Bob Reddington ’80 on the power of liberal arts, his 20-year Army service, and his unexpected career path in Europe supporting NATO governance structures
NORWICH RECORD | Fall 2021
For the past 21 years, I have worked for the NATO Support and Procurement Organisation (NSPO), headquartered in Luxembourg. The work is both interesting and unique, but not the career that I imagined for myself 40 years ago. I majored in English and philosophy at Norwich and commissioned in the Army Transportation Corps after graduation. At the time, I thought I’d put in a few years, gaining leadership experience and a solid foundation in logistics management that would open doors for some related future career. Instead, I found I thoroughly enjoyed my diverse Army assignments, which took me all over the world, including a 14-month stint in Antarctica (before satellite communications), two years in Saudi Arabia, and three long tours in Europe. When I retired as a lieutenant colonel after 20 years of Army service, I began to consider options for a second career. I decided to apply and serve as a NATO international staff member. Luckily, this was another an optimal choice for me.
NSPO’s mission is to provide responsive, effective, and cost-efficient acquisition, procurement, logistics, operational and systems support and services to all NATO Allies, NATO military authorities, and partner nations. Currently heading the NSPO Office of Chairperson and Secretariat and leading its engagement with the members of the Agency Supervisory Board (representing all 30 NATO nations) as well as other key stakeholders, we manage and coordinate governance functions necessary to oversee the activities of its executive body, namely, the NATO Support and Procurement Agency.
My assignments within NSPO have reinforced the importance of well-founded structures, processes, and frameworks. These principles form the bedrock for effective governance, which in turn facilitates nations’ informed decision-making. A corollary lesson is the value of problem-solving, which often is more of an art than a science. People who can effectively identify and resolve issues are essential to any organization. Without them, organizations tend to flounder internally and substitute activity for progress.
Many college students today believe that they must choose specialized majors that will directly translate into a career after graduation, as opposed to studying liberal arts. My career history stands in counterpoint to that narrow view. In my experience, gaining management and leadership experience, while drawing on a foundation of a liberal arts curriculum, teaches you how to think critically and navigate effectively in a world that is becoming increasingly more complex and alienated. Much of my daily work involves vetting information from multiple domains and sharing that data with a diverse array of international stakeholders. While technology is a vital tool in this endeavor, effective communication, logic, and problem-solving skills are essential and at the forefront of what I do in support of NSPO and NATO.