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Fords in Four: Meet Charles Ball '80, Office of the Secretary of Defense
The Haverford School

You were recently appointed to a position in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. What led you to that job?

I believe that it was a combination of my reserve military background, my having run for Congress, and my extensive involvement at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the area of countering weapons of mass destruction that ultimately led to my being offered this opportunity to serve.

After I left Haverford, I went to Duke University where I double-majored in political science and German literature. Then I had a one-year fellowship to study political science at the Free University of Berlin in Germany, and did my Ph.D. in international relations at the London School of Economics. I became a postdoctoral fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory and at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where I eventually became an employee.

In 1996, I joined the U.S. Navy Reserve as an intelligence officer. After 9/11, I was mobilized to a weapons of mass destruction analysis cell for the Pacific command. Our role was to identify threats associated with terrorist groups attempting to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction in the Pacific theater.

In 1998, I ran for Congress in California and won the Republican nomination but lost in the general election. I quickly became aware that in order to win in a competitive district, you need time and you need (lots of) money.

On a more serious note, while it was not articulated explicitly, there was an implicit message conveyed at Haverford that to whom much is given much is expected. And in my case, from a young age my family stressed how lucky we were to live in the United States. My mother is an immigrant whose parents were driven from Germany and my father fought in World War II. I have always felt a responsibility to do my small part to contribute to our country’s national defense, for despite our manifest flaws there is no nation that has contributed so much to freedom for other people. Nor is there another country that can act as the ultimate guarantor of peace and stability in an increasingly chaotic world.

What inspired you to join the Navy Reserve and run for Congress?

In both cases, I was motivated by an obligation to serve. People are often frustrated about what’s happening in politics, or by the fact that they can’t find a candidate who reflects their views. If you don’t like the candidate, try running yourself – but trust me, that doesn’t always work out!

On a more serious note, while it was not articulated explicitly, there was an implicit message conveyed at Haverford that to whom much is given much is expected. And in my case, from a young age my family stressed how lucky we were to live in the United States. My mother is an immigrant whose parents were driven from Germany and my father fought in World War II. I have always felt a responsibility to do my small part to contribute to our country’s national defense, for despite our manifest flaws there is no nation that has contributed so much to freedom for other people. Nor is there another country that can act as the ultimate guarantor of peace and stability in an increasingly chaotic world.

Tell me about a favorite Haverford memory.

It was demanded of us that we behave as gentlemen. The teachers always led by example; it wasn’t just about lecturing – they walked the walk. Haverford was, for me, like being part of a very large family. Neil Buckley comes to mind as an example of how a family atmosphere was fostered. He was a teacher and coach who dedicated his whole life to the School. If you came by the School on a Saturday or Sunday, his car would often be in the parking lot and he would be in his classroom strategizing about next year’s wrestling team. I remember as a little guy in sixth grade looking at the banners of wrestling championships and how they engendered a sense of tradition that was inspiring.

Dr. Charles J. Ball ’80 attended The Haverford School from fifth through 12th grade. He earned a B.A. from Duke University and a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics. Ball did postdoctoral work at Los Alamos National Laboratory and at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he eventually became deputy program development director for defense. In January 2018, Ball was appointed deputy assistant secretary of defense for threat reduction and arms control in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, part of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He also serves as a member of the Navy Reserve.