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Jim Lovewell

Jim Lovewell had been retired from the Air Force all of six days when he stepped into the role of chief defense development officer for the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC.

In his 24-year military career, he specialized in acquisitions and logistics, so moving into a traditional contractor role might have seemed a foregone conclusion. But Lovewell had other ideas. 

“The ‘aha moment’ hit me about three months into the Space Force assignment [as director of staff for headquarters, Space Operations Command],” Lovewell said. “As difficult as it was to decide to retire ... it was easy to say that this was the community I wanted to serve — and doing so from a vantage broader than any one company. I was really fortunate to have this job open up just as I was preparing to leave. I had a year-plus to know that the retirement day would be, so I worked backward from there. Admittedly, I looked at a couple other opportunities, but given how much I like creating teams with specific goals, this was a ‘passion fit’ for this job, nothing else seemed nearly as interesting.”

Lovewell has a BA in industrial psychology and an MBA, both from San Diego State University, and his military career included Foreign Military Sales and Defense Partnership development at the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; a stint at Thule Air Force Base in Greenland; unit commands at RAF Mildenhall in England; and three separate postings in Colorado Springs, including joint tours with NORAD and U.S. Northern Command. At his final active duty station, with Space Operations Command, Lovewell worked with the Chamber & EDC’s Military Affairs Council for more than a year.

In the chief defense development officer role he replaces Reggie Ash, who took a position as VP of Caliola Engineering.

Lovewell spoke with the Business Journal in his first week on the job. 

Was your focus on logistics and foreign military sales the result of a conscious decision early on, or did it grow from your postings and your existing expertise?

At San Diego State University, I did Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in two distinct pieces: two years right out of high school, and two years as a graduate student. To be exposed to both academic thinkers and business leaders in the San Diego area was critical. I got to see how the business leaders were thinking about growth for San Diego. It piqued my interest early, and on top of that, I had always wanted to go into leadership. To be a team leader and watch the results of moving your team toward particular goals is where that passion came in. Some of the senior enlisted officers mentored me so well in those early years, it was clear that uniting logistics and leadership was going to be a career. 

You were in San Diego during an interesting time, when all the traditional prime contractors were down near the bases, while the newer, more nimble specialists in space or communications were up north near La Jolla and Encinitas. Were the newer tech entrepreneurs out of sight, out of mind?

This was the time of the first Iraq invasion in 1990-91, so it was a very different mission set; it was one of the first times when we said, ‘If we can’t get what we want from the big primes, we need the innovation from everyone.’ A solution set might come from a big prime or a two-person startup. It taught me early on that it doesn’t matter how big or small your organization is, you have a chance to make the next and best contribution. The Air Force logistics community has always taken the time to expose its leaders to very diverse experiences. Looking back at my own career, it might not be evident how experience in, say, the Arctic might inform my understanding of business liaisons, but really, each experience gave me insight into the new work I’m doing for the chamber.

Logisticians enable the work of operations — jets flying, armored infantry units deploying, we have to be very good at partnerships. The Defense Logistics Agency, with its related logistics community, is one of the biggest organizations in the world. You have to be aware of what tools are available and in your reach globally, but then you have to be able to translate that support to your partners and to the youngest of airmen out on the flight line. My whole career has been knowing what your organization can bring globally, what your capacity is, and then applying that locally to whatever mission set you’ve been placed in — which

could be pandemic, homeland defense.

My experience includes 10 years total in Colorado Springs, interspersed by a year in Greenland and two years in the embassy in Abu Dhabi, which also includes the consulate in Dubai. In those years in Colorado Springs, the community truly has given to my family. We raised our sons here, we bought a house here, and since I’m an avid outdoorsman, what I do at work complements what I do in my off time. For that reason, I made the conscious decision to be part of a service organization working with Colorado Springs. 

What expertise did you bring to Colorado Springs prior to your postings here?

