By Brian Brackens, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Public Affairs
/ Published April 30, 2021
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE, Ohio – As a single mother of seven-year old twin boys, and No. 2 on the leadership team responsible for the acquisition, modernization and sustainment of the Air Force bomber aircraft fleet, Jennifer Morgan is no stranger to navigating challenges and finding opportunities for success.
In fact, she has made a career out of leading high performing teams and developing effective solutions to Air Force challenges.
However, her career as a senior acquisition leader almost didn’t happen.
“After graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi, and serving on active-duty for about six years, I separated and went to work in industry, specifically for a glass manufacturer in Lancaster, Ohio,” said Morgan, currently serving as the Deputy Program Executive Officer for Bombers and Deputy Director of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Bombers Directorate. “Then [terrorist attacks on] Sept. 11  happened and I realized that I missed being part of the Air Force family. I grew up in the Air Force. My dad was active-duty Air Force, and we lived in Europe, Asia, all over the United States, to include Hawaii. I really missed the Air Force, so I started looking for an opportunity to return as a civilian.”
Morgan’s first job back with the Air Force was as an acquisition program manager with the then Air Armament Center’s Agile Combat Support Program Office at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. There, she worked on the Large Shelter program, which is deployable, relocatable small aircraft and vehicle maintenance shelter.
Another assignment was at the Pentagon as the Program Element Monitor for Area Attack and Direct Attack Weapons, where she directed acquisition planning, programming and budgeting for the Air Force weapons portfolio. As the PEM, she interacted daily with Congressional staff, Office of the Secretary of Defense, and Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“PEMs are the people in the building [Pentagon] who know everything going on with the acquisition programs or platforms they are responsible for,” said Morgan. “They interact with all the stakeholders and help deliver information and coordinate activities. It was like learning from a firehose, but an amazing opportunity.”
Taking diverse opportunities throughout her career, she eventually served as the Director of Financial Management and Comptroller for the Air Force Research Laboratory, and Deputy PEO for Tanker, in AFLCMC’s former Tanker Directorate.
In her current position, Morgan is working alongside Brig. Gen. John Newberry, the PEO for Bombers, to develop an organization focused solely on improving the Air Force bomber fleet.
A key part of the job is close collaboration with Air Force Global Strike Command to discuss various topics including status of the bomber fleet, updates on modernization efforts, and capability road mapping.
“My priority is making sure I understand what they [Air Force Global Strike Command] care about, and what’s keeping them up at night,” Morgan said. “They are thinking about the sorties they need to generate today, the operations they need to be able to do next week, having increased capability or better weapons systems. They want to know about capabilities, timelines and cost. So those are the things I tend to focus on because that’s what they are worried about.”
When facing challenges, Morgan believes in getting multiple perspectives, and taking a deliberate and collaborative approach to finding solutions.
“There’s rarely a challenge that someone else hasn’t experienced or had a similar experience with,” she said. “So I phone a friend, I reach out to mentors, former bosses, and peers, to get their perspective and from there I decide how to proceed. There’s a lot of value in reaching out to others.”
One concept that has impacted Morgan and influenced her leadership style is the idea of “fail fast.”
“If we have this mentally of fail fast, what that means is that we are learning quickly,” she said. “I’ve learned the things that work, I’ve learned the things that don’t work and now I can try something new. I think that’s where we need to get to on a much larger scale in all of our business. We’re human and mistakes are inevitable and the work that we do is highly complex so expecting perfection is unreasonable. Clearly there are some things that are acceptable to fail at, but there are other things like when it comes to caring for our people, and safety, and treating people with dignity and respect that I would have no tolerance for failure.”
According to Morgan, the future looks bright for the Bombers Directorate.
“There’s a lot of opportunity for us, as we lead modernization efforts and sustain aircraft in the fleet.” she said. “While we don’t have execution responsibilities for the B-21, we are however involved with them from an organize, train and equip perspective, and supporting with their activities. Moving forward, I think there’s going to be tremendous demand and need to reduce the time it takes to put new capabilities on the aircraft and I’m confident that we will do everything that we can to meet that demand.”