Alion Science and Technology
Most locals recognize
IIT Research Institute or its acronym, IITRI, as a pillar of research,
development and technology in Anne Arundel County since 1936.
Early this year, however, employees of the company purchased most
of its assets through an employee stock ownership plan and created
a new, independent company which they named Alion Science and
Technology. The new name comes from "alliance" and "align"---words
which they believe characterize the way the company has done business
for the past 66 years.
At the heart of a complex, cutting-edge program for Alion's major
client, the Joint Spectrum Center, is group senior vice president
Richard Meidenbauer. "He is currently spearheading, from a senior
management standpoint, the emerging spectrum technology program
in support of the Joint Spectrum Center," says Meidenbauer's boss,
Randy Crawford. "He is the best I've got in that area in the context
of a combination of management and technical knowledge."
For a guy who spent the past 25 years in the technical field of
electromagnetic effects, wireless communications and spectrum
management, Meidenbauer does a pretty decent job of translating
his work into plain ol' layman's English. "The Joint Spectrum
Center," he explains, "is a Department of Defense agency whose
charter is to assure effective use of the electromagnetic spectrum
in support of national security objectives. All forms of wireless
communications radiate and receive energy in the electromagnetic
spectrum (or electronic frequency spectrum)... It is a finite
resource, and there is great contention for it. What we do is
ensure that multiple users can peacefully co-exist and that radio
A does not interfere with radio B or with another system...and
that military requirements for the spectrum can still be achieved
in the environment of increased competition."
In describing what Alion does for the U.S. Army, Meidenbauer uses
the analogy of moving the cell phone infrastructure of a small
city to an unfamiliar terrain. "In order to do that, you need
to engineer what that cellular system will look like," he says.
"We have developed for the U.S. Army the necessary engineering
tools to be able to support the design and deployment of those
kinds of systems. They have the products of our effort before
they go to the field. Once the operation is underway, we may be
called upon to resolve interference problems."
Electrical engineering is actually the only vocational aspiration
that Meidenbauer ever had. "I always intended to be an electrical
engineer," he says. "It's what my dad was and what I was going
to do." After receiving his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering
(with distinction) from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and
State University, Meidenbauer went right to work for IITRI and
has been with the company for 25 years. During that time, he received
his master's degree in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins
Having moved to Maryland from Buffalo at age 10, Meidenbauer considers
himself an "almost life-long Anne Arundel Countian. Annapolis
is a wonderful place to live and raise a family," he says. "[Alion]
has a tremendous advantage being here. We advertise that very
heavily to recruits. This is a much nicer place to be than other
areas scattered around the beltway where our competitors are located."
The recent formation of the new company has generated much excitement
among the employees, now owners, who have a much greater interest
in making sure customers are well served and that the best technical
work is done as efficiently as possible. "[The buyout] was a very
big deal for us," says Meidenbauer. "IITRI was a long- established
company founded in 1936 by a few professors from Illinois Institute
of Technology. It had been a nonprofit research affiliate for
66 years." The university found that most of IITRI's work had
shifted from the pure research normally associated with a university
establishment to support for the Department of Defense. The sale
enabled the university to increase its endowment and to give employees
of the research affiliate control over their own destiny. It was
a win-win. "The university has enough confidence in our success
that they hold most of the debt associated with the buyout," says
Alion boasts a robust internal research and development program
that allows its technical staff to branch out into new technologies
and new markets, with a pool of corporate resources allocated
every year for internal research.
The greatest challenge facing the company is to stay ahead of
the technology curve and ensure the most efficient use of the
spectrum, given the increased demand. "For me, it's just making
sure that we as a company are one step ahead of fielding these
new technologies, so we can make sure the [necessary] controls
are in place," says Meidenbauer.
The company has grown notably in the last five years and Meidenbauer
is looking for this growth to continue at the rate of 10 to 15
percent annually. "It will require a significant effort to identify
and pursue new business opportunities," he says. "We have been
a long-term, valuable member of the Annapolis business community
and anticipate remaining in that role for a long time, and the
transition to employee ownership provides a new launching pad
to increase the growth and prominence of our company."
In his leisure time, Meidenbauer and his wife, Pat, enjoy supporting
the sports activities of their three children---Ken, a freshman
at Virginia Tech; Dan, a high school senior and Karen, a sixth
grader. All three are swimmers and participate on various teams.
Dan runs track, as well, and persuaded Dad to take up the sport
a couple of years ago. Other than that, Meidenbauer says, "I play
He's also a reader, as evidenced in a quote from Lewis Carroll's
"Through the Looking Glass" which Meidenbauer uses to summarize
the challenges facing many businesses, including Alion, today.
"The Red Queen says to Alice: 'Now, here, you see, it takes all
the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want
to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as
Callaghan is a freelance writer and native Marylander who
enjoys spending time with her five grandchildren.