Neil Siegel

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Neil Siegel
Neil Siegel
Born (1954-02-19) February 19, 1954 (age 63)
Citizenship United States
Fields Engineering, systems engineering, computer science
Institutions TRW
Northrop Grumman
Alma mater University of Southern California
Doctoral advisor Barry Boehm
Known for Blue-Force Tracking
Hunter UAV
multicast communications protocols
low-data-rate networking protocols
Tactical Operations Centers
Command and Control Centers
Notable awards US National Academy of Engineering (2005)
IEEE Simon Ramo Medal (2011)

Neil Gilbert Siegel (born February 19, 1954) is an American computer scientist, systems engineer, and engineer, known for his development of many key systems for the United States military, including the Blue-Force Tracking system, the US Army's first unmanned air vehicle system, the US Army forward-area air defense system, and many others. Several of his key inventions also found their way into consumer products, such as hand-held devices (e.g., GPS user devices, the iPhone, etc.) whose map displays automatically orient themselves to align with the real-world's cardinal points.

Early life and work[edit]

Siegel was born in Brooklyn, New York, but has lived most of his life in the area southwest of Los Angeles. He attended the University of Southern California, earning degrees in Mathematics. During and after this time, he worked as a professional musician, mostly performing folk and classical music from the Balkans and the Middle East. Later, he earned a PhD in systems engineering (also from USC), where his PhD advisor was noted computer scientist Barry Boehm.

In 1976, he began work at what was then TRW (acquired by Northrop Grumman in 2002).

Recent work and recognition[edit]

Starting in 1993, he led an organization at TRW that developed one-of-a-kind automation systems for the US military and (to a lesser extent) commercial companies. This organization achieved significant business success, growing rapidly every year during his tenure as leader (which continued until 2001). They created many new products whose general theme was automation support to decision-makers who operate in complex and stressful environments. In addition to the US Army and the US Air Force, customers during this time included the US steel industry and the movie industry.

In 1993, his team fielded the US Army's first fully automated command-and-control system, the Forward-Area Air Defense C2 System. This system is still in use today.

In 1995, his team won the contract to develop the US Army's first "digital battlefield" system, called Force-XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below (generally known by the acronym FBCB2). This has resulted in a highly regarded capability for the US, now used by the Marine Corps, as well as the Army.

Also in 1995, his team delivered the US Army's first automated command post, which has been followed by a long series of related capabilities to the present time.

In 1997, he was given responsibility for "fixing" the Hunter UAV program, the US Army's first unmanned air vehicle. The program had suffered a series of crashes during testing, and was nominally "cancelled". During his tenure, the program became one of the US' most reliable unmanned air vehicles, and is still in service. The Hunter entered operational service in 1999 in the Balkans.

His personal science and engineering contributions have centered on how to implement large, mobile, ad hoc radio networks over relatively low data-rate carriers, focusing on what he calls "infrastructureless" networks[1] (e.g., no fixed infrastructure, such as cell-phone towers, repeaters, etc.) and techniques for achieving acceptable dynamics through what he calls "force-structure-aware" networks.[2] He has been a pioneer in large-scale deployments of GPS-enabled applications[3]][4] (like the Blue-Force Tracking system). He has also been active in the field of structuring large-scale software developments so as to match the skill distribution encountered in real-world teams.

Since mid-2001, he has been the chief technology officer of TRW's Systems (now Northrop Grumman Information Systems). His work during this time has extended his earlier work in infrastructureless networks, force-structure-aware networks, and large-scale system engineering methodologies. He retired at the end of 2015.

As of 2016, Siegel became the IBM Professor of Engineering Management at USC,;[5] he is also an Adjunct Professor of Engineering at UCLA.[6]

Awards and honors[edit]

Siegel has received a number of awards and honors, including:

Consumer Electronics[edit]

Siegel has had a major impact on the design and capabilities of many types of mobile consumer electronics, including smart phones, GPS receivers, and so forth. He is the documented earliest creator of many important technologies that are widely used today in these devices, including:

  • GPS-enabled mobile devices[12]
  • Automatic orientation of a map display to match the geographic cardinal points[13]
  • Optimizing unicast protocols (including TCP) for use on low-bandwidth, wireless networks[14]
  • Performing many security administrative and control tasks remotely[15]
  • Managing and administering a large network of wireless devices[16]
  • Increasing battery life on GPS-enabled devices[17]


Siegel is an experienced musician who plays the târ,[18] ney,[19] and kaval[20][better source needed] who has more than 1,000 concerts to his credit worldwide. He studied music with Iranian sufi master Morteza Varzi for more than 20 years.

He is married to Robyn Friend, a writer, dancer, and singer, with whom he has performed all over the world during the last 30 years. He is the older brother of actor and singer Jack Black.[21]