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Job Title:
SMA Director (Supervisory General Engineer), IS-801, Grade 15, $142,397 to $183,500 per year
Type of Position:
Trust Fund (non-federal) Indefinite
Job Location:
Maunakea, Hawaii
Posting Opening Date:
Posting Closing Date:
AREA OF CONSIDERATION: This position is open to all qualified candidates.

Note:  First consideration may be made 14 days of the opening of this vacancy.


The Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian (CfA) is a joint institution connecting the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) and the Harvard College Observatory (HCO).  The CfA is a diverse astrophysical institution at which more than 800 scientists are engaged in a broad program of research in astronomy, astrophysics, and earth and space sciences. The CfA is at the forefront, internationally, of the scientific exploration of the universe. Its multiple programs range from ground-based astronomy and astrophysics research to space-based research, the engineering and development of major scientific instrumentation for space launch as well as for use in large ground-based telescope facilities, and research designed to improve science education. The research objectives of SAO are carried out primarily with the support of Government and Smithsonian Institution funds, with additional philanthropic support.  Government funds are in the form of Federal appropriation or in the form of contracts and grants from other agencies while Institution funds are made available to SAO in the form of grants from the Institution's Restricted Funds, Special Purpose Funds, Bureau Activities, Business Activities and non-Federal contracts and grants.

 The Submillimeter Array (SMA) is an array of eight 6-meter diameter radio telescopes operating throughout the 1.3mm and 0.86 mm atmospheric windows (190-380 GHz).  The SMA is located in Hawaii and is a joint venture of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASIAA) in Taiwan. The SMA is located on the summit of Mauna Kea and operated under a sublease from the University of Hawaii, with a support facility in Hilo. 



The SMA Director provides leadership and management of the day-to-day operations for the SMA from its operations base in Hilo, HI.  The SMA Director will provide administrative and technical guidance and oversight to engineers, technicians, administrative and IT staff to enable the SMA to make observations producing high-quality scientific data while operating in a highly efficient manner that emphasizes scientific and operational agility.  The SMA Director is responsible for implementing developments currently underway at the observatory on Mauna Kea and will contribute to the planning of future instrument upgrades.  The SMA Director aids the Associate Director Facilities & Telescopes in SMA budget preparation and management.  The SMA Director oversees the execution of telescope maintenance programs, site security operations, and facility upgrades, often in close consultation with the Smithsonian facilities office, and frequently on a multi-year timescale.  The SMA Director will also work closely with the Safety Health Manager (Cambridge, MA) and local safety personnel to ensure health, safety, and environmental measures at the SMA adhere to best practices.


  1. Reports to the SAO Associate Director Facilities & Telescopes, interacts with the SAO Director and Deputy Director.  Keeps the SAO leadership apprised of operations and management issues and provides regular reports on SMA operations to the CfA Executive Management team.  Serves as a strong advocate for SMA facility requests with the Smithsonian facilities office and its capital, maintenance, and operations programs.
  2. Provides personnel administration for SMA Hilo-based operations and engineering staff by ensuring competitive recruitment, training, employee development, and timely and effective performance reviews. Reviews job applications, conducts interviews of prospective employees, and submits recommendations to the SMA Director for final selection. Advises, counsels, and instructs individual employees on both work and administrative matters. Hears complaints and grievances and, when possible, resolves conflicts locally. 
  1. Oversees the efficient operations of the SMA telescope.  Directs the day-to-day operations of the SMA by managing a diverse technical staff comprising engineers, technicians, administrative and IT staff, as well as other non-technical personnel and sub-contractors.  Ensures competitive recruitment, training, professional development, timely and effective performance reviews of staff, and nominates staff for awards to reward exceptional performance.
  1. Develops annual SMA budgets and budget justifications.  Manages procedures for the execution of approved budgets, including regular fiscal controls, monitoring and reporting.
  1. Maintains relations with external stakeholders and partners of the SMA.  Identifies potential new partner organizations and funding opportunities.  Liaises with the leadership of potential partners to negotiate new partnerships for the SMA. 
  1. Coordinates the installation at Maunakea of critical telescope equipment including receivers, electronic systems, and spectrometers that are developed and fabricated for the SMA at SAO and ASIAA laboratories.  Works with telescope and observatory staff on the prioritization, delivery, and timelines of maintenance and upgrades to telescopes and facilities within budget constraints.  Identifies challenges in telescope operations and works with SAO leadership and SMA staff to identify and implement solutions to overcome challenges. 
  1. Acts as the SMA liaison to the MKSOA on the management and stewardship of the SMA site on Maunakea.  Works with other Maunakea telescope and observatory directors on joint staff relations and in managing respectful cultural relations with local communities.  Maintains up-to-date information on site environmental and cultural awareness.  Actively works towards greater awareness and sensitivity of site environmental and cultural policies and practices, in conjunction with local communities. 
  1. Responsible for adherence to and implementation of health, safety, environmental, and security measures at the SMA.  In close consultation with the Safety Health Manager, ensures that health and safety measures are up-to-date and consistent with best practice.  Works closely with telescope safety staff to ensure compliance with all relevant health, safety, environmental and security policies, and any relevant Federal and/or state regulations.  
  1. Establishes a positive and engaging leadership style that emphasizes open, transparent and clear communication.  Coaches and counsels staff and encourages a supportive team-based approach to planning and implementation, introducing and readjusting operations to meet strategic plan initiatives, priorities and/or changing needs. 
  1. Maintains a positive and inclusive workplace culture.  Relates well to people from varied backgrounds and different situations; is sensitive to cultural diversity, race, gender, disabilities, and other individual differences.  Complies with all laws, regulations, and agency policies regarding the treatment and acceptance of all individuals and protection of civil rights.
  1. Maintains a leadership role in the field of millimeter and submillimeter instrumentation, prepares papers documenting research results for publication in scientific or technical journals. Presents results at scientific or technical meetings and conferences, and within the CfA.


Qualification standards can be found:

In addition to meeting basic qualification requirements, candidates must possess at least one year of professional specialized experience equivalent to the GS-14 level.  This experience includes activities such as managing the operation of a world-class radio, millimeter, or submillimeter observatory.

Required Documents: 

In order to receive consideration applicants must submit all of the following:

- Resume/CV; 

- Cover letter;

- Statement of experience and vision for the role;

- Statement addressing the duties, responsibilities and factors for the position as outlined in announcement.

- College/University Transcript or Proof of Degree


Application Procedures:  We are only accepting applications online for this position. To apply please visit 

Conditions of Employment:

Employment is conditional, subject to your successful completion of a pre-employment background investigation and conditional upon proof of receipt of employment authorization. Continued employment after your appointment to the Smithsonian Institution is then subject to the successful completion of an additional background investigation. You will also be subject to a one-year probationary period, beginning on your first day of employment. 

Successful completion of a high-altitude physical examination is a condition of employment. The work of the position requires the ability to work at high altitude.

The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory is an equal opportunity employer committed to diversity in our workplace.

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