The Army inducted Geoff Downer, director of the Aviation and Missile Command’s Special Programs (Aviation), into Senior Executive Service during an Oct. 18 appointment ceremony at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.
Maj. Gen. Todd Royar, AMCOM commander, officiated the ceremony, administered the oath of office and presented Downer with the traditional accoutrements of SES rank – the certificate of appointment, the SES flag and a service pin, which Downer’s father George Downer, a retired master Army aviator, affixed to his lapel.
Civilians within the ranks of the SES are equivalent to general or flag officers. Royar voiced confidence in Downer’s service record and ability to fill the role.
“There’s no question that Geoff has all of the technical skills needed to be promoted to the senior executive service,” Royar said, “but technical skills, by themselves, are not enough --the Army needs true leaders in its top positions – Geoff has all of those leadership qualities, too.”
The Army has recognized Downer’s combination of leader qualities – technical skills, top-notch problem-solving, team-focused, the ability to lead during a crisis and a solid moral compass, Royar said. “That is why he’s been selected to become a member of the Army’s Senior Executive Service.”
Many of Downer’s family members, friends and colleagues attended the ceremony. Among them, John Shipley. Shipley retired after serving as the AID director from 1991 to his retirement in January. Shipley, who was inducted into the Army Materiel Command Hall of Fame last year, spoke of Downer’s unflinching commitment while working with a variety of programs at various classification levels.
“In a democracy, you cannot have secret men doing secret things, unless they are men of uncompromising trustworthiness and integrity – Geoff is one of those men, and he’s done it for almost 37 years,” Shipley said.
Downer’s service with the Army has been committed to technology development, prototyping and delivery of capabilities to Army and U.S. Special Operations warfighters for successful execution of worldwide missions with an increased degree of safety.
He graduated in 1983 from Virginia Tech with a bachelor’s in aerospace and ocean engineering. He entered government service that same year as a project engineer with the Aviation Research and Development Command’s newly established Applied Technology Lab at Fort Eustis, Virginia. The organization was renamed the Aviation Development Directorate- Eustis in 1991. Downer was one of the original engineers working in the Aviation Integration Directorate, a component under the Special Programs (Aviation). As such, he served initially as a project and test engineer, developing and integrating critical capabilities necessary for Army and Special Operations aircraft and crews to successfully perform national command authority directed, high-priority missions.
In June 1995, he was assigned as a deputy program manager for SP1600, an Army and Special Operations Command program that developed a critical complex weapon system with significant capabilities incorporated on a rotary-wing aircraft. In April 1997, he was then assigned as program manager for a classified program that developed and integrated technology to provide Special Forces critical complex capabilities.
From June 2003 to May 2006, Downer led multiple programs of critical importance, serving as a program manager, co-program manager and deputy program manager to develop and field capabilities to U.S. Special Forces.
In May 2006, he became the first program manager for the Advanced Aviation Assessment Program office at Fort Eustis. In this role he was responsible for managing a highly complex and strategic portfolio of projects ranging from aircraft, weapon systems, aviation mission equipment and avionics systems that each have unique requirements.
In March 2013, Downer assumed responsibility as the deputy director, special programs for AID. In this position he was responsible for management and oversight of all projects/programs within AID, developing a broad range of capabilities for U.S. Special Operations forces and its partners.
Downer assumed the position as the AID director on Aug 18. Special Programs (Aviation) is responsible for the development, acquisition, modernization, fielding and sustainment of the Army’s Special Operations’ classified and unclassified aviation fleet. These low-density, high-demand classified and unclassified enablers provide the needed capability for Special Operations forces to find, fix and finish targets of national interest anywhere in the world under all conditions.
Royar noted that while most top leaders in the Army aviation enterprise are able focus their efforts on one facet of the program, like training, sustainment or acquisition, Downer’s role doesn’t afford that “luxury.”
“His work includes all areas of the enterprise,” Royar said. “You see, nobody brings an easy problem to Geoff Downer -- everybody brings hard problems to him because they know that he can solve them.”