COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors (PEO IEW&S) Project Manager Intelligence Systems and Analytics
TITLE: Product support manager
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 12
YEARS OF MILITARY SERVICE: 4
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Advanced in life cycle logistics, Practitioner in program management
EDUCATION: B.S. in business administration from University of Management Technologies, associate degree in business administration from Brookdale Community College
AWARDS: Commanders Award for Civilian Service (2018), Civilian Service Achievement Medal (2018), PEO IEW&S Army Superior Unit Award (2015)
Christopher Lee Waltsak
by Cheryl Marino
Christopher Waltsak is no stranger to Army acquisition.
Both of his parents worked for the Army in some capacity—his father last served as an integrated logistic support manager for Project Manager Warfighter Information Network-Tactical in a career that lasted 47 years, and his mother worked as an administrative assistant at the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command Software Engineering Center (CECOM)—at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. In his younger years, he worked at Denny’s across the street from the (now closed) Fort Monmouth military base and can recall “always running into [and being recognized by] senior acquisition and military personnel” in and around town. Most of his life government personnel were his role models and he learned by their example. So no one was too surprised when he pursued a career with the Army—first active duty and later, the Army Acquisition Workforce.
Waltsak gained and applied most of his logistics knowledge and expertise during his years as a program manager. He worked on programs like the CECOM Generator RESET Program, and as a logistics management specialist in 2006, he set up the logistics branch for Distributed Common Ground System—the Army’s primary system for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance processing and exploitation of data from all sensor modalities and dissemination of intelligence information about the threat, weather and terrain at all echelons.
Eight years of experience as a project manager, then being in the right place at the right time, prepared him for his next position as a government civilian. “When the readiness management division chief was on a special task for three months and the LOG [logistics officer] chief position was vacant, I covered all RMD [research management decisions] and LOG business while he was away,” said Waltsak. “When he returned, he offered me the LOG chief job with an eventual plan for me to take his place once he retired.”
In 2010, Waltsak entered the acquisition work force as a government civilian logistics branch chief and said the best part about working as an acquisition professional in a project manager office is that he never has the same day twice. “There is always a new challenge, and a problem that is outside the lines that I have to figure out,” he said of the complexities he faces on a daily basis. Waltsak transitioned to readiness management division chief and product support manager (PSM) in 2012, and then assumed his current role as PSM in 2015. “Being a PSM is one of the best positions a logistician can hope for and I challenge all logisticians to aspire to be one.”
As a PSM, Waltsak is ultimately responsible for establishing sustainment strategies for intelligence systems that adhere to Army policy, regulation and statute. He is now supporting Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors, Project Manager Intelligence Systems and Analytics (PM IS&A) to pivot from legacy intelligence systems to next-generation capabilities that will enable the transition to a modern enterprise data architecture with powerful artificial intelligence and machine learning analytics.
“Depending on the capability being acquired, such as a new tactical vehicle or antenna, I may have to plan for decades of sustainment,” he said. His goal is to enable the Soldier in the field to complete their mission while maintaining cost effectiveness for the taxpayer. “It may sound boring, but when you are trying to support the team tasked with the middle-tier acquisition for Tactical Intelligence Targeting Access Node (TITAN), it takes a lot of creative thinking.” TITAN is the Army’s next-generation intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance ground station—enabled by artificial intelligence and machine learning—to process sensor data received from space, high altitude, aerial and terrestrial layers.
Above all, Waltsak said his greatest satisfaction as part of the acquisition workforce is delivering a capability that a Soldier needs that has never been there before, such as the Capability Drop 2. This capability will serve as the Army Intelligence primary interface to the intelligence community data fabric for both publishing Army intelligence and consuming intelligence community products in the cloud. “I also feel fulfilled knowing that the work we conducted early and upfront in the system design allowed for a capability that is sustained,” he said.
Waltsak is hoping to soon secure a 179-day tour as a deputy project manager or an assignment as a Department of the Army system coordinator for the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology for developmental training. “I believe both positions would be a terrific opportunity to further my knowledge of the acquisition process.”
He stressed the importance of not only furthering his own knowledge, but that of others within the organization. “When we have new personnel, civilian or Soldier, my door is always open,” he said. Besides offering them a block of instruction on each program, his best advice is to learn the other guy’s rule book. “Don’t be afraid to read other disciplines’ regulations and policies. Understanding where they come from allows you to be more effective in achieving both your project manager and your goals.” Adding that regulations can be changed—and should be—if you make an educated argument as the Army and acquisition field change every day. “Project managers are challenged to be more agile in their acquisition, and it’s our job to challenge those regulations to be flexible enough to meet the Army standard, while delivering capability in time for Army need.”
Outside of work, Waltsak is a dedicated father. “Unfortunately, my wife passed away shortly after my daughter was born—so with every decision I make, I have her in mind and how my decisions affect her. She watches and learns from me, so I have to lead by example,” he said. “And I must be doing something right, since my daughter is now in high school and by all accounts, much smarter than her dad.”
Waltsak brings that same ‘learn by example’ concept to work. He believes when a person’s perception is reinforced by someone they respect—and look to for guidance and support—that will have the greatest influence in their decision-making process and path forward. “Try to make the right decisions, learn from your mistakes, own them and be a better acquisition professional in the future.”
“Faces of the Force” is an online series highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce through the power of individual stories. Profiles are produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication and Support Branch, working closely with public affairs officers to feature Soldiers and civilians serving in various AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, please go to https://asc.army.mil/web/publications/army-alt-submissions/.