluation cadre. I was responsible for the implementation of policy and guidance on test and evaluation matters emanating from the Office of the NAVAIR Commander and Assistant Commanders. My tenure included integrating T&E with the timelines and events for the DODI 5000.02 Defense Acquisition Management System, the NAVAIR Systems Engineering Technical Review Process, and the new NAVAIR Technical Readiness Assessment process. I was responsible for a $940M budget and more than 100 airplanes, and the development of people, processes, and facilities necessary for acquisition and support of naval aviation systems. I instituted a process of T&E Program Assessments for all NAVAIR Acquisition Category I programs that provided the opportunity to identify concerns, risks, and issues early and to evaluate a test program’s feasibility.

Besides being the Navy’s representative on the 2007 Defense Science Board Task Force on Developmental Test and Evaluation, my influence external to NAVAIR included serving on the Chief of Naval Operations’ T&E Cost Reduction Task Force and helping create the Navy T&E Board of Directors, whose responsibility and authority is to develop corporate integrated priorities for T&E cross-program and domain enablers for the Navy Warfighting Enterprises. In 2009, I successfully persuaded the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations and Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development & Acquisition to reinstate a senior deputy level position (SES) to provide continuity in the Navy’s acquisition executive for Navy T&E policy.

As I stated previously, I value hands-on experience as a way of learning the details of the aircraft and to seek feedback from the operators. During my eight years as Executive Director at NAWCAD, I took maximum advantage of flying. I always had a technical objective that I wanted to achieve by the end of the flight. To list a few, I flew in the T-2, T-6, T-45A & T-45C, F-14, F-18, E2-C, AH1-W at Pax River (see Figures 2 – 6).

Q:        The Weapon System Acquisition Reform Act of 2009 recreated an OSD-level developmental test and evaluation organization, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Developmental Test and Evaluation. You were the first appointee. What were your primary challenges in standing up this key function and organization?

A:         I served as the principal advisor on developmental test and evaluation (DT&E) to the Secretary of Defense and the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (USD (AT&L)). Sworn in March 15, 2010, I initiated the rebuilding of DT&E, responsible for policy and guidance in support of the acquisition of major DOD weapon systems. Other significant duties included reviewing and improving the organization and capabilities of the military departments with respect to DT&E and providing advocacy, oversight, and guidance to elements of the acquisition workforce responsible for DT&E. I served on the Defense Acquisition Board. Again, I took advantage of flying in aircraft to understand the issues at hand. I flew onboard the F-16 at Edwards AFB, the F-15 at Eglin AFB, and the Apache and Ch-47F helicopters at Redstone Test Center. I also spent 2 days inside an attack submarine—in my mind, one of the most lethal weapon systems in the DOD inventory.

I monitored and reviewed the DOD (Army, Air Force, and Navy) DT&E activities of the major defense acquisition programs, reviewing and approving the DT&E plan within the Test and Evaluation Master Plan for each major defense acquisition program, and ensured that those activities were fully integrated into and consistent with the systems engineering and development planning processes of the Department. I was responsible for developing new DT&E policies applied across the Department of Defense to streamline the acquisition timeline. I was the DOD advocate for the Acquisition DT&E workforce, and I submitted an annual report to Congress on the health of DOD acquisition programs executing DT&E.

Recall that creation of DASD (DT&E) followed publication of findings and recommendations from the 2007 Defense Science Board Task Force on Developmental Test and Evaluation. I was the Navy representative on the Task Force, which was created to address the dramatic increase in the number of acquisition systems not meeting suitability requirements during Initial Operational Test and Evaluation. Some of the recommendations of the Task Force were to implement a robust reliability, availability, maintainability growth program; implement and carefully follow a systems engineering approach from day one for acquisition; to more closely integrate developmental and operational testing; and consolidate developmental test and evaluation functions under (at the time) the office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. The Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009 followed the recommendation and created DASD (DT&E). As the first person to serve in the politically appointed position, it was my task to stand up the organization and implement the other recommendations of the Task Force. In the office of the DASD (DT&E), we created a “Playbook” to guide us in standing up the new DT&E organization, to ensure it was consistent with Test Resource Management Center (TRMC) and office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation policy and practices, and to assist future leaders who would hold the position. Meeting multiple times every week at the Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) for milestone approvals for acquisition program provided tremendous insight into the future of DOD weapon systems. DT&E was a significant  participant at the DAB meetings.

Q:        You served concurrently as the Director of the Test Resource Management Center, responsible for the entire Major Range and Test Facility Base.

 A:        Yes, I was the second person to hold this political appointment, after Dr. John Foulkes. The TRMC itself was the result of the 1999 Defense Science Board Task Force Study of Test and Evaluation Capabilities and was created by Congress in 2003. Some of my responsibilities were oversight of T&E facilities and resources of the Major Range and Test Facility Base (MRTFB), to develop and biannually update a strategic plan to reflect T&E resource needs of the DOD, and to guide the Services and Defense Agencies in planning and budgeting for future capabilities. I also reviewed component budgets and certified their compliance with the plan. We had three major activities beyond those mentioned above. We had the only 6.3 program in DOD T&E, Test & Evaluation/Science & Technology (T&E/S&T), created to mature and transition science and technology developments into tools and test technology. We had the Joint Mission Environment Test Capability (JMETC) program to bring DOD Services and Agencies together for joint testing. And we continued the Central Test and Evaluation Investment Program (CTEIP), which was formerly under the office of the Director of  Operational Test and Evaluation.

I advised the Secretary of Defense, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, and the USD (AT&L) on matters pertaining to strategic planning for and assessment of the DOD’s MRTFB, the nation’s critical range infrastructure for conducting effective test and evaluation of major weapon systems. Additionally, as Director I reviewed and certified proposed T&E budgets of Military Departments and Defense Agencies.

