//Susan Thornton, SES, DAF (Ret)
Susan Thornton, SES, DAF (Ret)

Project Description

Susan Thornton

Key Specialties

  • Acquisition Program Management and Systems Engineering

  • Innovation Strategy Development and Change Leadership

  • International Capability Development

  • Workforce Advancement

  • Software and Cyber Security


Susan Thornton

Senior Executive Service, Department of the Air Force (Retired)

Ms. Susan Thornton is a proactive executive with over 35 years of acquisition, engineering, and program management experience focused on innovation, creating lean teams, managing risk and leading change. She is a high-performing leader of large technical organizations with expertise in building and optimizing organizational processes, developing human capital, and delivering technology. Susan is known as a results-oriented professional with an exceptional record of developing successful, innovative, cost effective, strategies for complex weapon systems, software and cyber capability, and advanced technology. She is adept communicator with cross-cultural communication proficiency and experience leading international teams to negotiate solutions that meet diverse needs in a global environment.

Significant Career Accomplishments

  • Key strategist for the US Air Force (USAF) high priority Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) to meet the National Defense Strategy (NDS). Testified to Congressional House Armed Services’ Subcommittee on the USAF’s decision to pursue this pioneering strategy—secured over $3B in funding.
  • Led Enterprise IT as a Service risk reduction strategy transforming how the USAF acquires multi-billion dollar IT capability and affecting over 600,000 users. Outcome shapes the $2.7 billion per year USAF investment in information technology.
  • Steered numerous pathfinder programs to use DevSecOps, a commercial best practice. Accelerated cyber software delivery to support USAF Cyber and US Cyber Command operations and rapidly fielded high-impact capability 3-1/2 years faster.
  • As Chair, NATO Air Forces Armament Group, steered 30 nations to deliver capability to NATO forces and ensure interoperability. Led a $1.7B program to stand-up the NATO RQ-4 aircraft program; kept the program on track to meet NATO’s operational goals and provide significant high-altitude ISR capability.
  • Initiated first-ever mentoring programs at two locations, impacting over 1,500 people and resulting in enduring mentoring cultures at both.

Key Positions

  • Director, Information Dominance Programs, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (AT&L)
  • Chair, Air Forces Armament Group, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
  • Director, Engineering & Technical Management, Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC)
  • Director, Engineering & Technical Management, Electronic Systems Center (ESC)
  • Director, Directed Energy Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL)
  • Director of Engineering, Airborne Laser (ABL) Program, Missile Defense Agency (MDA)


  • MPA, Public Administration, Harvard University, JFK School of Government
  • MS, Aerospace Engineering, University of Dayton
  • BS, Systems Engineering, Wright State University
  • Strategic Enterprise Perspective, Alan L. Freed Associates, Inc.
  • Executive Excellence, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Defense Systems Management College (DSMC)