EMC Personality Profile

John Dawson is the head of the Electromagnetic Environmental Effects Division (5.1.7) of the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) at Patuxent River, Maryland.
He received a BSEE from the University of Maryland and a MSSM from the University of Southern California.
John has worked for the last 32 years in the research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) of Electromagnetic Environmental Effects (E3) within the Department of Defense (DoD). All of this time was spent in just one place, the "Shielded Hangar" at Patuxent River, Maryland.
John started as a GS-02 Student Trainee in a Co-Op program designed to develop Electrical Engineers for the Navy. Ron Lane, who many of the old timers in EMC will remember, was John's first supervisor and mentor. John worked every job there is from sweeping floors, wiring aircraft, recording and reporting data, to testing every Navy aircraft type in the Fleet since 1970. His first test was on a P-3A and the last was on an F-18C. He has been a student, technician, E3 engineer, Section Head, Branch Head, Chief Engineer and now Division Head. John has way too many sea stories for this short article, but those of you who know him will attest that they tend to get better with age.
Most of John's efforts and struggles over the years have been in the continual development of the E3 T&E capabilities and facilities at Patuxent River, now estimated at a $428M replacement cost. John says, "It feels like I have been fighting to develop these capabilities my entire career. My senior thesis in college was on the design of an anechoic test chamber for E3, in what was then the "Nose Bay" of the Shielded Hangar. This facility became a reality in 1983. I also spent over 25 years designing and selling the development and construction of an even larger anechoic chamber, the Advanced Systems Integration Laboratory (ASIL), which was finally erected in 1999. Anyone who has ever been involved with Military Construction (MILCON) projects will tell you that they may average 15 years from concept to construction, with many of the projects cancelled along the way. I have survived three so far, with one still in the "hopper". I hope to see a large aircraft sized TEM/Reverberation chamber (Joint Army/Navy MILCON) become reality, before I retire."
John was involved in the first EMP testing at Patuxent River in 1972 and worked to build an EMP capability which has grown over the years, to where PAX River is one of only a handful of full-scale, full threat open-air facilities still operational in the world today.
Electromagnetic Vulnerability testing has been ongoing at Patuxent River since 1964 and PAX River has evolved into one of the largest most technically capable facilities within DoD. This last year, PAX River conducted the first successful FAA/JAA High Intensity Radiated Fields (HIRF) testing of a LearJet M-45. PAX River is poised and ready to test and evaluate the next generation aircraft, i.e. Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).
John also spent 9 years dabbling with lightning testing, using equipment that dated back to the 1939 World's Fair. PAX River's current lightning/ESD capabilities are now fully mobile and include capabilities for Near Strike testing, ESD and Lightning EMP.
John is a strong proponent of E3 Certification and Accreditation. All of the personnel, government and contractor, are or will be, NARTE certified. All of the TEMPEST personnel have received specialized training, and there are two Certified TEMPEST Technical Authorities within his Division. The EMI Laboratories are National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) accredited test facilities and the T&E processes and practices have all been standardized.
John believes that we cannot expect others to be accountable, if we do not practice accountability and standardization ourselves. He is also a strong proponent of consolidating all of the E3 organizations within NAVAIR. He spent the last 25 years extolling the efficiencies and effectiveness that could be achieved, if everyone worked in one Division. He has seen E3 capabilities diminish within the services over the years and he believes that we may soon see a day where there will be only one or two E3 RDT&E facilities within DoD. John has made it his personal mission to ensure Patuxent River is viewed as the DoD Laboratory of choice for E3 RDT&E so they will be one of the E3 facilities left standing.
John says, "I have been blessed and fortunate to work with some of the finest E3 professionals within the DoD. I believe the secret to successful management is finding ways to give your folks the tools and training they need to do their job, then step aside and let them do it, while finding ways to protect them from all the distractions that may develop. Everyone wants to do a good job, and given the opportunity, their combined talents, creativity and drive to support the men and women in the Fleet, our folks are the very best. I am very proud of them and their accomplishments and look forward to a continued bright and successful future."
John is a NARTE Certified Electromagnetic Compatibility Engineer - EMC-000683-NE. He is a member of the Acquisition Professional Community and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).
John has been married to Maria "Cristina" Dawson for 27 years. They have two children, Michael (24) and Teresa (22). John and Cristina live near the Potomac River and he enjoys gardening, observing wildlife and fishing. EMC

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