Q:        What involvement have you had with ITEA?

A:         I was twice President of the Southern Maryland Chapter of ITEA (the first ITEA Chapter), a former member of the Board of Directors, recipient of the President’s award in 2017, and 2018 recipient of the Allen R. Matthews Award.

Q:        You were recognized by the NDIA for career accomplishments in T&E.

A:         I was. It was a surprise when the Lifetime Achievement Award was given to me. As the NDIA sponsored Industrial Committee on Test & Evaluation (ICOTE) co-chair, the DOT&E and I met quarterly with original equipment manufacturers and major Contractor Support Services T&E directors to discuss major issues and challenges. We developed several NDIA white papers and presented to OSD leadership and to Congress on proposals to solve major challenges. My lifelong contribution to T&E and the proactive participation on ICOTE were the driving reasons that I was selected.

Q:        What advice do you have for people just entering the T&E career field?

A:         I value hands-on experience as a way of learning. Combine that with classroom education and the ability to work with experienced engineers and technicians in a challenging environment like Pax River, and you have the makings of a career test plan for success. You combine what you learn by doing, with the background of a good engineering education, and you listen and observe as your mentors help you avoid missteps they have made or seen others make. Advice? Never hesitate to get your hands dirty by doing a job that needs to be done. Get as much education as you feel is right for you. And never refuse to let someone more senior than you share their opinion, advice, and experience. Respect where they have been and what they know, and you will be better for it. Another bit of advice is to join and participate in associations such as ITEA, NDIA, SFTE and others for knowledge and networking with senior leadership. Always take the time to be a mentor and at the same time continue to seek opportunities to find mentors.  Having and being a mentor is a lifetime commitment. I also think working in a program office provides a broader experience that you would never get if you stay in T&E your entire career.

 Q:       Do you have any closing remarks or observations?

A:         I am very proud of my family, their achievements, and the support they have given me. When I look back on my accomplishments, the two I value most are outside the scope of my main duties – educational partnerships with the local community and removing barriers to hire Individuals With Targeted Disabilities. I helped establish the education and research partnership between the NAWCAD, the University of Maryland, the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center, and the College of Southern Maryland, which provides local engineering education. The NAWCAD allocated research project funding to the University of Maryland based on critical technical needs of naval aviation.


Edward R. Greer served as the first Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Developmental Test and Evaluation (DT&E), sworn in March 2010. He was the principal advisor on DT&E policy and guidance to the Secretary of Defense and the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, USD (AT&L). He also worked closely with the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation defining requirements and executing investment strategies. He served concurrently as Director, Test Resource Management Center, where he advised the USD (AT&L) on strategic planning and oversight of the DoD’s Major Range and Test Facility Base, the nation’s critical range infrastructure for conducting test and evaluation of weapon systems.

Mr. Greer earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Maryland and began his career at the Naval Air Test Center (NATC), Patuxent River, Maryland in the Laboratory Instruments and Standards Section, Technical Support Directorate. Between 1987 and 1995 he successively rose from Section Head to Department Head. From 1995 to 1998, Mr. Greer served as Principal Deputy Program Manager for the E-6B Aircraft responsible for all aspects of acquisition including program management, systems engineering, logistics, training systems and test and evaluation.

In 1998, Mr. Greer was selected for the Senior Executive Service as Director of the Atlantic Test Ranges and Facilities within the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD). He was responsible for all facets of development, maintenance, and operation of the open-air range and the Aircraft Combat Environment Test & Evaluation Facility (ACETEF) – the most advanced ground test modeling and simulation facility in the country. Beginning in 2002 until his political appointment, Mr. Greer served as the Deputy Assistant Commander for Test and Evaluation, Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), Patuxent River, MD, responsible for all aspects of Naval Aviation aircraft Science & Technology, Research, Development, Test & Evaluation and Operations and Support. He served concurrently as the Executive Director, NAWCAD. As Executive Director, he ensured that technical, business, and financial objectives were met with a workforce of 14,400 and a total operating budget of over $4 billion.

Mr. Greer is a past President of the Southern Maryland Chapter of the International Test and Evaluation Association where he played a key role in the establishment of a scholarship fund for college students living in the Patuxent River, Maryland area.  He served on multiple Defense Science Board (DSB) T&E Task Forces and served on the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine study committee from August 2021 to September 2022 conducting a classified study on “Assessing the Operational Suitability of DoD Test and Evaluation Ranges and Infrastructure. He received a Master of Science Degree in Management from the Florida Institute of Technology and is a graduate of the Defense Systems Management College and the Senior Executive Management Development Program.


J. Michael Barton, Ph.D., Parsons Fellow, has worked on the Aberdeen Proving Ground since 2001 spending the first 10 years supporting the US Army Developmental Test Command and later the Army Test and Evaluation Command. He joined the Army Research Laboratory Computational and Information Sciences Directorate in April 2015, working in large-scale data analytics, high-performance computing, and outreach to test and evaluation and other ARL stakeholders. Dr. Barton’s entire career is in physics-based modeling and simulation. He spent 6 years as a consultant in the aerospace industry; 12 years as a contractor supporting the Air Force at the Arnold Engineering Developmental Center in Tennessee and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Glenn Research Center in Ohio; and the first 4 years of his career with The Boeing Company in Seattle. He has worked for Parsons Corporation for the past 8 years. He received Bachelor of Science and Ph.D. degrees in engineering science and mechanics from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and a Master of Engineering degree in aeronautics and Astronautics from the University of Washington.

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