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NEWS | Sept. 21, 2020

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: A Profile of NSWC Corona’s First Hispanic Technical Department Head

By By Kim Longstaff, Naval Surface Warfare Center Corona Corporate Communications NSWC Corona

Elvis Acosta, Performance Assessment Department Head, is the first Hispanic American to fill the position of Technical Department Head at Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), Corona Division.

Acosta, a Colombian American born to immigrant parents, has been a critical part of NSWC Corona for the past 19 years. Growing up just outside of Hollywood, Calif., he credits his success to his mother who raised him and his older sister saying she instilled a distinct set of critical ideals early in his life.

“First, she taught us that education should always to be a priority,” he said. “Second, she told us never to shy away from hard work. And finally, she taught us that we should help others whenever we can.”

Another critical factor to Acosta’s upbringing was constant guidance and support from his sister Kathy. He said he realizes that as a youngster he was an introvert, so it was so beneficial to have a sister that took her little brother wherever she went. More importantly, being the eldest child, Kathy paved the way as an example of being a dedicated student, getting a driver’s license, working and understanding how to get through the college application process.

Raised in a home with a foundation of love, support, and a focus on education, Acosta said he committed to putting himself through college. However, it proved to be one of the most trying times of his life. Working three part-time jobs (sales, customer service, and teacher’s assistant) to pay for school, taking a full engineering class load, and being a commuter in the Los Angeles metropolis proved extremely daunting. Acosta credits his ability to persevere during this time to another set of three critical factors: The first was the love and support of his girlfriend, Milena, who would become his wife in 2004. Second was his close-knit group of high school friends, similarly, struggling through college, and third were college faculty members who inspired and mentored him through his undergraduate education.

Acosta graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering with a Minor in English from Loyola Marymount University (LMU) in 2001. He later went on to attend the Naval Postgraduate School where he obtained a master’s degree in Systems Engineering in 2009.

On top of a valuable education, LMU facilitated Acosta meeting Milena. Still today, when asked if there is one element in his life that has proved to be most critical to his successful career, he points to the constant love, support and guidance of his wife. They share Colombian backgrounds, a penchant for travel, scuba diving, midday naps and a dedication to higher learning. Milena recently obtained her master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University.

Acosta began his Navy civilian career in 2001 as an AN/SPY-1 sensor analyst and continued in that role for four years, ultimately supporting Commander, Operational Test & Evaluation Force by conducting and evaluating the operational effectiveness of the AN/SPY-1D(V) radar. In 2005, he was selected as the Advanced Area Defense Interceptor Project Lead. In this role, Acosta led land-based test site and at-sea data collection and analysis efforts for what is now known as Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air. In 2009, he was selected to join the AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense branch as a sensor analyst. While in this branch, Acosta helped co-lead the very dynamic Ground Test project.

In 2011, Acosta was selected as the AEGIS Integrated Air & Missile Defense Branch Head and shortly thereafter was also given the role of AEGIS Matrix Manager for the installation. In this role, he led a team of 15 engineers and managed an annual budget of $15 million.

In 2013, he was selected as AEGIS Enterprise Assessment Division Head, where he led a 70-person government team encompassing software development, data management, satellite communications, AEGIS IAMD, and AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense with an annual a budget of $30 million. In 2015, he went on to be selected as the Performance Assessment (PA) Department Head. In this role, Acosta led about 350 government employees and more than 200 contractors in support of Littoral and Self Defense Systems, Force Level Interoperability, Aegis Enterprise, and Engagement Systems, with an annual budget of approximately $100 million.

In Acosta’s position as the Performance Assessment Department Head, he and his team provide data collection, data transfer, data storage, rapid analysis feedback, and assessment products to the Navy, Marine Corps, and Missile Defense Agency for land-based testing, at-sea exercises and real-world events. The department also specializes in missile telemetry system design/installation/data collection and satellite communication systems used for high data volume transfer and secure voice communication during test and evaluation events.

Beginning Oct. 1, he will serve as the Acting Deputy Technical Director, assisting the Technical Director in management and oversight of the command mission. As the Senior Scientific Technical Manager (SSTM), he will assist with the technical direction of a workforce that supports surface ship weapon and combat systems, interoperability, sensor integration and weapons platforms integration, live training support systems, acquisition mission assurance processes, readiness assessment, and metrology engineering.

In 2019, Acosta and Sarah Reyes, a quality engineer at Corona, received the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference (HENAAC) awards for their achievements. In addition, Acosta was one of just 12 individuals awarded a 2019 STEM Hero Award, honoring civilian and uniformed military personnel in STEM fields. Both awards are the first HENAAC recognitions awarded to NSWC Corona employees. Acosta’s role as a trailblazer in many professional aspects is evident.

As NSWC Corona celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month, employees celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. Acosta said he believes it’s a time to reflect on those who have made contributions to this nation all along.

“It is important to recognize that this tremendously diverse community works toward supporting one another year-round, and this month is important because it shines a light on the Hispanic community and reminds us to focus on those who have paved the way for us,” Acosta said. “Without those who have championed a better today, my path would have been obscured or non-existent. I feel equally compelled to reinforce and broaden those opportunities each day for others.