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June Edition 2023

Ed Rule, President and CEO, Diana Waldorf, Chief Operating Officer, and Dave Davison, Chief Growth Officer: Naval Systems


Naval Systems, Inc. {NSI} prides themselves on their exceptional customer service in pursuit of U.S. national security objectives and on their people-centric approach to mission success. Founded in 2004 and headquartered in Southern Maryland, their 300+ employees can be found across the Continental U.S. and supporting international cooperative programs around the globe. NSI’s robust growth over the years is a tribute to the exceptional work and reputation
of their people.Quality, Integrity, Teamwork, Success – that’s NSI!

Gadsden Edward “Ed” Rule, who is the President and CEO of Naval Systems, Inc., started the company over 19 years ago. We sat down with him to learn more about the company and its beginnings.

Q. What was the motivation behind starting Naval Systems?

I always wanted to start a business. I sold flower seeds and Christmas cards while still in elementary school, had my own newspaper route at age 11, and sold newspaper subscriptions in middle school. While still in high school I ran my own newspaper subscription sale crew. I had a couple other small business ventures after college, one focused on “alternative energy” (wood burning stoves, at the time). They were unremarkable, but great learning experiences. I ultimately joined the Navy to serve and travel the world. The Navy allowed me to earn my MBA while still in uniform. After 20 years in the Navy, I opted to retire from active duty. Soon thereafter, I leveraged my education and experience to co-found NSI. 

Q. Can you explain about your services in brief?

NSI provides professional, knowledge-based services, primarily of the type needed to develop, acquire, and sustain the national defense systems to protect and defend the United States and like-minded allies. Our service offerings can be categorized into the six primary business lines of Technology and Analytics; Systems Sustainment; Program Planning and Control; Engineering and Technical Support; Specialized and Autonomous Programs, and International Programs. Across these sectors we perform advanced analytics; Extract/Transform/Load (ETL) massive amounts of technical data, facilitate the acquisition and sustainment of highly sophisticated systems, and act as expert advisors and consultants across a wide range of disciplines associated with the mission of national security.   

Q. Unanticipated Costs, Potential for Setbacks, Integration Difficulties, and Quality Suffers are an inevitable part of logistics. How do you overcome these without disrupting the business flow?

The short answer is people. Properly encouraged in pursuit of a shared objective, people are incredibly imaginative, resourceful, and resilient. Thus, having the right mix of people on our teams, usually quite diverse in their respective experiences, talents, and outlooks, enables us to adapt and overcome even the most difficult of challenges. People have an amazing capacity to figure things out!

Also, expectations influence performance. We expect our managers, from the CEO on down, to set high standards, to lead by example, and to succeed, despite whatever challenges they may encounter. NSI’s core values are Quality, Integrity, Teamwork, and Success. We expect all NSI employees to live out these values in their daily work lives and to provide tangible examples in their annual performance reviews. 

Q. How have emerging technologies contributed to the success of your business?

We will continue to achieve rapid growth based on enhanced processing and storage capacity of modern technology, and especially graphical representations, as well as by advances in the application of Artificial Intelligence to large data sets. These advances enable faster, more intelligent decisions by our customer base with increasingly effective targeting of critical resources. Demand for these advanced capabilities has been remarkable these past three years and show no signs of slowing. If anything, the demand for speed and efficacy of decision-making, aided by AI, is accelerating. NSI intends to stay at the forefront of delivering such capabilities in service to our national security mission.

Q. What do you think makes NSI so unique among peer companies in your industry?

Dave Davison, Chief Growth Officer: Complimented by our company culture and phenomenal employees, what makes NSI so unique amongst our peers is our diverse portfolio of expertise across many government functionalities (cost estimating, programmatic, logistics, engineering, readiness, etc.). This gives our company a complete perspective to the government’s needs, insight to relevant data sources, knowledge of key stakeholders and the existing/legacy processes. This “perspective,” combined with an NSI culture of innovation and willingness to challenge “existing norms” gives our company the knowledge and skills to offer and demonstrate options to shift from legacy practices and processes, leveraging technology and innovation to improve readiness, decrease cost and substantially improve responsiveness.


