WASHINGTON – A key figure in a struggling Army intelligence program has for years allowed himself to be portrayed as a Ph.D. in engineering, even though he does not hold a doctoral degree, according to records and interviews.
Russell Richardson, who earned a master's degree from Ohio State University in 1984, says he never sought to misrepresent his credentials. Yet from 2003 to as recently as September, Richardson consistently has been characterized in news stories, company websites and his own internal Army resume as having a doctorate.
"Somebody put it on a document," Richardson said. "People have always thought it. I haven't tried to actively go out and correct it. ... I agree I should have fixed the public record better."
Richardson made millions as an Army intelligence contractor before taking a six-figure federal job in 2012 as science adviser to the Army's intelligence and security command, or INSCOM. Before he left the government in July, he was the architect of a failed effort to fix the Army's Distributed Common Ground System, a troubled intelligence program.
Army spokesman MyRon Young said Richardson did not claim a Ph.D. in his formal application for the job of science adviser. However, once in the job, Richardson introduced himself as "Dr. Richardson" and passed out documents listing himself as "Dr.," according to three Army officials who were not authorized to discuss a personnel matter by name and requested anonymity. All said it was commonly believed at INSCOM that Richardson was a Ph.D.
Richardson responded, "I never introduce myself as 'Dr.' Never, ever. ... I never represented that I had a Ph.D."
A body of evidence raises questions about that assertion.
The Associated Press obtained an undated biography with his picture and detailed resume, which was used over the last two years while he worked as the Army's INSCOM science adviser. The resume says he earned a Ph.D. from Ohio State University and refers to him as "Dr. Russell D. Richardson." Richardson said he did not include that and can't explain who did.
While he was employed by the Army, Richardson was referred to as "Dr. Russell Richardson" in several news articles in which he was quoted, agendas for conferences at which he spoke, and an Army slide presentation he authored — all of which were posted on the Internet. Richardson said he can't explain why his educational background was incorrectly characterized and why he failed to correct it.
In fact, in detailed minutes of an Army INSCOM meeting Richardson attended in January 2014, also obtained by the AP, a correction was proposed in red to change "Mr." Richardson to "Dr." Richardson said he didn't propose that change.
Before he joined the Army, Richardson was listed as holding a Ph.D. on the website of the company he most recently co-owned, Potomac Fusion, an Army intelligence contractor.
Richard said that was a mistake and that it was corrected, but there is no evidence of any correction in Internet archives.
Long before that, in 2003, he was listed as "Dr. Russell Richardson" in the credit line of a Defense Intelligence Journal article he co-authored with then-Army intelligence official Keith Alexander, who later became National Security Agency director, and others. Richardson now works for a cybersecurity company founded by Alexander, who did not respond to questions sent via email asking what he knew about Richardson's educational background.
In a story published Monday that examined Richardson's role, the AP initially reported that he held a Ph.D., based on an erroneous statement from university spokeswoman Amy Murray. After a tip, the AP asked Ohio State to check again, and Murray reported that Richardson was not awarded a Ph.D. The reference was removed from the story.