WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2011 — Long-time Defense Department civilian Marilee Fitzgerald will become the new Department of Defense Education Activity director, Pentagon officials announced today.
Fitzgerald already has some familiarity with the role. She's been the field activity's acting director for the past 17 months.
"During that time, she's done nothing but exceptional work," Lynn Simpson, chief of staff for the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told American Forces Press Service. "She's a proven leader and change agent, and has done a superb job."
As director, Fitzgerald will have oversight of all Defense Department schools, both stateside and overseas. The education activity operates 194 schools in 14 districts, serving more than 86,000 students.
Fitzgerald already has amassed an impressive list of accomplishments as acting director, Simpson said, citing a few. She instituted a school attendance policy, increased the graduation requirements in mathematics, upgraded bandwith and wireless capabilities, created new standards for educational and facility design to meet 21st century requirements, and eased student disruptions in the wake of the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
For Fitzgerald, Simpson noted, the driving force behind every new policy and program is military families.
"In every visit she goes on she meets with families, with parents, with leadership of military services... with the mantra of 'What can we do? How are we doing?'" she said. "She feels a tremendous responsibility to protect the children of our military members.
"She holds them dear to her heart," she added, "and she exudes that throughout the whole organization and makes that the forefront of every policy, of every discussion."
Fitzgerald's commitment to military families is a common theme among DOD's senior leadership. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has emphasized this point often, Simpson noted. "He believes very strongly in the commitment our service members and their families make, and our obligation to them to ensure their children have the highest quality education afforded to them," she said. Simpson said DOD leaders are confident that Fitzgerald will continue to operate with the same excellence she's exhibited in the past.
"The bottom-line focus," she added, "is the military children and how we can make sure they get the quality education they deserve."
Prior to her current appointment, Fitzgerald was the director of workforce issues and international programs for the office of the deputy undersecretary of defense for civilian personnel policy. She oversaw and approved DOD human resource policies and programs that affect over 700,000 employees worldwide. She also served as the acting director of the Defense Civilian Personnel Management Service.
Fitzgerald also has a long-time association with the education activity. She has held several positions there, including associate director of management, chief of staff, chief of executive services and chief of recruitment.
Department of Defense Education Activity