We had an opportunity to sit down and talk with Todd Weiler, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs (M&RA), who brings more than 20 years of experience in human resource management, business, and public policy executive leadership to his office.

During his career, he has developed expertise in information technology management, strategic planning, organizational development, and business transformation and development. Notably, he served as chief executive officer of the consulting firm he founded, One Hemisphere Ventures, a company specializing in strategic and managerial consulting services to clients in the government and private sectors. In addition to his time as CEO, he held the positions of co-owner and chief operating officer of Arrowpoint Corporation and vice president for marketing and chief information officer of Communities In Schools.

Before transitioning to the private sector, Mr. Weiler served in the Army as an attack helicopter pilot. He served in both Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm where he was a part of the longest, largest air assault operation in history. Later, he served as a White House liaison to the Department of Defense and was appointed by the President to the Department of Transportation Civil Tiltrotor Committee and the Federal Prison Industries Board of Directors. Weiler further developed his expertise in military personnel and wounded warrior programs as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs.

Looking back over your career, what elements—policies, human resources, personal convictions, etc.–may have had an impact on opportunities to advance in your career?

Weiler: I will always remember the way my mother raised her three boys … care about others and always give in service.  I have tried to follow those lessons in public and private life.  I have been fortunate to lead many initiatives, but I think my work in leading companies has made the biggest impact on my work in the public sector.  I believe that business experience and leading teams are critical to making good public policy, especially when you are dealing with enterprises like M&RA, which encompass worldwide operations (exchanges, commissaries, and schools).  A good business sense is critical to making the right judgments on business operations and leading large groups of people. 

What has changed during your career in terms of diversity and acceptance?

Weiler: I remember being in the Gulf War, and I was so scared that I would be “out’d”.  In those days, being gay was a one-way ticket out of the Service.  I think this is one of the biggest changes.  This is an example where the Department of Defense (DoD) followed corporate America and society.  There are other examples where DoD has led.  I think our recent changes in transgender policy and opening combat positions to women are great examples of leading change.

What remains as opportunities to diminish or dissolve barriers, perceived or actual, to the full engagement in the military community of all qualified members of society?

Weiler: We must do a better job of connecting with society.  Today, we are still largely disconnected from large swaths of the geographic, demographic, and socioeconomic society.  This has been a major push for me – making our military more reflective of the society we serve.  We can accomplish a great deal of this by engaging our communities more through various outreach or external relations efforts.  For example, the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe and Starbase programs reach youth with vital programs and although these young people may never serve in the military, they will always have a positive impression of the work we do and who we are.  I also believe that there remain barriers in the form of traditional Reserve service.  I envision a future where more robust part-time service is the norm.  This might be in the form of half-time, 15-20 hours/week, or weeks on followed by weeks off.  This is how we will partner with the commercial sector to meet their needs, our needs, and the needs of our Service members that are part of an American society that is ever-evolving.  Work-life balance, new opportunities to learn, and rotate career fields, etc.; these are all societal shifts that we must address.

“You reflect America.  You are in the communities that we serve.  You are our front line in connecting and building a Force of the Future – a force that is a mirror of our great Nation.”

What are your hopes for the incoming administration in terms of inclusiveness and continuing a path toward diversity in the military? 

Weiler: The work we have done is not about a social experiment, as I have heard some suggest.  It is about creating a Defense Department that is more reflective of the society we serve.  Failure to do so, or rolling back the policies we have implemented, runs the risk of creating a military that is further disconnected.  That is how we get into conflicts that the American people do not support – when we fail to have an America with a “stake in the game”.  I am confident that the new DoD leadership will recognize this and I am confident in the career and military leaders to educate them as they enter their jobs.

What does an emphasis on diversity provide in terms of opportunities for the DoD?

Weiler: Diverse organizations are always more powerful, because they reflect their constituents, whether in business or in the military.  A strong military must reflect the diverse American fabric.  That is how we maintain the world’s strongest fighting force.  When you have organizations that are diverse, the opportunities for individuals are limitless and that is what I see on a daily basis in business and in our military.

GRSN: Is there anything you would like to add, or is there anything you’d like to say directly to the Guard and Reserve community?

Weiler: You reflect America.  You are in the communities that we serve.  You are our front line in connecting and building a Force of the Future – a force that is a mirror of our great Nation.  My heart has always been with you, our community-based forces, and it will remain so in my time away from the Pentagon.  Thank you for your service to country and community!