Doing the maths
"As a budget examiner for the Office of Management and Budget, you learn to ask tough questions and gain quick insights into federal programs. I then had the pleasure of working with the US intelligence community where I had oversight of large, multi-billion dollar programmes. Sometimes I didn't do well, sometimes I did. I've learned a lot over the years.
I was the Deputy Comptroller of the Department of Defense at a time when NATO was engaged in Afghanistan and the US was engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq, both going simultaneously, so the US would spend 500 billion USD just running the military and then we spent an additional 160 billion USD annually at the peak of the two wars. So we were spending nearly 700 billion USD a year on those efforts."
The NCI Agency has a budget of roughly 1 billion EUR a year, how can that even come close to comparing with the previous figures Scheid has had to juggle?
"The skills are still the same, and I don't mean to be trite, but the zeros don't make a difference to me.
The NATO Nations are careful with the money they invest in these projects, so every Euro is important, every Euro is dear and we have to get the most out of it. And I think it's one of the big challenges in this job. How do we work to help secure Europe with the resources that we have?
As the Nations invest more in defence, how can NATO and the NCI Agency play a thought-leadership role in guiding some of those investments?
Because if we work together as we collectively invest, there is a multiplier effect in the way we can spend the money."
The NCI Agency's top man has always had a good head for numbers. Well before he was responsible for national and organizational budgets, Scheid worked hard to put himself through college.
"I actually worked for four years after high school. It was essentially because of finances. In the US, you pay for college, it is not subsidized to the same extent as in Europe so students and their families pick up most of the bill.
My family lived outside of Chicago when I finished high school. I worked the first few years in a Marriott hotel there, and then eventually I moved to Austin where I had family and took a job in an IBM factory, building typewriters. And just down the street from my student apartment was a dormitory where a young man named Michael Dell was living.
Dell started building computers in his dorm room and now that whole area where the IBM factory was is all Dell factories. He's had a very different career path than I…" Scheid took up to three part time jobs to finance his Undergraduate Degree in Economics and later his Graduate Degree at the Lyndon B Johnson School of Public Affairs, at the University of Texas.
"I managed the apartment building I lived in for the owner. And I was a computer operator which distantly ties to what I am doing now."
Serving the public
Like Dell, he could have started his own company, so why aim for the White House?
"I have always been inspired and moved by public service, I enjoy it and I don't get the same psychic benefits from corporate work. That's why, although at the time I wasn't driven by public service, I entered the LBJ School of Public Affairs, because they had a very good international programme.
And I had an opportunity while in graduate school to work under an excellent professor who was focused on international trade and defence issues… He helped me get an internship working at the US embassy in Thailand.
Thailand at the time was immersed in security issues related to Cambodia and the Thais had requested the purchase of a squadron of F16 [fighter aircraft] from the US. The question the ambassador had for me during my internship was: 'If they buy this, what is the impact on the economic development for Thailand? What is the impact on the population?' So I did some economic analysis and that got me initially interested in defence issues."
Shortly after completing his internship, Scheid fulfilled his ambition of getting a job in Washington, and within three years, he was back working on defence issues. One might wonder why he didn't stay at the Pentagon given his attachment to public service and his obvious dedication to his country.
"The Department of Defense is a very large and complex organization and there are lots of excellent people there. Here at NATO I have found not only excellent people, but a challenging environment due to its international aspects.
I am a strong believer in NATO and I am a strong believer in getting the Nations at the table to work through their problems.
For NATO to be successful, you need all its entities to work well together, and once you have this, you can really change the world.
And that's not a trite conversation or point. Look at the work NATO has done in Afghanistan, look at the work it has done in the Balkans, look at the work it is doing right now in the Baltics just to preserve the peace and to project stability. I think NATO has a great mission and the NCI Agency has a great mission within NATO."