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By Elizabeth Szoke
DCMA Public Affairs
The Defense Contract Management Agency recently inducted Karen Schultheis as its new chief information officer. Schultheis brings three decades of DCMA experience to the role and is responsible for overseeing the agency's information technology program, including the management of IT infrastructure and critical business systems.
Although her induction was recent, CIO responsibilities aren’t new to Schultheis as she has served in an acting capacity over the past year where she championed the organization’s ongoing modernization efforts. Schultheis said she feels a deep sense of honor to serve alongside the exceptional team of professionals.
“Our IT team is second to none, and I’m so proud to lead such a group of smart, talented, and committed people,” she said. “Together we ‘make IT happen!’”
The department’s slogan of “making IT happen” included the purchase and deployment of thousands of computers and smartphones to help the workforce maximize their capability while still minimizing risks to the agency’s network.
“Through these efforts, Karen and our IT team have been critical enablers of our hybrid workplace and overall mission success,” said Army Lt. Gen. David Bassett, DCMA director. “(She) has built her career on the growth and success of our IT capabilities, She’s been Moore’s Law of DCMA, doubling in capacity every few years, and it’s a pleasure to see this much institutional knowledge not only retained, but leveraged, appreciated and rewarded.”
Prior to joining the DCMA team, Schultheis began her federal journey in 1988 when she joined the Defense Logistics Service Center, or DLSC in Battle Creek, Michigan, as a co-op student under the Defense Logistics Agency. During her time at DLSC, she pursued a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science at Western Michigan University, and upon graduation in 1990, she transitioned into a permanent career employee position. Schultheis later joined Defense Contract Management District West in 1993, prior to the agency’s federal independence and restructuring.
Reflecting on her career journey, Schultheis cherishes the memories of her past roles, particularly her time as the IT infrastructure operations director where she and her team were tasked to close DCMA's data centers within a year.
“It was challenging, and it took a team of our best technical experts from DCMA working hand-in-hand with our government and contractor partners at the Defense Information Systems Agency to accomplish, but we did it with relatively little impact to the agency,” Schultheis said. “That project brought our team together as one tight-knit group to accomplish something we weren’t sure was possible at the beginning. We all had such a sense of accomplishment when we closed those data centers on time.”
Schultheis said she was fortunate to participate in a leadership development program earlier in her career with DCMA, which helped prepare her for different challenges and responsibilities, to include her new goals as the CIO, where she identified several priorities for herself and the IT staff. These included the modernization of DCMA’s legacy IT applications and tools, harnessing the potential of enterprise capabilities to leverage the agency's vast data resources, and ensuring state-of-the-art equipment is provided to enable a hybrid-workforce model.
“We will leverage technology advancements like artificial intelligence, robotic process automations and machine learning where it makes sense to increase the speed of turning data into actionable information and to reduce the time our employees spend on administrative tasks,” Schultheis said.
Additionally, Schultheis aims to foster strong relationships and deep understanding across functional areas, positioning IT as a mission asset.
Developing and maintaining strong relationships doesn’t stop at the workplace. Beyond her professional achievements, Schultheis cherishes her role as a wife, in addition to her role as a mother to her four adult sons, who have formed strong bonds and are each other's best friends. Outside of work, she enjoys traveling with her husband, particularly to tropical destinations, where they enjoy snorkeling and outdoor activities.
A recording of the induction ceremony can be found here.
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