Paula DeCesaris has been appointed to the Senior Executive Service position of deputy director of the Spacecraft and Vehicle Systems Department in the Engineering Directorate at Marshall Space Flight Center, effective Feb. 14.
The Senior Executive Service is the personnel system covering most of the top managerial positions in federal agencies.
DeCesaris comes to Marshall from the Missile Defense Agency, where she was technical director for test since 2015. DeCesaris was responsible for all technical aspects of planning, designing, and execution of the Ballistic Missile Defense System tests. She was also the agency’s cybersecurity testing lead, overseeing a diverse team to meet an increased testing pace, resulting in the successful execution of more than 340 exoatmospheric flight, ground and cybersecurity tests. She also developed a long-term investment strategy for a responsive, risk-managed future test program.
DeCesaris began her federal service career in 1997 as an aerospace engineer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia. In 2001, she accepted a rotational assignment to the Test and Evaluation Directorate of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization as the deputy program manager for the organization’s flight test airborne sensors assets. As the organization began limited defensive operations in 2005, DeCesaris became the Models and Simulations Accreditation agent and Independent Verification and Validation agent for the Ground Based Missile Defense program, and was later the Models and Simulations lead for the Missile Defense Agency Targets and Countermeasures program.
In 2007, DeCesaris officially joined the Missile Defense Agency as the Models and Simulations lead and division chief for the Ground Based Missile Defense Program. After later serving as a supervisor in the agency’s Ballistic Missile Defense System Models and Simulations Directorate, she became the director for System Assessment for the Missile Defense Agency Director of Engineering, where she was responsible for technical assessments of the Ballistic Missile Defense System as well as ground tests, cybersecurity, and digital Models and Simulations requirements and planning. As director of System Assessment from 2011 to 2015, she was responsible for planning, funding, and executing all Ballistic Missile Defense system-level assessments, including judging the system impact from the addition of every new Ballistic Missile Defense System Element software and hardware build and upgrade to the Operational Capacity Baseline as well as all Missile Defense Agency Technical Capability Declarations.
DeCesaris is an active participant in several professional forums, including the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, where she has authored and presented numerous papers. She has published various technical articles, papers, and reports in many additional national and international defense forums and has received multiple awards, including the Award for Excellence from the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award.
A Department of Defense Acquisition Corps member, DeCesaris is Level III certified in Engineering, Program Management, and Test and Evaluation and holds a bachelor’s in physics from Furman University. She also has a master’s in aerospace engineering from Auburn University and is a senior executive fellow with Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School for Government.
A native of Greer, South Carolina, DeCesaris lives in Huntsville with her husband, Chet, and her young daughter, Dori.