Eric Evans receives Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service


On May 31, the U.S. Department of Defense’s chief technology officer, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu, presented Eric Evans with the Department of Defense (DoD) Medal for Distinguished Public Service. This award is the best honor given by the secretary of defense to non-public residents for his or her significant service to the DoD. Evans was chosen for his leadership as director of MIT Lincoln Laboratory and as vice chair and chair of the Defense Science Board (DSB).

“I actually have gotten to know Eric well within the last three years, and I greatly appreciate his leadership, proactiveness, vision, intellect, and humbleness,” Shyu stated in her remarks throughout the May 31 ceremony held on the laboratory. “Eric has a willingness and talent to confront and solve probably the most difficult problems for national security. His distinguished public service will proceed to have invaluable impacts on the department and the nation for many years to return.” 

During his tenure in each roles over greater than a decade, Evans has cultivated relationships at the best levels throughout the DoD. Since moving into his role as laboratory director in 2006, he has advised eight defense secretaries and 7 deputy defense secretaries. Under his leadership, the laboratory delivered advanced capabilities for national security in a broad range of technology areas, including cybersecurity, space surveillance, biodefense, artificial intelligence, laser communications, and quantum computing.

Evans ensured that the laboratory addressed not only existing DoD priorities, but in addition emerging and future threats. He foresaw the necessity for and established three recent technical divisions covering Cyber Security and Information SciencesHomeland Protection, and Biotechnology and Human Systems. When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, he quickly pivoted the laboratory to assist the national response. To make sure U.S. competitiveness in an ever-evolving defense landscape, he advocated for the modernization of major test ranges, including the Reagan Test Site for which the laboratory serves as scientific advisor, and secured funding for brand spanking new state-of-the-art facilities similar to the Compound Semiconductor Laboratory – Microsystem Integration Facility. He also strengthened ties with MIT campus on research collaborations to drive innovation and expand educational opportunities for preparing the following generation of the DoD STEM workforce.

In parallel, Evans served on the DSB, the leading board for providing science and technology advice to DoD senior leadership. Evans served as DSB vice chair from 2014 to 2020 and chair since 2020. Over time, Evans led or supported greater than 30 DSB studies of direct importance to the DoD. Most notably, he initiated a brand new Strategic Options Everlasting Subcommittee focused on identifying systems and technology to organize the nation for future defense needs.

“The medal is an excellent and well-deserved recognition of Eric’s contributions to MIT and to national security,” said Ian Waitz, MIT’s vice chairman for research.

As Evans steps down from his role as Lincoln Laboratory director on July 1, he’ll transition to a professor of practice appointment on the MIT campus and can proceed to strengthen ties between the Laboratory and MIT campus and work with DoD leaders.


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