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News | Feb. 21, 2014

DIA’s chief engineer talks innovation and passion

By DIA Public Affairs

The Defense Intelligence Agency may not call to mind images of engineers, but they are an integral part of the agency’s innovative culture. Mark Mueller, the chief engineer for the Directorate for Science and Technology’s Office of Development and Engineering, talks about his involvement with the Experimental Aircraft Association as a source of personal and professional inspiration.

He can remember being passionate about aviation since watching the lunar landings as a child, but followed a behind the scenes path to aviation when less than 20/20 vision kept him from a military cockpit. Mueller views AirVenture, the EAA’s annual convention, as an example of impassioned creativity and a source of inspiration for DIA’s objective to adopt a more innovative culture.

“When we talk about changing our organizational culture to focus more on innovation, there isn’t anything more inspiring than going to an event like this where the drive is purely passion,” Mueller said.

But Mueller doesn’t advocate keeping what a person is passionate about separate from their job. Practicing what he preaches, his day job as an engineer and personal passion for aeronautics inform and cultivate each other and the same principle applies whether you’re coding software, building airplanes or writing articles.

So how does bureaucracy merge with innovation? Even Mueller, who has spent his career across the Department of Defense and the intelligence community, acknowledged that the answer to that question is still being sought. However, in addition to encouraging everyone to actively find and engage a personal passion, he said, “we need to find these different areas where people can explore these technical passions that can enhance and in some ways are critical enables to finding novel solutions to our problems.”