Debra Haley

Special Assistant to the Commander (Ret.)
Aeronautical Systems Center
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base

For her civilian leadership activities in the United States Air Force

Debra Haley was drawn to Purdue's program in aeronautics and astronautics because of her love of flying and engineering. Her other interests were wide ranging and included a fascination with dinner parties.

In her 29-year civilian career with the United States Air Force, Haley satisfied both interests. We don't know how many parties Haley gave during her career, but she does say she was able to apply engineering principles to technology, human behavior, and dinner menus.

Haley led several organizations at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. The two most challenging assignments were as chief information officer and executive director for Materiel Systems. As CIO, she and her team operated and maintained the $4 billion communications infrastructure of Air Force Materiel Command, enabling 100,000 people to communicate effectively and securely around the world. As executive director, she led a team of people responsible for buying and implementing software to run the business processes of the Air Force.

"Having a degree in engineering gave me the tools and thought processes to analyze problems very systematically and to know there was a solution out there somewhere. I added to my engineering education by realizing that not all problems were technical and in many cases had to do with personalities and perspectives," she says.

Had she not chosen engineering as a field of study, Haley says she might have gone into psychology. "After all, if you want to work on a complex system, there is nothing more challenging than the human psyche," she says.

The Air Force provided her with a variety of challenges-in research and development, acquisition, logistics, weapons systems testing, and in leading a workforce of 15,000. Her management responsibilities sparked an interest in people and their hidden potential.

"It is truly rewarding to see where people's careers have gone and what they have done because I was able to help them get through a rough time in their lives, earn a degree, lead a rewarding project, carefully consider what their priorities were, or help them advance their careers," she says.

A dedicated mentor, Haley has given career development seminars across the Department of Defense. Now, in retirement, she is devoting her time in Florida to many faith-based, not-for-profit organizations. These include an after-school program for underprivileged children, hospice, mission work at church, and hospital chaplaincy.

Career Highlights

2006-07 Special Assistant to the Commander, Aeronautical Systems Center
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
2005 Outstanding Aerospace Engineer
Purdue University
Meritorious Executive Award,
given by President George W. Bush
2003-06 Executive Director
Development and Fielding Systems Group
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
1997-2002 CIO and COO
Air Force Materiel Command
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
1997 Appointed to Senior Executive Service
1982-96 A variety of positions ranging from project engineer in the Aero Propulsion Laboratory to chief scientist in the Air Force Acquisition Logistics Division
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base

MSM '92, Sloan Fellow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
MSLM '87, Air Force Institute of Technolog (AFIT)
BSAAE '78, Purdue University