John Falk with Sen. Mike Enzi at the 2020 WCAC Golf Invitational
John Falk’s solemn promise to a former high school teacher has launched a several decade-long passion for the Congressional Award program and encouraging youth to seek civic engagement.
“Civic engagement means everything to me,” Falk said. “Volunteering is itself an action with a substantive impact on your community.”
Falk’s commitment to Congressional Award includes achieving a Gold Medal while in college and then serving on the Congressional Award Foundation Board of Directors for 21 years. He currently is a strident supporter of the Wyoming Congressional Award program. His company Vigilent Inc., which is based in Laramie, is a sponsor of the annual golf invitational and fundraiser.
The Congressional Award salutes and celebrates the most essential of American values – civic service and service to neighbors, Falk explained.
“We, as citizens and Americans, refresh the core Spirit of America and ensure the passing forward of these core American values with the Congressional Awards,” he said.
Earning a Congressional Award
Falk first learned about the Congressional Award program while attending Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia where he focused on politics and journalism as majors.
One summer, he had just returned home to McLean, Virginia after serving as a research assistant to Sir Eldon Griffiths, a Senior Member of Parliament and ally of Baroness Margaret Thatcher in the House of Commons-Westminster.
Serving as a research assistant was “an electric experience unlike anything I could have imagined that included being whisked into the Libyan Embassy bombing and hostage crisis,” Falk said. He explained that Sir Eldon was the parliamentary representative for the Police Federation of England and Wales, a police organization that included Scotland Yard, MI5 and MI6.
Falk ran into his former Langley High School business teacher, Ann Morton, who had heard of his London adventures. Morton was helping Congressman Frank Wolf with the Congressional Awards, and she demanded that Falk get involved.
“Mrs. Morton grabbed me by the arm and told me, ‘This is a great program and I want you to be a part of it,’” Falk said.
“I adored Mrs. Morton, and she did not process no for an answer,” Falk said.
For his main volunteer service project, Falk organized a symposium entitled "The Procurement of America's Defense: 1986 and Beyond.” A 1987 Washington Post article credited Falk, then a college student, for helping bring together at Washington and Lee University experts from the U.S. Defense Department, Congress, the media, and the defense industry to discuss Pentagon waste. Falk and two other students later published transcripts of the symposium.
“Being mindful of my promise to Mrs. Morton, this year-long effort accounted for most of my volunteer public service hours, which I exceeded by a couple of multiples,” Falk added.
Falk’s interest in politics stemmed from his father, James H. Falk, who served as Counsel to President Richard Nixon and President Gerald Ford and worked with Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. His father was an expert in military procurement and government contracts.
Faulk’s father, James Falk, next to U.S. President Richard Nixon after introducing the President to a group of Governors at the White House.
His college professor Clark R. Mollenhoff, Pulitzer Prize winner with the Des Moines Register, also played a significant role. “Mollenhoff really challenged me to dig deep into the waste-fraud and abuse procurement scandals which I did,” Falk said.
“It seemed to me that everyone was talking past each other and not trying to solve the problems,” Falk explained. “I decided to invite leaders from all sides for a symposium including the Defense Department, Congress, national media, the designer of the F-16 Aircraft, the Captain of the USS New Jersey and the defense industry to discuss how to solve or address Pentagon waste.”
In 1986, Falk graduated from Washington and Lee University with honors and received his Congressional Award Gold Medal from Congress for his volunteer public service, initiative and achievement.
After graduating, Falk was hired as the assistant to the president of SSAI in Northport, New York. SSAI was a defense contractor building avionic and missile system electronics for the B-2 Bomber and some strategic programs with Grumman.
“I was strongly encouraged to go back to law school, which I did grudgingly,” Falk recalled.
He graduated from the Washington and Lee University School of Law in 1990. He was also the recipient of the University Service Award, the Francis J. Gilliam Prize, and the Sigma Delta Chi Achievement in Journalism Award.
Civic Service - A Lifelong Commitment
In 1990, Congress confirmed Falk to serve on the Congressional Award Foundation Board of Directors, the only official charity of the Congress, which he served on for the next 21 years. In 2004, Sen. Bill Frist nominated Falk to be the first Gold Medal Recipient to serve as chairman of the foundation.
