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U.S. Navy photo

by Chief Petty Officer Marlowe Dix

In August 2008, Mr. Scott DiLisio reported to Commander, Submarine Force (COMSUBFOR) as the first Executive Director of the Submarine Force headquarters in Norfolk, Va. He is the principal advisor to the Submarine Force Commander on all matters relating to Undersea Enterprise programs and requirements, and is also the senior civilian in the Submarine Force.

Mr. DiLisio had over 20 years of civilian service for the Department of the Navy prior to entering the Senior Executive Service (SES) in 2006. His assignments focused on support and innovation of logistics for various Navy communities. COMSUBFOR is his second SES assignment. In his first SES role, he served as the Assistant Deputy Commander, Fleet Logistics Support at the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). There, he was responsible for the program management and implementation of logistics functions, policies and processes within NAVSEA and its field activities.

Mr. DiLisio holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Strayer University. He is a recipient of numerous professional awards, including the Superior Civil Service Award, and holds an honorary commission as a Naval Supply Corps Flag Officer. He is a member of the Acquisition Professional Community.

As the Executive Director at COMSUBFOR, can you describe your role and how the position fits into the leadership chain?

I serve as Vice Adm. [Jay] Donnelly’s senior advisor on all matters relating to the management of our Submarine Force. In this role, I provide counsel for executive-level decisions that aim to improve research and development, acquisition, logistics, maintenance, and modernization so that our Sailors can successfully support combatant commanders’ missions. Additionally, as Vice Adm. Donnelly’s principal advisor, I execute his intent by attempting to strike a sustainable balance between current and future readiness. In this capacity, I strive to allocate Submarine Force resources to best meet evolving operational and fiscal challenges. Much like other Navy Executive Directors, my goal is to bring sound business acumen and sage counsel to the Navy Enterprise.

The Commander, Chief of Staff, Force Master Chief, and I comprise the SUBFOR Senior Leadership Team. We frequently meet to establish Submarine Force priorities, tackle policy issues, evaluate war-fighting requirements, and formulate strategic guidance. However, meeting the current and future needs of the Submarine Force’s officers, enlisted, civilians and families requires more effort than any one leadership team or individual can provide. Therefore, another part of my job is to increase collaborative efforts between the Norfolk SUBFOR headquarters staff, the Commander Submarine Force Pacific (SUBPAC) staff, and our partners across the Navy and industry. Overall, I feel my voice advocates the priorities, concerns and needs of the Submarine Force, which is a reflection and amplification of Vice Adm. Donnelly’s positions.

What are your efforts in determining budgetary priorities for maintenance, performance, military and civilian personnel readiness, and new construction for the Undersea Enterprise?

Having been at SUBFOR for nearly a year, I’m still developing my submarine knowledge; however, during this transition I’ve used my programming and financial experience to affect the budgetary process. In an effort to resolve operational challenges, we continually identify budget areas that may require resource adjustment. When making these resource decisions, I try to focus on areas that will maximize material and personnel readiness while minimizing operational risk. We make every effort to prevent the creation of a hollow force.

We are working diligently to make sure that we have the right people and parts in place to properly and frugally facilitate our maintenance program. Personnel and operational readiness are directly related to success in executing our maintenance program.

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Submarine Force Executive Director Scott DiLisio applies his programming and financial expertise to the COMSUBFOR budget process. U.S. Navy photo

As the senior civilian at the Submarine Force, could you tell us what current roles civilians play in making SUBFOR successful?

If you look across the entire Undersea Enterprise, you will find thousands of civilians supporting the nation’s  Submarine Force. Civilians provide continuity to our total force team, and they compliment the warrior skills, knowledge and experience of our active and reserve duty professionals.

For example, the engineers at the system commands and warfare centers determine whether specifications for our equipment are properly set. These talented people and their engineering assessments are critically important to our Force because our crews are taking these submarines into an unforgiving environment — we have to get it right.

Since becoming the Executive Director, what has been the most challenging aspect and most rewarding part of your job?

Like I said, I came from outside the Submarine Force and am still learning the submarine culture. Sometimes it is hard to find a submariner who will sing their own praises or share a good sea story with an outsider. They don’t call it the silent service for nothing. I admire that humility; I should probably join the club.

The most rewarding part of this job is the confidence I feel while working with such a smart group of people. You can achieve great things with such a talented group. I can reach out on any particular topic, and I have total confidence that the people will come back and give me what I need for any decision. It is inspiring to look around the room and know I have a seat at the table and a critical role amidst so many smart people. My experience allows me to facilitate and referee the conversation, while providing a little diversity of thought. Great ideas must often be balanced with fiscal reality, or else money and time can be wasted.

What is a typical day like for an Executive Director?

I don’t think I’ve had a typical day since I’ve joined SUBFOR. My 200-mile round-trip commute requires me to get on the road early, so I spend much of that time on the phone collating the data I’ll need before I get to the office. My daily schedule sometimes includes operations and intelligence briefs, personnel counseling, and submarine tours. Some days, I represent and speak for Vice Adm. Donnelly at various events; we often try to split time at as many different places as possible to maximize our bandwidth. Sometimes that includes sending the Chief of Staff to events. I know that doesn’t answer what a “typical day” is like, but I can say every day is exciting.

Do you have any additional comments you would like to make?

I believe the Submarine Force is blessed with a highly skilled and dedicated team of military and civilian professionals that together make our cherished submarine culture. Efficiently using our precious resources, built on top of the principle of safe and effective operations, is the underlying theme of everything we do.

Chief Petty Officer Dix is a staff journalist with the Submarine Force Public Affairs Office.