Willie Nelson serves as the Director, Programs and Technology, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command. He directs research, development and test programs for space, missile defense, cyber, directed energy and hypersonic weapon technologies. His previous assignments include Acting Deputy Director of the Technical Center, which oversees the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site in the Marshall Islands, and Director for Space and Strategic Systems Directorate.
Nelson also served in a Senior Executive Service Developmental Assignment at U.S. Army Materiel Command, Deputy Chief of Staff G-3/4 for Current Operations planning, directing, synchronizing and integrating the execution of war plans, combat operations, exercise support, aviation management, force protection, law enforcement, cyber operations, training, war reserves-Army prepositioned stocks and readiness of all Army equipment.
Prior to these assignments, he served 13 years in technical and leadership positions at the Missile Defense Agency. His positions include as the agency’s Deputy Chief Engineer and the Chief Engineer for the Targets and Countermeasures Program Office. He served in several other key test and engineering roles for MDA. As the Director of Mission Management & Integration, he led mission management, test planning and readiness activities. He also served as the Chief of Flight Test Resources and led Site Activation Task Force personnel supporting the presidential-directed Initial Defense Operation emplacing the nation’s first operational Ground Based Midcourse Defense interceptors.
Mr. Nelson earned a U.S. Air Force commission through ROTC at the University of Texas at Austin, and retired as a Space and Missile Officer after 20 years of combined active duty and reserve service. During his military career, he served as Chief of Strategy at USSTRATCOM’s Joint Space Operations Center and Chief of Weapons and Tactics at 14th Air Force Headquarters. He also served as Launch Director for Air Force and National Reconnaissance Office space launch missions, Program Test Manager at the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center, and ICBM Missile Combat Crew Commander. His operational deployments include Operations Northern Watch, Noble Eagle, and Enduring Freedom. He earned the Command Space Operations Badge and Master Missile Operations Badge.
Mr. Nelson is a Defense Acquisition Corps member and Level III certified in Engineering and Test & Evaluation. He is married, and they have five children.