“It was a true honor to be sitting on the Board of Directors of the only charity of the Congress alongside of truly great Americans such as the former U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and retired four-star General Richard Lawson,” Falk said. “General Lawson was U.S. Air Force - Commander of EUCOM and one of the only people to rise from the rank of private to general officer and also served as military attaché to President Ford.”
In 2005, President George W. Bush awarded Falk the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Volunteer Service. At the time, Falk had helped lead fundraising efforts with HRH Prince Philip with events in St. James’s Palace in London, with HRH Prince Edward and Countess Sophie in Buckingham Palace in London and also hosting the Royal couple at the U.S. Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
“President Bush and the AmeriCorps initiative was very impressed by the Congressional Award being a true public-private partnership and relying on the private sector for all of its fundraising,” Falk said.
Recognized Expert – Defense, Security and Technology
Falk’s career path has evolved from 28 years of experience representing U.S. defense, security and technology companies to founding three advanced technology companies, two of which reside in Wyoming.
After law school, Falk began his professional career as a partner with The Falk Law Firm focusing in the areas of civil litigation, antitrust and high technology with expertise in national security. He also served as the executive director of the Less-Than-Lethal Technologies Advisory Committee to the National Institute of Justice, supporting federal law enforcement where he developed expertise in interoperable communications and pathways to leverage federal military investments in advanced technologies.
His legislative experience includes serving as a legislative assistant to Congressman James Kolbe (R-Arizona), serving as a policy advisor to the U.S. Senate Committee on Government Affairs and Sen. David Pryor (D-Arkansas) and working in the Office of Sen. Robert Dole (R-Kansas).
Falk founded his first advanced technology and software company in 2000 which provided bioterrorism surveillance and medical imaging solutions for the health care industry. It was founded upon technology derived from military and geospatial intelligence applications. Falk has also served as a federal affairs advisor to General Dynamics/Force Protection, Autometric, Boeing-Insitu, RAG Coal, and Thompson Creek Mining spanning all facets of federal government and international government relations affecting the energy and mining industry.
In April 2015, Falk founded Vigilent Inc. in response to the decade-long gap in federal government action for a comprehensive bioterrorism threat response system. Today, he serves as president of the Vigilent Inc. and Vigilent Labs, which started in May 2019. He is also a founding member of the Wyoming Advanced Technology Testbed formed with the University of Wyoming and College of Engineering and Science.
Additional achievements include joining the George Washington University School of Law as an adjunct professor of law in the fields of international law, national security and arbitration law. In 2017, Falk was asked to serve on the National Council on Public Safety UAS based on his expertise with unmanned aerial vehicles, drone systems and cybersecurity. He has also been formally appointed to the Aviation Committee of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Congressional Award Impact
Involvement with Congressional Awards has impacted Falk’s life in many more ways than he could have ever imagined when his high school teacher Mrs. Morton spurred him to join.
“The Congressional Award has had a deep, profound and endearing impact on my entire adult life,” Falk said.
Through his service on the Congressional Award Board, Falk explained that he had the true honor of working with Senators Malcolm Wallop, Craig Thomas, Mike Enzi and John Barrasso and Congresswomen Barbara Cubin, Cynthia Lummis and Liz Cheney. Falk added that he had special appreciation for the support of Vice President Richard Cheney with whom his father worked with in the Ford White House.
The Congressional Award and the relationships it nurtured led to Falk’s friendship and relationship with Brad Enzi, who asked Falk to come out to Laramie almost two years ago. Today Falk’s companies, Vigilent Inc. and Vigilent Labs are both Wyoming companies.
When Falk was a child, his father often read to him the book “Yankee from Olympus,” which focuses on the life of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. Justice Holmes shared in his country’s action and passion on the battlefield as a soldier and later as judge and justice on the Supreme Court, Falk explained.
Falk cited a quote from Justice Holmes that best defines him and his involvement with Congressional Award.
Justice Holmes said, "Life is action and passion. I think it is required of a man that he should share the action and passion of his time at peril of being judged not to have lived.”
Falk is a strident supporter of the Wyoming Congressional Award program. His company Vigilent Inc., which is based in Laramie, is a sponsor of the annual golf invitational and fundraiser. He also was one of the keynote speakers at the 2019 WCAC Golf Invitational, discussing the impact of the Congressional Award program on his life.