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Director: Special Programs at its best fusing systems

Thomas Kennedy, deputy chief, Electronic Systems Development Branch in the Command, Control. Communications, Intelligence and Networks Directorate here, provides a tour to Col. Nathan White, newly installed senior materiel leader for the Special Programs Division in C3I&N as 2nd Lt. Salvatore Finazzo and Cassandra Carlson look on outside the Hanscom Collaboration and Innovation Center April 18.

Thomas Kennedy, deputy chief, Electronic Systems Development Branch in the Command, Control. Communications, Intelligence and Networks Directorate here, provides a tour to Col. Nathan White, newly installed senior materiel leader for the Special Programs Division in C3I&N as 2nd Lt. Salvatore Finazzo and Cassandra Carlson look on outside the Hanscom Collaboration and Innovation Center April 18. Finazzo and Carlson are program managers at the HCIC, and White was at the facility for his first tour as head of Special Programs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mark Herlihy)

Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass. -- Col. Nathan White is a trained electrical engineer unafraid to cross wires in his new role as the senior materiel leader for the Special Programs Division in the Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks Directorate here.

White takes over a division responsible for procuring some of the most advanced, closely guarded technologies for the Air Force. He has six children, and explains his job to them as “buying really cool stuff for the Air Force.”

“Special Programs is special not because we do acquisitions differently, but because we work cutting- edge programs,” said White. “Here, it appears they’ve found this special sauce of taking existing programs and making changes to them to improve the combat network. The niche they’ve built is the best example of the type of innovation we’re being asked by senior leaders to accomplish, and it has real world impact.”

Special Programs is a 301 personnel division, reporting to recently arrived C3I&N Program Executive Officer Brig. Gen. Michael Schmidt. At his change of leadership ceremony in mid-April, Schmidt asked his workforce to innovate. Schmidt served as the PEO for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance and Special Operations Forces from 2014-2016, and White served under him there for six months as the Air Force Special Operations Command MQ-9 Reaper branch chief.

During White’s varied career, he’s ridden in the back of F-16 Fighting Falcons and Joint STARS developmental test aircraft as a flight test engineer. His engineering background includes electrical engineering and work on guidance and control systems. His last assignment was director of engineering for the Joint STARS test facility in Melbourne, Florida.

“I think my job here is about working with peers in other divisions, and finding places where we can improve systems,” said White. “If I can clear that space where my people can go in and innovate, and build better weapons systems, then I’m doing my job.”