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Jacques Gansler: In Memoriam

Jacques Gansler Jacques “Jack” Gansler had two driving passions while at the University of Maryland. He loved to teach and he loved to interact with students at the School of Public Policy. While at UMD, Jack served in many roles, including founding director of the School’s Center for Public Policy and Private Enterprise. Jack was the first Roger C. Lipitz Chair in Public Policy and Private Enterprise. Jack also served as interim dean of the School of Public Policy and as the University’s vice president for research.

Jack wasn’t just a professor. He made time for students, in the classroom and out. As an author and researcher, Jack focused heavily on national security. He strived to ensure the nation had a world-class, affordable defense industrial base. He also previously held the position of undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

While working at the Pentagon as the third-ranking civilian from 1997 to 2001, Jack was responsible for all research and development, acquisition reform, logistics, advanced technology, environmental security, defense industry and numerous other security programs. Prior to joining the Clinton Administration, he held other positions in government and private sector, including deputy assistant secretary of defense (material acquisition); assistant director of defense research and engineering (electronics); vice president of ITT; and engineering and management positions with Singer and Raytheon Corporations.

Jack was also an accomplished author. He wrote “Defense Conversion: Transforming the Arsenal of Democracy,” MIT Press, 1995; “Affording Defense,” MIT Press, 1989; “The Defense Industry,” MIT Press, 1980; and “Ballistic Missile Defense: Past and Future,” National Defense University Press, 2010.  Throughout his career, he had articles in several publications, including Foreign Affairs, Harvard Business Review, International Security, Public Affairs and other journals and newspapers.

The Gansler family has been overwhelmed with the love and support that has been pouring in from the SPP community. As arrangements for a service honoring Jack’s life are finalized, we will share additional information.

We encourage you to share your thoughts and memories of Jack below. Please note: entries are published daily rather than instantaneously.



I was pround to know Jack not only as the first Lipitz chair but as a friend.I will miss him.

He was honored to hold the Lipitz chair and also considered you a friend.  Thank you for believing in him

Jacques Gansler was a true gentleman, and scholar!  The fact that he was always generous in his praise of others was an indication of his true stature among academicians and practitioners.  

Jacques was a lifelong servant and student to the nation. When I was first introduced to him I was working for Dr Carter as the co-lead for AT&L's acquisition reform initiative 'Better Buying Power". He did not exhibit arrogance or implied authority, he came offering discussion and provided counsel. When I was the President of DAU, I could always count on his contribution to leading educational expansion and defining attributes for our next generation of professionals. When I was the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, he sacrificed his time to mentor or answer questions I had about areas I needed deeper thought on. I always treasure those with greater experience who are still willing to learn as well as share, and he did so to the last moment. In the bible it says that some of the greatest sacrifices for humans will be done by those buried in unmarked graves. I expect his contributions will be noticed, but many will never know the full range of them. Thank you Jacques. I hope you are seeing the fruits of all your labors.

Believe it or not, around this time of year, probably every year for the last 13 or 14 years, I’ve had a dream that’s recurred.  It’s from an incident that played out way back then, and I had the dream again last night.  I’m in the CPPPE space, and Dr. Gansler comes by with this enormous stainless steel like canister.  I have no idea what it is, or why he’s even around amongst the GA cubes.  He thrusts it at me, and says something and I’m not sure whether it’s, “Here, share this with the other GAs” or “Here, share this with the fellow G​A​s”.  It doesn’t matter; it’s oddly kind of sweet either way, just the way he says it.  He smiles and just looks me in the eyes for a moment, a powerful moment, holding my gaze and not saying anything.  And then he turns and he’s gone.  I open the canister, and it’s filled with chocolates.  A leadership lesson?  A management lesson?  Doesn’t matter.  I was having a tough time back then for a variety of personal reasons, but that made things just a bit better.  And maybe that was the lesson:  You can always make things just a little bit better.

Jacques was instrumental in founding the Center for Advanced Study of Language at UM, an unprecedented national resource i was privileged to lead.  He understood better than anyone the value of human integration with technology, oversseing as he did so much Pentagon investment in the latter.  This was not an easy sell in 2002, and Jacques typically was undaunted by challenges, large and small. While his leadership was always kind and understanding, you never left hsi presence without a lesson learned, particularly if the lesson was needed.  I hold him in my memory with affection and deep respect.

I was first introduced to Jacques by the Dean of the Smith School of Business, Howard Frank.  At the time, Professor Boyson and I were engaged in a project to demonstrate the advantages to the US Air Force of managing their supply chain for aircraft engine parts through an interreconnected, real-time portal linking suppliers, procurement personnel, and mechanics together to achieve total visibility and greater efficiency in the return of aircraft to combat ready status. Jacques was a true advocate of our research and subsequently worked closely with our Supply Chain Management Center on a similar project to support maintenance and repair of US Army equipment.  We found Jacques to have a true dedication to improving the logistical efficiency of the US military. He frequently remarked that it was inconceivable that the military could not bring private-sector best practices in logistics into the mainstream of military logistics.  He dedicated his efforts to achieving greater efficiencies in military logistics. It was a great pleasure to have worked with Jacques on matters of such importance to the nation's overall defense. His presence will be greatly missed.

I first met Jacques many years ago - and well before I joined the University. His incisive analysis and reputation for rigorous analysis and wise counsel was broadly known even then. I recall early in my own training as a Political Scientist his work was must reading for those wanting an industrially sound grounding in defense policy. His legacy in research, entrepreneurship, and concern for US national security was compelling and inestimable wise. His contributions to his country at the Department of Defense and to Defense policy discourse were at times profound. We will miss his wise counsel as we confront difficult defense dilemmas in the future. He will be missed.

Dr. Gansler was one of of our first instructors in a new executive leadership program we provided to the CIA.  The program lasted for many years and that was largely due to Dr. Gansler's credibility with this group and also his teaching style.  He was very thought-provoking and challenging but always coupled his admonishments for doing better with a real sense of empathy.  I belive the participants knew that although he would ask the hard questions and engage them on a deep level on how processes could be more effective and efficient, he also was such a real person and knew the weight of bureaucracy they operated from.  I really admired his generous style and that he was always willing to participate in our programs.  A real gift to our School.

Jack had the courage to hire me right out of college and served as my mentor and friend for almost 40 years. His energy and intellectual curiosity was infectious. Jack led by creative thought and mentored with patience. Based on his efforts, we worked on the most pressing problems in federal acquistion and life cycle management. His contribution is having a lasting impact on national security and his many mentees!

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