History and Leadership

Founded in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1979, ARA has grown steadily and now has offices throughout the United States and Canada. With over 1,000 employees, most of whom have advanced degrees in engineering and the physical sciences, we have the breadth to tackle the most challenging technical problems. One of our greater strengths is our ability to recruit and retain renowned experts from diverse technical fields. This keeps us fresh technically and continually broadens the scope of our capabilities.

ARA Leadership

Board of Directors

James AllenJames Allen, Chairman, has been an ARA Director since 2009. He is the former Chief Financial Officer of four public companies in the government IT services sector.

Curt A. BeckemeyerCurt Beckemeyer is an ARA Senior Vice President and Manager of the company’s Transportation Sector. He has been an ARA Director since 2012.

Daniel E. ChittyDaniel Chitty became an ARA Director in 2013. He is a Principal Engineer in the Test Technology Division and an ARA Associate.

PawlikowskiGeneral (retired) Ellen Pawlikowski is an independent consultant providing expertise to industry and academia on strategic planning, program management, logistics, and R&D. She has been an ARA Director since 2019.

Shauna PiedrahitaShauna Piedrahita has been an ARA Director since 2018. She is currently a Principal Chemist and Assistant Division Manager in the company's Capital Area Division. 

Steven K. RuggieriSteven Ruggieri has more than 35 years of experience in building and managing technology development and product businesses for both government and commercial markets. He was named to ARA’s Board of Directors in 2015.

Joe SmithJoseph Smith is an ARA Senior Vice President and Manager of the company’s Security Engineering and Applied Sciences Sector. He has been an ARA Director since 2009.

Robert H. SuesRobert Sues is ARA’s President and Chief Executive Officer. He has been an ARA Director since 2005.

George UllrichGeorge Ullrich has been an ARA Director since 2014. He currently serves as ARA’s Senior Vice President for Strategy Development.

Executive Management

Robert H. SuesRobert Sues has been with ARA since 1986. He is a Director and ARA's President and Chief Executive Officer.

Mike Royer ARA CFOMichael Royer has been with ARA since 2020. He is the Chief Financial Officer.

David R. OakleyDavid Oakley has been with ARA since 1994. He is the Deputy to the CEO for Technical Operations, Senior Vice President, and the former manager of ARA's Systems and Operations Sector.

Larry GhormleyLarry Ghormley has been with ARA since 2005. He is Vice President of Corporate Operations, Compliance Officer, and has overall responsibility for HR, IT, Marketing, and Security.

Lawrence A. TwisdaleLawrence Twisdale has been with ARA since 1983. He is Executive Vice President and is the founder and former manager of ARA's Southeast and IntraRisk Divisions.


Sector Managers

Joe SmithJoseph Smith has been with ARA since 1993. He is a Director, Senior Vice President, and oversees ARA’s Arlington Division, Rocky Mountain Division, Southern Division, Southwest Division and SEAS Special Projects Group.

Ed MoasEd Moas has been with ARA since 1994. He is a Vice President and oversees ARA's Analytical Solutions Division and Emerald Coast Division.

Curt A. BeckemeyerCurt Beckemeyer has been with ARA since 1999. He is a Senior Vice President and oversees ARA's Engineering Science Division, Mid-Atlantic Division, and Transportation Infrastructure Division.

Allen YorkAllen York has been with ARA since 1998. He is a Senior Vice President and oversees ARA's Southeast Division, Capital Area Division, and Virtual Heroes Division.

David TimianDavid Timian has been with ARA since 1985. He is a Senior Vice President and oversees ARA's Integrated Products Division and Vertek Division.


Our History

In the late 1970s, Neil Higgins and the late Harry Auld had been working on and off together for about 15 years in government and industry when they decided to make a major change. Harry and Neil believed they could be successful on their own and it was time to take a leap of faith. So with just several thousand dollars between them, an agreement to forgo salaries until their new venture was stable, and a coin toss to determine the name — Higgins, Auld and Associates was open for business.

Their small office in Albuquerque was furnished with green shag carpet, brick-and-board bookcases, and GI surplus metal desks, and the only assistant they could afford to hire was Harry’s wife Jo Ann, but their independence was fiercely important to them, and they were excited about the work they were doing. The Air Force soon hired HA&A to simulate and analyze ground motion from nuclear weapons explosions. When other government contracts followed, Harry and Neil were able to start paying themselves, and they knew expansion was a key ingredient for continued success.

In the meantime, Harry and Neil had convinced former colleague Jimmie Bratton to join them in their venture. Jimmie was intrigued enough with the potential of HA&A that he left his current job, sold what he could and bought a third interest in the company, and joined them. Next, Higgins, Auld and Bratton Inc. reached across the country and acquired a small office in Vermont from a large science and engineering firm. With the first acquisition complete, the founders decided it was time to change the name again, and Applied Research Associates was off and growing.

Jimmie said that the main reason he joined Neil and Harry in forming ARA was that he wanted “to create an environment where people could do the kind of engineering and research that they wanted to do — and make it a fun place to work.” This continues to be one of the company’s fundamental objectives.

Today, ARA is an internationally recognized employee-owned research and engineering firm. We provide superior technical services and products to our customers, meeting significant national challenges by creatively applying technology to solve critical problems. The corporate culture remains strongly rooted in our history and purpose, with an outstanding commitment to quality, employee empowerment, and the inherent strengths of flexibility in a changing environment.

Neil and Jimmie founded ARA with a set of core values that remain critical to our ongoing success. Their vision resulted in a company that we can all be proud to be a part of, and under their leadership, thousands of employees have had the opportunity to contribute to ARA’s many achievements. All of us at ARA owe them a debt of thanks for providing a place where we can pursue work we are passionate about. 


ARA’s long history of outstanding service and engineering excellence has earned the company and its employees many state and national accolades.

“The best small business utilization program we have seen” is how federal auditors described ARA’s Small Business Program. Auditors from the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) and the U.S. Small Business Administration granted ARA a “Highly Successful” rating. DCMA provides ARA’s review to government customers with pre-award requests.

ARA received the Precision Strike Association’s 2012 William J. Perry Award as a partner on the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) program team. The award recognizes public or private sector leadership or achievement that results in significant contributions to the development, introduction, or support of precision strike systems.

On more than one occasion, ARA has received the U.S. Defense Department’s prestigious Nunn-Perry Award for its small-business mentor-protégé relationships.

ARA has placed at or near the top of the New Mexico Technology Flying 40, a list of the state’s top revenue-producing technology companies, for more than a decade.

ARA Chairman Emeritus Ambassador Henry F. Cooper is the recipient of the 2010 Ronald W. Reagan Missile Defense Award. The award recognizes his many years of work in the field of missile defense, from his days at Bell Laboratories to his tenure as the director of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization and as chairman of the board of High Frontier.

Several ARA engineers received a 2010 Team Achievement Award from The Technical Cooperation Program (TTCP) for their work in the area of Performance Prediction Capability for Enhanced Blast Explosive Technology.  

An ARA employee was selected as the 2009 Consultant of the Year by the Maryland State Highway Administration Office of Materials Technology for his work in developing, installing, and applying ARA’s RoadCare software and in developing pavement performance models.

The Virtual Heroes Division of ARA has appeared numerous times on the Military Training Technology (MT2) Top 100 list, which names companies that have made a significant impact in the military training industry.