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I want to buy a helicopter, not only because they’re incredibly fun to fly, but also because they fly backwards.
My desire to own that particular form of conveyance springs from something more significant than my general love of flying. I piloted choppers during 25 years in the U.S. Army, first on active duty, then as an officer in the reserves.
That’s why, of all that I’ve done to further the missions of the firm’s defense clients, my proudest achievement is helping connect Army aviation with Booz Allen’s engineers, consultants, and software developers.
As a leader within Booz Allen’s defense business, Robert Smith works primarily with U.S. Army clients. Helming the firm’s acquisition and sustainment efforts, he specializes in delivering services that improve buying power and efficiency. His key clients have included the Missile Defense Agency, Army Material Command, Space and Missile Defense Command, Army Sustainment Command, and the respectively affiliated research, development, and engineering centers.
With over 35 years of defense and federal sector experience, Robert brings deep operational knowledge and thought leadership to his work helping clients establish, plan, and execute programs of all types and levels of complexity. His core focus is on delivering the firm’s specialized solutions in the following key areas:
Prior to joining Booz Allen, Robert was a senior vice president and general manager for a professional consulting firm where he worked to support U.S. Army, Air Force, and Navy acquisition clients.
A retired U.S. Army Reserve officer and former UH-60 pilot, Robert holds a B.S. in engineering from the United States Military Academy and an M.S. in engineering technology from Murray State University. He also attended the executive education program at Stanford University, and the senior executive program at the Columbia University School of Business.
Why are you passionate about the work you do at Booz Allen? My passion comes from a deep-rooted commitment to our values as a society. Having attended a military academy and served in the Army strengthened this sense of duty to our nation and protecting our way of life.
What are some highlights of your career? My work in the aviation business. The technical aspects of operating and maintaining complex machines sparked a keen technological interest for me.
How do you help your clients move into the future? I show them what's possible in terms of technological solutions, innovation, and asymmetrical approaches to solving their problems. It’s rewarding to watch them mature in their own appreciation of what they can use to advance their missions.
What do you see for Booz Allen in the next 100 years? I see us enduring, as we are capable of adapting to virtually any environment. I've been in this industry for 30 years, and we have the highest concentration of smart, innovative folks that I've ever seen. When we put our collective minds together, there’s really nothing we can’t do for our clients.
What is the biggest challenge facing your clients? Probably the weight of bureaucracy and the occasional regulatory contradiction. Succeeding under those circumstances is truly extraordinary.
What keeps you awake at night? The deteriorating geopolitical situation. There is a great deal of instability throughout the world and our nation needs to be prepared for what’s next.
How do you help clients stay positive? We encourage out-of-the-box thinking and try to anticipate their next problem. In that manner, we have a tailored, ready-made technical solution that they can consider using.
What keeps your team motivated? The satisfaction that we’ve helped our clients achieve their missions to the best of our ability. Our teams identify with the client’s mission, and the energy and drive they apply to helping them achieve success is inexhaustible. Our work often requires bizarre hours, but it’s definitely worth it.
What's the best business advice you've been given? Pursue multiple strategies for success. If you rely on a single customer, a single technology, a single contract—you frankly won’t be able to sustain growth. Second, act with integrity and honor in everything you do. The benefits are often intrinsic, but eternally valuable.
What were you like in high school? I was always curious about science and technology and how things worked. I took stuff apart all the time that I wasn’t supposed to. Sometimes, I even put it back together.
What advice would you give yourself as a young professional? I stayed at one company for 24 years. I would have told the “younger me” to pursue his passion. Also, behave with integrity—that’s always the best path for longevity.
What’s something you feel nostalgic for? Freedom from technology. Our connectivity is wonderful, but we don’t need it for every waking second of our existence.
What is something most people don’t know about you? As I previously mentioned, I really have a passion for flying. Some people buy motorcycles, but I want to buy a plane. Or, forget that—a helicopter. They’re much cooler.
What is an idea or invention you wish you’d thought of? I started my career during the Microsoft and Apple revolution, so it would have been neat to be involved in the Silicon Valley explosion at the outset of the computer industry.
What can we all do to be happier in life? Take the long view. If you’re stuck in traffic, don’t think of the immediate. Hitch yourself to the bigger meaning. Have an overarching plan for yourself, your life, your family, and your business—never lose sight of it. Don’t get caught up in the day-to-day things that can make you jaded and bitter.