Diana Waldorf, Chief Operating Officer: There are many factors that make NSI unique. We are agile, have a great company culture, and have great experience and past performance. But what truly makes us unique has always been our commitment to our employees and our commitment to Supporting the Warfighter. A big part of NSI’s success has been our dedication to our employees and in turn their dedication to the company, proven by our 97% retention rate. NSI employees are committed to the mission, their community, and those who serve our country. For the 17 years that I have had the pleasure of being part of NSI, the mission of Supporting the Warfighter has broadened but never wavered regardless of dollars or profit – I am not sure many companies can say that.


Q. How do you market your services?

We are a national security services provider. Trust is paramount in this industry and must be earned by virtue of reputation and past performance. So, our most important marketing revolves around meeting our promises and excelling in satisfying customer needs. We also recognize that the NSI brand carries with it a market impact all its own. I believe our brand is enhanced when we as a company recognize that we are part of a larger ecosystem, and we voluntarily accept a certain level of responsibility for elevating the quality of life in the communities where we work. I sit on the board of three local nonprofits and NSI contributes significant time and money to local causes such as food drives, STEM education and science fairs, festivals and holiday events, youth athletics, veteran care, education and leadership programs, and the like. If our employees are committed to such causes, NSI will likely support them. I believe this resonates with employees and the market.

Q. Do you have any new services ready to be launched?

NSI has used internal research and development funding to produce an AI model that relies on natural language processing and deep learning to radically improve the quality of aircraft maintenance and logistics data throughout Navy and Marine Corp aviation. We are test marketing what will be both a product and a service and hope to experience widespread acceptance and demand in the months ahead. This should radically improve the effectiveness and affordability of many of Naval Aviation’s system sustainment programs.

Q. What does the future hold for your company and its customers? Are exciting things on the way?

As NSI has evolved from a small to mid-sized company, we have entered into our first Mentor-Protégé alliance with a local small business under the Small Business Administration’s Mentor-Protégé (MP) program. This is an outstanding program that will enable NSI to use a MP Joint Venture to continue bidding on small business set-aside contracts even as we grow from a mid-sized to a large business. This program has the benefit of accelerating the growth and success of our small business protégé while facilitating continuing growth and success for NSI. We can form two additional MP alliances that could enable us to enter other markets where we currently lack access. I find such innovative business arrangements and the opportunities they provide to both NSI and to emerging small businesses extremely exciting.


About Ed Rule President and CEO of Naval Systems in his own words

It is hard to understand my motivation without understanding my parents and upbringing. My father was a Marine rifleman that fought at Chosin Reservoir in Korea and my mother was an art teacher in Arlington County Public Schools. We didn’t have much growing up, but my siblings and I were nurtured with a sense of wonder and appreciation for the natural world and artistic expression, as well as a sense of patriotism and desire to serve our nation and the principles it stood for. So, I view NSI as an organic organizational entity that grows, develops, and flourishes much like a tree or any living thing. But this natural entity is instead comprised of many individuals who are each wonderful in their own unique way. Our mission is to promote U.S. national security and it is my great joy to work with fellow NSI employees in this endeavor.

In terms of my professional history, I have over 40 years of leadership and management experience as a naval officer and business leader. During my 20 years in the Navy, I served as a logistician in the Pacific and Atlantic fleets on multiple deployments and exercises. My qualifications include Surface Warfare Supply Corps Officer, Helicopter Control Officer, and SCUBA Diver. I also served in a major platform Program Management Office and on the staffs of the Program Executive Officer for Tactical Aircraft Programs and the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, with a specialty in Finance. I received my Bachelor’s in Business Management from William & Mary and MBA from the University of Georgia, where our Business Plan team won a national championship, defeating the likes of Harvard, Northwestern, and others. I worked as a DoD consultant after leaving the Navy and in partnership with Dan Seifert, a former Marine jet pilot and close associate, started NSI in early 2004. “Danno” unfortunately passed away after our first 10 years, and my other two partners now are Diana Waldorf, NSI’s COO, and Dave Davison, a former Navy H-60 pilot and our Chief Growth Officer. Through our strategic partnerships and the extraordinary efforts of our devoted employees, NSI has grown from the two co-founders to what it is today – a company known for exceptional service and innovation in support of our national security.

“If anything, the demand for speed and efficacy of decision-making, aided by AI, is accelerating. NSI intends to stay at the forefront of delivering such capabilities in service to our national security mission.”