Before any posts to Colorado Springs, I got to see practical logistics in Japan, Germany, England — seeing how it works in different cultures. I spent a year from 2008 to 2009 in Iraq, during the surge, serving as a logistician on the multinational force. I got an opportunity to see what leaders were thinking, and what that meant in practice. I would show up in the mornings to provide briefings to general officers, then put on body armor and go out into the streets of Baghdad to engage the Iraqi leaders. Often the logistics would involve restoring railroads, building new roads, things that would drive the economy, It only occurred to me later that I was engaged in business development. I was bringing contracts to small, Iraqi-owned businesses, all the way up to going out of the country to recruit large company owners to come back to Baghdad and do business. You can imagine that as you return to normalcy, you bring factions together that previously didn’t work very well with each other — and when they bring their companies back, that drives the economy, it adds to stability, and it alleviates many of the problems leading to instability. We got to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Labor on government-wide goals.

This all ties back to Colorado Springs in that I got to see all the forces, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and now the Space Force, working together to collaborate with businesses and NGOs. From the smallest defense contractor to the largest, as well as the nonprofit, everyone has an opportunity to contribute something. I went straight from an Arctic post in Greenland, where everyone was forced to rely on each other, to my Northern Command work where I brought Arctic data points that were useful in supporting our northern bases and our relationship with Canada. Northern Command support included work with Department of Homeland Security and [Federal Emergency Management Agency] on areas such as hurricane response. Even seemingly tangential organizations like National Science Foundation can be critical.

After the Emirates post, I came to the U.S. Space Force as an Air Force logistician to work with Space Operations Command. Incidentally, a lot of people may think that since the name of many key bases was changed to ‘Space Force Base,’ there are no longer airmen working there. We have full Air Force support for the new Space Force Bases. Space Force, though, has been leading the charge to think differently about missions. It is a flatter organization, a responsive organization, and you can expect to see more organizational changes that reflect that.

Given your background in space, and given the heavy interest in topics like the fight over Space Command headquarters, do you think the main interest of local contractors should aim to space, or is it also important to emphasize cyber, C3I [Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence], and the like?

This community has a number of centers of excellence. The 4th Infantry Division and combat capability, what the Air Force Academy is doing in building cutting-edge leadership, all are peripherally part of space support, complementing what is done at the Peterson-Schriever Garrison and its Cheyenne Mountain component — but distinct from space. Space and cyber have been featured prominently of late, but we cannot forget that there are many other centers of excellence. Look at the companies supporting the Fort Carson complex. My question is, what can we do to facilitate growth today that can tie in with all these centers of excellence? That’s also true with how we view the educational institutions locally and in the state. Space, in and of itself, is multifaceted, so we will see many emergent centers of excellence supporting overall space missions. Space is a big umbrella, but we will see more diversification both within space missions and in areas far outside space.

In cyber defense realms, we’ve seen UCCS and the Air Force Academy take the lead in special programs, but is there more that could be done with other educational institutions to support cyber defense?

I am committed to learning everything I can about existing partnerships in academia, capitalizing on successes that have already taken place, and helping link all agencies with a stake, and identifying the needs of everyone. Keep in mind that with COVID, and with the extreme labor shortfalls going on, everyone in private companies, educational institutions, and government are in the same environment. We want to expand our reach to the smallest startup to the largest prime, because all can have an impact on Colorado Springs. Something the Chamber can do is bring all the stakeholders together, provide forums to educate each other, and then link the right people based on previous experiences. Some future center of excellence for our community may be something we don’t know exists today.

Is the Chamber preparing itself for a defense community of the 2020s and 2030s that will look far different from what it looked like a decade ago?

Agility is critical, and COVID has exposed the limitations on agility for companies worldwide. Companies will have to think in terms of redundancy, and how they might accomplish their missions despite all kinds of new challenges. We also need a system-of-systems mindset, where each company thinks of itself as part of a large interconnected system. Crises can provide you with new insights, with COVID as an example. In space operations, it taught us to be very effective with out-of-office tools to keep space operations going. We have to tell a variety of stories to the company that may be considering coming to Colorado Springs. We don’t just make the case how great the city is; we ask the potential company how they see themselves plugging in to a larger whole. ... When we brand Colorado Springs, you not only spread the message about what a great community this is, but you get new companies proactively wanting to be in Colorado. You can see that in the real estate trends — a lot of people want to be here. Ten years ago, my family decided to settle here because we had heard so many positives, and that realization was just starting to become widespread. But then watching the talent base and opportunities grow over the last ten years, you can see why the interest has become so much more widespread. For the new company just arriving here, the Chamber’s role in acquainting them to the local terrain can be critical.