For the second installment of NNSA’s Women in Defense Programs series, meet Brigadier General Stacy Jo Huser. Huser joined the Office of Defense Programs in June 2020 and has been a shining example of a strong woman in leadership, with an extensive background in space and missile operations. Read more to find out why she loves being part of the team at NNSA.
How do you support NNSA?
I am the Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Military Application (called the “PADAMA” or my kids say “PADAMAMA”) in Defense Programs, NA-10. In this role, I assist the Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs to maintain the safety, security, and reliability of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile.
In layman’s terms, a lot of what I do is help translate between the Department of Defense and NNSA – because I am in the lucky position who can speak both languages (and helping people communicate and understand each other in order to meet mission needs is right in my wheelhouse!).
How did you become interested in the field you are in? How did you end up on this career path to this point?
I started my Air Force career as a space operator, monitoring the payload for the GPS constellation, and then I instructed and developed curriculum for future space operators for several years. I became enamored with “missileers” – those Airmen who monitor, and are ready to execute, our nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force. They have a camaraderie and a shared history that I felt I was missing in my career. I volunteered to move from satellite operations to nuclear operations…and the rest is history.
I’ve been stationed at all three of our ICBM wings – Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, MT as my first ICBM assignment; Minot AFB in Minot, ND as a group commander overseeing all ICBM operations; and then F. E. Warren AFB in Cheyenne, WY as the wing commander overseeing the entire base. I’ve also done nuclear targeting at US Strategic Command, and was the Director of STRATCOM’s Commander’s Action Group under General Hyten and Admiral Richard.
I have a Bachelor’s in Psychology and Pre-Med, a Master’s in Education, and another Master’s in Strategic Intelligence. I was also very fortunate that the Air Force sent me to a 1-year nuclear fellowship at Stanford University.
What’s one of your favorite things about working at NNSA?
I was initially nervous to join the NNSA team, intimidated by the thought of being surrounded by all these amazing experts on weapons design, nuclear physics, engineering, program management…and here I was, a psychology major. I was also one of the few active duty military members. But that fear and intimidation quickly went away when I discovered how truly awesome everyone is. They’re crazy smart, but they’re also crazy compassionate, and funny, friendly, and caring, and they truly and deeply care about the mission and the roles they all play. I’m going to weep like crazy when I have to leave Defense Programs. So, I would say my favorite thing about working at NNSA is probably anyone’s favorite thing about working on any great team – it’s the people.
One of my other favorite things is our DEIA effort. Shortly after I arrived in the summer of 2020, I asked to join Defense Program’s DEIA effort that was just getting started. If I do nothing else during my time at the NNSA, I will still count my years here as a success because of everything this amazing group of volunteers has accomplished.
What are the characteristics of the best teams that you have been on?
They have a leader that authentically cares for the members. I find when a leader truly cares about those she’s leading, then everything else falls into place. The team feels valued, they feel listened to, they have the resources they need to do their jobs. They feel empowered, and they can give and receive actionable feedback. They can feel their leader’s protection and top-cover, know that mistakes are okay, and there are no egos. They laugh and cry together, they celebrate and mourn together.
What advice would you give someone who wants to do what you do for NNSA?
Don’t count yourself out before you’ve tried. We see a lot of women who feel they need to be 100% qualified before they apply or automatically assume they can’t do the job and have a family. I parade my children around as much as they’ll let me so younger people can see that it can be done – you can have a career and a family. I have a lot of women mentors who do the same; I’m fortunate to work with Summer Jones, who is my she-ro when it comes to being a mom and an incredible professional and mentor.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
My family fills a lot of my spare time with playing cards and board games, watching movies, video game arcades, eating out, and vacations.
I also like to read (science fiction is my favorite) and I run long distance and enjoy racing 5Ks to marathons (I have one ultra, a 50-miler, under my belt). I also recently joined OrangeTheory, which is strangely addictive. Finally, I’m grateful for the DOE gym for giving me awesome virtual workouts and the motivation I sometimes need!