Richard Meidenbauer, 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 University.

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 Meidenbauer.

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 golf poorly."

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 that.'"

Martie Callaghan is a freelance writer and native Marylander who enjoys spending time with her five grandchildren.


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