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When I was a kid, I had no idea I would be dedicating my career to defense and intelligence. But I went from a kid playing golf and working as a golf course maintenance man, to the Air Force as an intelligence analyst, then on systems acquisition for C4ISR solutions, working with clients to help modernize technology and build new processes.
We are now building new business models that will help our clients acquire technology and update their Defense and Intelligence systems. It’s going to change the industry. That’s exciting.
Ralph Wade is a focused on Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) mission systems solutions for the Department of Defense and Intelligence Community.
Prior to joining the firm in 2012, Ralph was chief strategy officer and vice president of the national capital region for Spectrum, a veteran-owned small business focused on providing service solutions for command and control, cyber, and Air Force intelligence customers. He also served as vice president and general manager for the surveillance and reconnaissance division of General Dynamics Intelligence, where he led projects for a variety of clients including the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office, the National Security Agency, the FBI, and the Homeland Security and Defense Departments. Earlier, at BAE Systems, he worked on Navy C4ISR and network consolidation programs as vice president of C4I enterprise systems.
Ralph transitioned to industry after a 22-year career in the Air Force, where he served in a variety of positions including as director of reconnaissance infrastructure in the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office. He began his Air Force career as an intelligence officer with analysis assignments in Kadena, Japan, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the National Photographic Interpretation Center.
Ralph has a B.A. in history from California State University and an M.A. in national security studies (government) from Georgetown University.
What do your clients need to address in the near future? Our clients need to set up modern, commercial, digital frameworks. We need to stop the heavy infrastructure paradigm into a new, modern development. People really get it when they understand the agility that new design offers.
How are you helping clients with this change? The key is implementable solutions. Think of it this way: You need to change the engine in your car, but you need to do it while you are driving 60 miles an hour down the road. The world doesn’t stop or go on hold while we are updating. We have to do it on the move. It’s extremely challenging
What expertise does your team bring? There are great technology companies out there. But we know how to implement the technology the clients need. Bring it all to the table.
What motivates you? What I find fun is fixing the client’s problem. One of the big issues we face is creating systems that can work with each other within the Joint US forces. It gets even more challenging when we have coalition partners involved, like European, Asian or Middle East forces. The coalition systems are unique as well. I get excited when I see these kinds of complex interactions and the need to make them all work together and still remain secure. That kind of problem motivates me to help find a solution. I can work across all the capability we have at Booz Allen and deliver something they can use.
What advice would you offer to someone taking on a new leadership position? Listen to your team. And respect your team. The team really needs to believe in the mission. A leader doesn’t pound a fist on the table and make decisions. Everyone has input. We do our best when we are all onboard.
What did you want to do when you grew up? When I graduated from high school, I didn’t think about college. I got a great job at the golf course. It was northern California after high school. In the Fall it began to rain and I wasn’t getting enough work. A friend told me I should join the Air Force. So I did. Just a few days later, I realized that I had just signed away four years. I was like, oh wow.
How did you end up at the Pentagon? I finished college after four years in the Air Force, and I joined again as an officer. I had seen lots of spy movies, so I really wanted to work intelligence. It was such a great experience. Those first 10 years, I was assigned to a CIA office, and I became a national expert on chemical and biological warfare and was able to testify before Congress several times. That was exciting work. Later I worked on the U-2 program and learned acquisition program management skills. Then I moved to the Pentagon and led DoD ISR ground station programs. If you look at my career, it seems so linear and focused. It really wasn’t. I just had opportunities that opened up, and I took them.
What do you enjoy when you aren’t at work? I still play golf. It’s still a big deal for me. I have a great group of guys I play with every weekend. I learned about relationships from playing golf.
What is something people might not know about you? We inherited a grand piano from my grandmother. My kids weren’t interested in learning to play it. So I’ve been taking piano lessons every Friday night. The closest student to my age is probably 15 years old. Some are 6 or 7.