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Now You Know, September 2023, Section 2 of 5

History of the AEGIS Program at Dahlgren

By Tom Clare, Special Guest Writer

The Early Days…Continued

Given the limited experience we had at Dahlgren in AEGIS, combined with the program

manager’s wariness of Navy labs, our early strategy guiding just about everything we did was to demonstrate support and loyalty to the program and to demonstrate our worth through our technical and managerial competence. We would build on the extensive digital control systems (both in surface warfare and strategic warfare systems) and radar knowledge base we had; as well as our knowledge in electronics, gunnery, warheads, electronic warfare, data and configuration management, system safety, electromagnetic environmental effects, etc.

Accomplishing the objective of demonstrating to RADM Meyer and his senior staff the NSWC’s commitment, loyalty, and support to the AEGIS Program was difficult given his dynamic personality and high-energy activities. The AEGIS Program leadership put NSWC, and me in particular, to the test very early. I had been selected to head the AEGIS Division and Program on a Thursday. The following Sunday night around 11:30 I received a phone call at home from a Commander (CDR) J. J. Kulesz from the AEGIS Program Office. When I awoke and answered the phone, I heard some commotion or laughing in the background when CDR Kulesz explained the purpose of the call. I was told there was an AEGIS Executive review the next morning at RCA’s facility in Moorestown, NJ, and, since NSWC was now a player, RADM Meyer expected me to be there. He explained that they had just found out I was the new Program Head, and that was why they were calling so late. I had not met anyone in the AEGIS Program Office after only a day or two in the job, nor had I ever been to Moorestown, NJ. Nevertheless, I went back to bed and got up around 2:00 AM, packed, and drove to Moorestown for the start of the 9:00 meeting.

Apparently, as I found out a year or so later when I was part of RADM Meyer’s inner circle and a trusted agent, this impressed everyone in the Program Office. Many of them were having cocktails that Sunday evening when CDR Kulesz called and decided to put me to the test. I think they were shocked I was there for the meeting. It may seem like a small thing, but it was a very important first step toward getting the leadership to believe in our support of the program.

I never was really sure then why RADM Meyer allowed me, as inexperienced (compared to the others) as I was, to be so much a part of his senior management inner circle. Was it because I was sooooo young (32 years old!) and I needed to learn, or because I had some skills he valued? I found out years later it was some of each! RADM Meyer was one of my career mentors, and I would have never been Technical Director of NSWC without his leadership and guidance over the years.

Being on the inside had its drawbacks too. Since I was the new guy, guess who got the bill for more than his share of the dinners we had before the big reviews at Moorestown; General Dynamics in Pomona, CA; Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, MS; etc.? Needless to say, it was expensive but worth it. The plans and strategies laid out in these dinners, and the cocktails afterward, were fascinating to be a part of and really helped me lead the NSWC AEGIS Program. By the way, I did not have to pay for the cocktails; RADM Meyer usually did that or brought the supplies.

About the Author

Thomas A. (Tom) Clare began his career at the then Naval Weapons Laboratory in Dahlgren, Virginia, in 1970 after graduating from the University of Notre Dame with a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering. While there he performed research and development in Aeroballistics and served in management positions at the branch, division, and department head levels, including as the first head of the AEGIS Program at the then Naval Surface Weapons Center (NSWC). In 1989 he was selected as Technical Director of NSWC, and during his tenure he successfully led the Center through three rounds of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC).

In addition to his work at Dahlgren, he has been a key advisor and leader in the Navy and DOD scientific and technology community and served on various Navy and Marine Corps executive committees, with the focus of these activities on visions, strategic planning, systems engineering, programmatic and organizational strategies, and reorganization approaches and philosophies. In 1998 he retired from a position as an advisor to the DOD systems engineering community, addressing the need for greater systems engineering and management policies and practices across the services.

A version of this article was previously published as an NSWCDD blog in February of 2018. Reused with permission.

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