A salute to the general

Emmett Paige Jr. ended a long career of public service last month when he retired as vice president of defense operations for Lockheed Martin Information Technology.

Paige began his career when he enlisted in the Army in 1947 at age 16, serving in Korea and Vietnam and eventually retiring as a lieutenant general in 1988. He then became president and chief operating officer of OAO Corp. In 1993, Paige was appointed assistant secretary of Defense for command, control, communications and intelligence under the Clinton administration. He returned to OAO, which Lockheed Martin bought, in 1997.

Federal Computer Week recently asked colleagues past and present to share their memories of Paige.

Paige was the first commander of the Information Systems Command in the mid-1980s, when the Army first aimed to bring together computers and telecommunications, a concept he extended during his tenure at the Pentagon. "He was the guy who took that challenge, and he laid down the basic structure and the architectures...[for] network centricity," said retired Army Lt. Gen. Alonzo Short, former director of the Defense Information Systems Agency and now president and chief operating officer of Houston Associates Inc.

Paige's incredible energy awed and inspired those around him. "He'd work from 6 in the morning till 9 or 10 at night; he'd then work from home on the computer," said Tony Valletta, a senior vice president at SRA International Inc. who worked with Paige in the 1970s at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., and again as a deputy assistant secretary at the Pentagon. "You worked hard for him, but if you performed, you knew you'd be rewarded."

As driven as he was, Paige also earned respect for the way he treated others. "I would call him truly a brilliant listener and very humble," said Herb Browne, president and chief executive officer of AFCEA International. "You don't typically find those qualities in dynamic, Type-A personalities."

HE IS THE ONLY PERSON FROM WHOM EVERYONE ACCEPTS ALL-CAPITAL E-MAILS, said retired Lt. Gen. Albert Edmonds, former commander of the Defense Information Systems Agency and now a vice president at EDS. "AND NO ONE WORRIES ABOUT WHETHER HE IS SHOUTING BECAUSE THEY KNOW THEY ARE GETTING EITHER EMMETT'S OPINION OR HIS WISDOM. THEY ARE USUALLY THE SAME."

His all-caps e-mails are "symbolic of a larger-than-life figure," said Olga Grkavac, an executive vice president of the Information Technology Association of America who worked with Paige on technology issues on Capitol Hill. "He is very passionate when he gets behind a cause, and he can be a little intimidating, he's so candid."

One of Paige's passions is education. "Paige is the largest individual donor to [AFCEA's] Scholarship Fund, and he would never mention it to anyone," Edmonds said.

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