DC3 leader retires, starts next professional chapter

  • Published
  • By Steve Murphy
  • DC3 Public Affairs

DoD Cyber Crime Center (DC3) Executive Director Jeffrey Specht, is officially retiring after more than three years of leading and directing DC3 in support of DoD and the U.S. Intelligence Community at large.

He has a combined 27 years of civil service with DC3 and Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI), where he served as executive director prior to arriving to DC3 in November 2018.

“I have been blessed with incredible leaders, incredible teams and incredible friendships throughout my career...from day one to day 9,828,” said Specht. “I will absolutely miss being a part of the active, daily OSI and DC3 families, but look I forward to championing both from a different vantage.”

Specht’s civil service career began with OSI in 1995; however, OSI was not his first consideration when pursuing a career in federal law enforcement.

“In the summer of 1994, as part of my master's program, I did an internship with ATF-Birmingham, (Ala.,) and I had every intent of pursuing a career with ATF,” Specht recalled. “However, there was a fairly extensive federal hiring freeze in the early-to-mid 90s, so while pursuing avenues to get my foot in the ATF door, I was also exploring other viable opportunities.”

That exploration led to an ATF-Birmingham phone roster of all law enforcement elements throughout the state of Alabama, to include the OSI detachment at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery. Specht reached out to the detachment and discovered the U.S. Air Force Palace Acquire (PAQ) program that provides paid, full-time training to graduates seeking entry level positions in several career fields, including cyber.

“To this day, I wish I knew who answered the phone when I called OSI-Maxwell,” recalled Specht. “Whoever it was referred me to AFPC's (Air Force Personnel Center) Palace Acquire (PAQ) program as a relatively obscure path of securing a civilian special agent position with OSI.”

Specht’s inquiry into PAQ led to a screening interview in December 1994, and nearly two months later, he would learn he was selected as one of four candidates for the OSI PAQ program that year.

He reported to Eglin AFB, Fla., in April 1995, and would spend the next 27 years with OSI, directing and leading law enforcement/counterintelligence (LE/CI) investigations and operations at every Air Force level with assignments at various locations within the U.S. and abroad. 

In 2012, Specht was selected as the OSI executive director, to serve as principal deputy of the U.S. Air Force’s worldwide federal LE/CI agency; a force of 2,200 federally credentialed special agents and 1,000 professional staff operating at 254 locations worldwide.

He would go on to serve as OSIs executive director for the next six years, and in November 2019, he became DC3s third executive director.

“The principal draw was the challenge inherent in leading an organization with a DoD-wide charge, while at the same time continuing to serve the larger law enforcement, counterintelligence and security communities,” said Specht.

During his tenure, DC3s capabilities and services continued to expand and evolve to meet the changing needs of its founding Defense Criminal Investigative Organization (DCIO) and Military Department Counterintelligence Organization (MDCO) stakeholders, and the DoD at large.

In January 2021, DC3 was officially designated a Field Operating Agency (FOA) by the Secretary of the Air Force. As a FOA, DC3 transitioned from a unit aligned under OSI to a separate agency aligned under the Inspector General, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force.

DC3 launched its Defense Industrial Base-Vulnerability Disclosure Program (DIB-VDP) pilot in April 2021, as a free benefit to participant companies in effort to reduce the DIB attack surface. DC3s Cyber Training Academy opened its new state-of-the-art facility in 2021, featuring 10 classrooms wholly dedicated to DCIO and MDCO training. It also includes a Security Operations Center with a training system to deliver real-world practice scenarios, capture-the-flag training events and practice operations.

“A core 'uniqueness' of DC3 is the pace of change spanning its entire history,” Specht noted. “From 1998 to present, the DC3 team has absolutely excelled at embracing and rapidly adapting to constantly evolving mission requirements. That reality certainly continued throughout my three years at DC3, with substantive change in each of DC3s six Lines of Effort, as well as within DC3s Business & Technology Office, and Enterprise Management and Resources as the collective 'engine room' of DC3.”

Specht said while there were many successes, there are also challenges inherent with the fast-evolving mission demands in cybersecurity protection. The most challenging to him however, was the unanticipated realities driven by COVID-19. Specht said the pandemic was unexpected, but Team DC3s successful response to COVID-19 was nothing short of the usual.

“While certainly a unique set of challenges, the DC3 response was simply more of the same...absolute excellence in embracing and rapidly adapting to evolved mission demands,” said Specht. “The collective innovation and resilience in finding viable paths to meet continued mission needs while at the same time maximizing the safety of the DC3 team and those we're charged to support, has been nothing short of amazing,” said Specht. “More remarkable, beyond simply ensuring continued mission success in the face of a pandemic, the solutions and hybrid models put in motion stand to improve DC3 productivity and overarching work-life balance well beyond the strains of COVID.”

As Specht moves to his next chapter in life, he said even though he is retiring from civil service, he is not hanging it up and riding off into the sunset just yet. Instead, he accepted an opportunity with Oracle as senior director for Government Security. The position will allow him to remain in the National Capital Region supporting Oracle's partnership with, and support to, the DoD, the U.S. Intelligence Community, and other government agencies.

Wherever his future chapters of life take him, Specht said there is one takeaway he will hold with him more so than any other– Mission First, People Always.

“It’s a phrase I first heard from Brig. Gen. Dana Simmons, OSIs 15th Commander,” said Specht. “The sentiment is that getting the job done, particularly within the DoD and larger national security community, must always be the inherent priority. 

“But there's a related reality that, if you're not doing everything possible to take care of the people executing the mission and the things they care about most beyond the mission, the mission will suffer if not outright fail. Finding that balance is hard but is something we should all continually strive toward, at every level of every organization.  And 'continually' is the key, as the shifting weight between the two...mission and people...is never constant.”