Robert Drake earned a reputation as one of the most effective managers in the history of the Agency, and one whose style was exceptionally low-key.
Mr. Drake was born in Northfield, Minnesota. He earned a B.A. in History and International Relations from Carlton College. After serving in World War II as a B-24 bomber pilot in the Pacific Theater, he joined the Armed Forces Security Agency, NSA's predecessor, as a researcher and reporter. One of his notable early contributions was the development, in conjunction with two other analysts, of intelligence on the Chinese intervention in the Korean War.
Mr. Drake served in the Pentagon twice in politically sensitive jobs in the policy and budget arena. In between the two Pentagon assignments, he attended the National War College from 1963–1964. After a successful overseas assignment, he ran the major office involved in the Viet Nam War and received the Exceptional Civilian Service Award. Mr. Drake continued supporting the war effort as Deputy at NSA Hawaii, and was assigned as chief of A Group, the Soviet Problem, upon his return. He then became the Assistant Deputy Director of Signals Intelligence Operations (DDO), the predecessor of today's Signals Intelligence Directorate, and, finally, NSA's Deputy Director.
He received the Meritorious Civilian Service Award, the Defense Distinguished Civilian Service Award, and the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal. Dr. Louis Tordella, NSA's long-time Deputy Director, once said to Drake, "When there’s an awkward job requiring... discipline, talent, tact, skill, confidence, and diplomacy, your name keeps popping up...."