James Patrick Peak March 2, 1943 - May 11, 2020 Intelligence Officer
James P. Peak, 77, passed away peacefully with family on May 11, 2020, at home in Ashburn, VA after a courageous two-year battle with cancer. A career government intelligence officer, Jim was the 1999 winner of the Charlie Allen Award for Distinguished Intelligence Service. He contributed to the United States Intelligence Community (IC) over five decades, a period covering much of the Cold War and the Global War on Terror.
Enlisting in the U.S. Air Force (USAF) out of Girard High School in Kansas, Jim attended the Air Force Intensive Mandarin Chinese program at Yale University. Stationed at Goodfellow AFB, TX, as a 19-year old Airman, he was plucked from obscurity because of his aptitude for languages and near-fluent Spanish. Thus, during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, he joined the 6947th Security Squadron in the Florida Keys to intercept and translate Cuban radio transmissions, as well as monitor Soviet and Cuban air defenses.
After leaving the USAF in 1965, Jim joined the Foreign Technology Division at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH, where he studied operational communications and technical signal activities of U.S. adversaries. After earning a B.A. in History at the University of Dayton night school, FTD selected Jim to attend the first Post-Graduate Intelligence Program to award a Master's degree at the Defense Intelligence School in Washington, DC.
In 1977 he joined the private sector, moving to northern Virginia with Braddock Dunn & McDonald (BDM). In 1982, the family moved again to Headquarters USAFE Intelligence Directorate at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, where they lived until 1985. There, as a senior contractor air intelligence analyst, he wrote transformational analytical studies, while mentoring assigned officers, NCOs, and airmen, many of whom became lifelong friends. Jim was able to fulfill his dream of flying in USAF fighter jets during multiple observation rides in F-15 Eagles and F-4 Phantoms. The family also traveled extensively throughout Germany and nearby European countries, soaking up the history and culture.
Upon returning to the United States, he rejoined government service with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) to analyze Warsaw Pact policy, becoming DIA’s preeminent expert on General Purpose Forces, and eventually led treaty monitoring of Warsaw Pact/Russian disarmament. Through his IC rotational assignments from DIA, he directly contributed to other agencies’ efforts. During this exposure, he became the first Director of the Intelink Management Office, which managed the formation of Intelink, a secure, collaborative, web-enabled network to allow enhanced online information sharing among the nation's intelligence organizations.
In 2000, Jim retired from the Defense Department Senior Executive Service. He was lured back after September 11, 2001, working as a contractor at the newly formed National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) for the next 14 years. At NCTC he led the development of a database of known and suspected terrorists, proving his seemingly endless analytical versatility and cultural prowess. In retirement after 2015 he enjoyed traveling, flying private aircraft and flight simulators, driving his convertible, and attending vintage races and car shows. A natural linguist, in addition to Spanish, he also spoke and read Chinese, Russian, German, and Arabic, and was learning French.
Jim was preceded in death by his parents Billy and Waneta Peak, and his brother Bob. He is survived by Susan, his wife of 53 years and his son Jason, daughter-in-law Donna, and granddaughter Cassidy. A memorial will be announced later. Donations can be made in Jim's name to the American Cancer Society or National Kidney Foundation if desired.
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