Under Secretary Modly, the son of immigrants, grew up outside Cleveland, and remains an avid Indians and Cavaliers fan, according to social media profiles. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1983.
Under Secretary Modly, after graduation from the Naval Academy completed his Masters Degree in Government/International Relations at Georgetown University. On completion, he completed Navy Flight training in Pensacola receiving his Wings as a Navy Helicopter Pilot in April, 1985 at HT-18. From here, the Under Secretary was sent to the UH-1N Rag Squadron for transition training in the Navy UH-1N Huey Helicopter. He was then assigned to the USS Nassau LHA-4 as the Command Helicopter and Legal Officer. His final assignment in the Navy was as Assistant Professor of Political Science at the USAF Academy. Under Secretary Modly left active duty in 1990.