In the late 1970s, after I studied at MIT, I was offered a job in Washington, DC working for Analytic Services, Inc., a company that was contracted to the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force. This was during the Cold War, where the world had aligned itself either with the US or with the Soviet Union. We studied the B-52s and ICBMs of our Triad nuclear deterrent strategy. Having been in college during the Vietnam War, and the domestic protests, this seemed an odd job choice. Yet I was never to regret it. The staff was smart, highly educated with all having advanced degrees, many were ex-active service military, all were dedicated, hard-working, and none were warmongers. That was for the politicians.

At that job, I met Steve Schanzer. He had worked at the company, then left for a few years, and then returned. Because of delays in getting security clearances, he was put on a project that I was working on. On the personal side, Steve was a sailor, had a great sense of humor, was clearly far smarter than I was, but was modest enough to never point that out. We became great friends, then, and to this day, and he and his wife Roz (an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator) came to our Vendee Globe start in Les Sables d’Olonne.

Steve stayed at that company for a few years after I left, and then went to work for Defense Intelligence Agency, the Defense Department’s version of the CIA. And for the next 15 years, rising to become one of the senior civilians within the Agency, Director of Information Services, where he managed a global Information Systems network. He worked in the government helping to keep our country safe for you and me.

I’ve had the privilege to meet, and become friends with, many successful people in many areas of life, in the US and overseas, in sailing, in business, on Wall Street, within the arts, within academia. Yet my most admired career is Steve’s, a government worker.

He had an analytic power, combined with logic and insight, that he could have used in any industry anywhere. He also was a computer wizard, and undoubtedly, he could have gone into the Silicon Valley private sector and been highly successful, and made many multiples of the money than he would on a government salary. Yet he chose to stay with the government throughout his illustrious career, to work quietly, out of the public eye, for you and for me.

From the projects that Steve could tell me about (he held very high security clearances and most of what he did was Top Secret or above):

a. Steve began his work at DIA as Branch Chief in the Soviet/Warsaw Pact Division leading a team of talented military and civilian analysts producing intelligence reports on Russian military forces. After several years, the DIA was given a unique opportunity to conduct a highly-classified study, never before done outside of one of the military services. Steve was assigned to lead this year-long effort. The pressure to succeed was intense, but the effort was successful and led to both an immediate redesign and upgrade of DIA’s databases on Military Forces as well as similar follow-on studies tasked by the military Services.

b. There are 16 intelligence agencies within the government, and although sharing information was critical it was often withheld, since the different agencies wanted to keep their information to themselves. This became very problematic during the first Gulf War in 1991 when after-action reports noted that Intelligence sharing was critical and needed improvement. So CIA Director James Woolsey asked Steve to lead an effort to improve intelligence sharing between all 16 Agencies and their consumers. Steve’s team consisted of representatives from each agency, and he developed, operated, and implemented a World Wide Web for them and their consumers more than a year before the first commercial web sites came online. This effort led to major changes in the ways that intelligence reports were produced and disseminated, and the changes were so consequential that Steve was asked to brief a group of senior leaders in England at 10 Downing Street (the Prime Minister’s home) on the security implications for sharing information with this approach.

c. Nominated to attend the National War College, a senior-level program in national security strategy to prepare future military and civilian leaders for high-level policy responsibilities. Steve and a group of a dozen students toured Central America meeting with the heads of state, secretaries of defence, state, etc., in these various countries; as Steve and Roz had adopted their son from El Salvador and daughter from Ecuador, his knowledge already about central America led him to be the de facto head of the group.

d. For his work at DIA, Steve was honored by President George H. W. Bush with the “Presidential Rank of Distinguished Executive,” and was only the second person at DIA to have ever received this award. He was unable to attend the ceremony at the White House with the other honored recipients because he was ‘behind the scenes’. And for his work on Information Sharing, the Director of the CIA awarded Steve “The National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal”, one of the highest medals in the Intelligence Community.

Inspiration can come from many quarters in the world, we just must open our minds to it, and not close our minds. For me, my most admired career is Steve Schanzer’s, a U. S. Government worker.