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James McGarrah Named Director of GTRI’s Information Technology and Telecommunications Laboratory

Published: January 5, 2009


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For James McGarrah, his new position as director of the Georgia Tech Research Institute's Information Technology and Telecommunications Laboratory (ITTL) is a homecoming of sorts - he earned his master's degree in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech in 1979.

He returns to Georgia Tech with more than 30 years of military and telecommunications industry experience to lead ITTL, a laboratory that conducts applied research in computer science and information technology, communications and networking.

"I am excited to join GTRI and believe my leadership experience in large complex organizations, both in the military and in the commercial sector, will be a strength in my new position," said McGarrah. "I plan to use my background to stimulate ways that this laboratory can expand the application of its technical skills and competencies to bring more value to more sponsors and generate more business for GTRI."

McGarrah will spend his first few months on the job familiarizing himself with ITTL's broad array of research activities, which includes broadband telecommunications, wireless access systems, network security, multimedia information systems, tactical communications, communications surveillance and disruption, information warfare and assurance, communications networks and network management, technology assessment, application integration, and software radio systems.

ITTL is also home to FalconView® and the Geographic Tool for Visualization and Collaboration (GTVC). FalconView is a Windows-based mapping system that displays various types of maps and geographically referenced overlays, and is an integral part of the military's Portable Flight Planning Software.  GTVC is a collaborative mapping tool that helps emergency management officials better coordinate event and incident planning - and real-time response.

"What I've learned so far is that ITTL researchers are focused on sponsor needs, focused on doing quality work and excited to come to work every day," noted McGarrah. "I'm thrilled to be a part of a group of researchers that exhibits such a strong combination of talent and energy."

McGarrah served as an active duty naval officer from 1973-1978 and 2003-2006 and in the Navy Reserve from 1978-2003. His reserve time included a recall to active duty in 1990-1991 for Operation Desert Storm. After retiring from the U.S. Navy in 2006 as a Rear Admiral, he was selected to serve in the civilian position of special assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense. In this position, he worked with individuals across the U.S. government, including the executive, legislative and judicial branches.

"I learned about how complex the government can be and as ITTL continues to build a reputation in information technology and telecommunications that resonates with sponsors, I hope I can use my understanding to provide more opportunities across the government, including the U.S. Departments of Defense, Justice, Homeland Security and State," noted McGarrah.

After working more than 20 years for Southern Bell and BellSouth (now AT&T), McGarrah served as executive director of national networks for Cingular Wireless from 2000-2003. He led a team of 150 technical directors, managers and engineers that planned, engineered, implemented, administered and operated Cingular's national service delivery network infrastructure.

"My telecommunications career centered on how to evolve and deliver technical solutions to the end-user by building the technical infrastructure needed behind the scenes," explained McGarrah. "I believe my technical background in the telecommunications industry and the Navy's Civil Engineer Corps will help me to empower ITTL researchers in solving complex problems related to national security, emergency preparedness and technology policy."

In addition to his master's degree from Georgia Tech, McGarrah earned a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering, with honors, from the United States Naval Academy in 1973 and a master of arts in human resources management from Pepperdine University in 1978. McGarrah also earned numerous awards from the U.S. Navy, including the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star.

A registered professional engineer, McGarrah lives in Norcross with his wife, Nancy, who is a clinical psychologist. They have two daughters, Mindy and Elizabeth, who are married and currently completing graduate school programs, and one granddaughter. When he's not spending time with his family, McGarrah enjoys golfing.