Pitts takes over as DISA chief of staff
by Renee Hatcher
DISA’s newest chief of staff originally wanted to be a dietician, now she’s focused on shedding the excess weight of government inefficiencies. She describes herself as a borderline introvert, yet her highest priority is connecting with and helping people produce results.
Office of Strategic Communication and Public Affairs
November 30, 2021
Teresa Pitts took over as chief of staff for DISA on Nov. 8.
In her freshman year, Pitts was working toward a degree in food and nutrition through the Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Nebraska, on track for a dietician job in the Air Force. Her plans, and life, abruptly changed the day she earned a ride in an F-15 for ranking at the top of her class.
“We landed and I went straight to the professor of aerospace studies to ask how I could get closer to operations,” Pitts said.
That professor, a former air traffic controller, guided her toward the ATC program and her career took off on a new trajectory. Pitts, with no previous military background in her family, was commissioned in the Air Force in 1988, served on active-duty until 1993 and immediately joined the Reserves. Before retiring from the Air Force in 2013, Pitts mobilized twice – during the Kosovo War and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Pitts found out early that she was well-suited for chief of staff positions. She served as the chief of staff for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency before joining the DISA team in 2017. Her first assignment with DISA was as the chief of staff for the White House Communications Agency.
“That was an awesome job, with a great mission and hard-working people,” said Pitts, who was the senior civilian leading about 900 military and 100 civilians. Besides the people and the work, Pitts said one of her fondest memories was going to a White House Christmas party, taking her sister as her date.
Pitts then left WHCA and reported to DISA Headquarters to be civilian deputy for the operations center before taking on her current role as DISA chief of staff, which is a competitive rotational opportunity at DISA. The incumbent usually holds the position for two to three years.
“These positions are key in the continued growth of our leadership bench,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert J. Skinner, DISA director and JFHQ-DODIN commander. “Teresa has done an outstanding job as the civilian deputy of the operations center and I’m excited to see what she is going to do for our global workforce in this role.”
“I’m here to implement what the director wants but I’m not here only for the director,” Pitts said. “Chief of staff jobs are cool because they are about everybody else. I’m here to enable everyone else to do their mission with minimum barriers. I think administrative and management processes and procedures should enable the workforce to succeed, not hamper them.”
The official mission of the Office of the Chief of Staff is to apply a strategic focus to people, processes and policies to enable informed decisions that support the agency. This includes improving the day-to-day administrative and management functions and ensuring effective internal and external communication.
“Teresa brings a wealth of knowledge to this position,” said Roger Greenwell, DISA’s chief information officer. “Her previous roles as the chief of staff in other organizations, coupled with her knowledge of the agency and our mission, give her a unique perspective in shaping our chief of staff office for the future.”
Pitts leads about 70 people in DISA’s office of the chief of staff, enabling agency efforts through direct support to the director, deputy director, assistant to the director and special staff offices.
"With DISA's recent reorganization and new strategic plan, the chief of staff is a critical position, now more than ever,” said Sharon Woods, Hosting and Computer Center director. “I look forward to seeing how Ms. Pitts champions the agency's push to drive DISA's lines of effort to support the warfighter and prioritize their needs."
Drawing on more than 30 years of operations and leadership positions, Pitts said her approach to achieving process improvements is to make bold, data-driven managed risks that are focused on the user. In addition to implementing what the agency director wants, Pitts also expects to spend energy on internal communication and getting involved in the local communities.
A Nebraska native, Pitts’ midwestern upbringing set the tone for her hard-working, results-driven life.
“I’m not an extroverted person but I like driving and facilitating conversations that bring out the best in others so we can make better decisions and get better products.”
Pitts and her four older siblings were raised with God, family and education as their highest priorities. Those priorities are still in place today for Pitts.
“My parents are wonderful,” she said. “They were both teachers and taught us to learn. They were always teaching and that provided a solid base for us.”
Pitts said she loves her work and feels blessed for the career opportunities she’s had but the best things in her life are her husband, Al, and her son, Samuel.
“These two guys define who I am,” she said. “Al is my glimpse of heaven, and Samuel is the love of my life.”
In the little free time that she has, Pitts said one of her favorite things to do is experiment in the kitchen. Preparing and sharing a meal with loved ones has been a priority since her days as a single mother.
“Every day, I would pick Sammy up from school and he would do his homework at the kitchen counter while I made us dinner,” she said.
The educational influence of her parents led her to a lifelong love of reading, singing and playing instruments including piano, guitar and banjo. These days, she shares an interest in spiritual readings with Samuel, now a priest.
Pitts has also turned into a sports fan as her step grandson is playing on a football scholarship as a wide receiver for the University of Delaware Blue Hens and her step granddaughter is on a basketball scholarship for the University of Virginia Cavaliers.
Looking ahead, Pitts said she is grateful to be positioned to help lead the agency forward.
“This is a really exciting time to be at DISA,” Pitts said. “We have a highly skilled, talented and professional global team with unlimited potential to make a real difference for our country’s defense. I’m proud to work at DISA.”
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