Exclusive: Larry Prior on his new role at ManTech

It’s been a little over a month since Larry Prior was named president and COO of ManTech International Corporation, and it’s already clear which title he prefers. “I am first and foremost an operator,” says Prior. “The chief operating officer cares a lot about top line growth, taking care of people, and executing programs for

Larry Prior

Larry Prior

customers.” That singular focus on execution is matched by Prior’s other great passion: cybersecurity. “I love the depth of our capability in cybersecurity,” says Prior. “When it comes to supporting our national security customers, there’s no hesitancy, no doubt in any ‘climb or place,’ as we used to say in the Marines.” In his first interview since assuming his new role, Prior speaks to ExecutiveBiz about his top priorities, and how he’s furthering ManTech as an “essential teammate” in cyber and national security.

ExecutiveBiz: ManTech recently established ManTech Cyber Solutions International, Inc. How does this subsidiary fit with the Obama administration’s cybersecurity goals?

Larry Prior: First, you have to applaud the Obama Administration on continuity. The leadership of Vice Admiral Mike McConnell under the Bush administration now has great continuity with Adm. Dennis Blair and Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander. That continuity is important, the recognition of the threat is important. Our core ManTech team will provide deep domain cyber expertise to support and build on this continuity. Meanwhile, the creation of our new business, ManTech CSI, is designed for us to manage the marketing, sales, and support of our product line to our core intelligence customers: the Intelligence Community, the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and other members of the national security team. To be good at cyber and forensics, you need tools. One of those tools is Crowbar, which we just announced. Crowbar is a unique forensic solution that allows government authorities to recover data from memory cards used in cell phones, PDAs and other devices. As this market evolves, we will showcase an even broader ability to put tools out there in the marketplace.

“Government needs to re-badge. It needs to bring talent in that does planning, budgeting, source selection, and acquisition management. They need to make sure, however, they can also execute on missions across every agency.” -Larry Prior

ExecutiveBiz: You’re coming into this role at a time of growing discussion of competitive insourcing. What’s your view on the issue?

Larry Prior: There are aspects of it I completely agree with, such as the government building an acquisition workforce and other “nearly inherently governmental” tasks such as audit and contract management. Government needs to re-badge. It needs to bring talent in that does planning, budgeting, source selection, and acquisition management. They need to make sure, however, they can also execute on missions across every agency. Systems engineering and technical assistance as well as mission support, for example, require lots of experience and core technical talent. That’s a great opportunity for industry.

ExecutiveBiz: What specific areas will you be focusing on in national security?

Larry Prior: Out of the gate you’re going to see greater emphasis on smart power. We deploy globally and we have the valuable resources to support state and federal agencies in smart power. Beyond that, the appointment of Alan Bersin as assistant secretary [for International Affairs and Special Representative for Border Affairs] at DHS showcases this administration’s concerns over border security, specifically what’s happening in Latin America with counternarcotics. That’s a great mission for the ManTech team to support. President Obama will champion arms control and the ManTech team has great technical talent to help with threat reduction across the globe. Lastly, my fundamental belief is that Iraq will grind down slower than people think, and Afghanistan will accelerate faster than people think. It’s still a dangerous world out there. So we are going to maintain a core business there.

ExecutiveBiz: Turning to cybersecurity, specifically. What new conversations are you having?

Larry Prior: Cyber is a wonderful opportunity for us to expand our business as the network has. So, we’re focused on several questions: How do we help defend networks that aren’t in our typical space? How do we help improve network resiliency everywhere we go? There is a lot that we can do to help federal civilian customers with technical support. The Department of Agriculture is an entry-level place for us. We also recently won a contract with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

ExecutiveBiz: What do you want to accomplish over the next 12 to 18 months?

Larry Prior: Sustainable, profitable growth is the goal. We’ve got great leadership and energy with [ManTech Founder, Chairman and CEO] George [Pedersen]. And we’ve got a solid team that can execute well.

ExecutiveBiz: What’s it like working with George Pedersen?

Larry Prior: Frankly, fun. The day to day interaction with him – I like the energy level. We’ve got our lanes; he’s very good on the Hill, very good with investors, very good with the board. But we’re a true team; we interact all the time. Beyond that, when you think of the uncertain market our industry will be facing in 2011, you’ve got to be adaptable, you’ve got to be agile, and you’ve got to be aggressive. By God, that is George Pedersen. Whether it’s how we think about supporting our troops overseas by going outside the wire or exercising the day to day cash discipline to have no debt on your balance sheet — those are George Pedersen’s traits as founder and they will serve us well in the future.

ExecutiveBiz: You’ve mentioned that managing execution is a great passion of yours as a leader. What’s another?

Larry Prior: Recruiting and nurturing talent. When you fuel growth it’s a nonstop job. I like to find people with more energy and who are smarter than me, who have great domain expertise, and turn them loose.

ExecutiveBiz: Lastly, with your new role comes a new move. How has your daily life changed coming to DC?

Larry Prior: I have all the challenges of starting a new job and growing a business while moving from the West Coast. But it’s exciting! It’s clearly a buyer’s market across the DC metropolitan area, and we bought a house in Old Town Alexandria. DC and Old Town have played an important part a lot of times in my life. My wife and I dated in Old Town, our first home was south of Alexandria, and our girls were baptized at St. Mary’s. So now we’re empty nesters and we’re moving back to Old Town. We’re really excited about this next chapter.

Interview conducted by JD Kathuria

UPDATED JULY 2010: Larry Prior Moves to BAE Systems

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