Doug Smith, CEO of the newly rechristened Oceus Networks, tells GovConExecutive about the process of buying the company, the future of fourth-generation wireless technologies the firm works on and fighting government inertia to deliver cutting-edge solutions to the federal government.
GovConExecutive: You last spoke with one of our media properties in June 2009. What has changed for you and the company since then?
Doug Smith: A whole lot. We have bought Ericsson Federal, and are now Oceus Networks and we are U.S.-owned, which enables us to better service our customer base.
GovConExecutive: The purchase of Ericsson Federal has been the big news recently. Could you talk a little about that process?
Doug Smith: It is a typical private equity process. We used a great private equity firm out of New York City called Tailwind Capital. The process came to a conclusion on New Year’s Eve, fittingly, so we actually started the New Year as Oceus Networks.
GovConExecutive: Could you talk about some of the cutting-edge products the firm develops? In previous interviews, you’ve discussed some particularly interesting technologies, especially for the Defense Department. Can you talk about some of those?
Doug Smith: We are very active with bringing third-generation and fourth-generation wireless capabilities into the federal government space and in the government space in general. We are the only company that has third-generation tactical wireless systems deployed overseas in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We are the only current supplier of that technology to our national security community. I think you will see this year, as well, we will be one of the first — if not the first — to announce fourth-generation tactical wireless capabilities. It can be used for the Defense Department as well as Customs and Border Protection and then other agencies in private network scenarios where they need the high data rates that fourth-generation wireless networks have. We are the leader in that, and we will continue to be the leader in that.
GovConExecutive: I know in a previous interview you had talked about a shift in the government from using custom-built IT solutions to really using more of the commercial-based systems. Could you talk about that continuing shift?
Doug Smith: That shift is very much continuing and in the area of wireless broadband as well. There have been existing programs, Win-T and JTRS, for example, where the government has spent or is spending billions of dollars to develop custom-made wireless technologies that, when they are deployed late this decade, will be more than 100 times slower than what we’re deploying today. Oceus Networks’ bringing repurposed and modified commercial technology, third-generation cellular technology, fourth-generation technology into the government space will save our country a great deal of money and bring a lot more capability sooner.
GovConExecutive: What do you see as the biggest hurdle for the government agencies adopting more commercial-based repurposed systems?
Doug Smith: The biggest hurdle is inertia, really; the inertia of these existing programs that, frankly, the country can no longer afford and we don’t need as they will underperform what we are making available today. I think it is just the inertia of changing those programs.
GovConExecutive: What issues do you think government contractors face in today’s economic climate?
Doug Smith: I think the existing government contractor base has to get onboard with the direction that we are going and others are going, which is doing more with less money sooner. That’s really what we are about in the communications world. We are about designing, building and operating these networks, but we’re also about bringing more capabilities sooner for less cost to the government. I think there is an opportunity for our customer base, the Defense Department, to save a lot of money and get the extra capability that they need globally today.
GovConExecutive: You’ve kind of touched on this a little bit when you were talking about fourth-generation wireless, but I was just wondering, broadly, what do you see in the future of broadband technology?
Doug Smith: What I see is our country needs — and our Defense Department needs — the same capabilities you and I experience every day. We need what we get at home from a fiber capability. We also need the wireless capabilities that we take for granted with Androids and iPads and iPhones – that is what Oceus Networks offers. We take that commercial technology, we modify it and make it much smaller, lighter and faster and able to be deployed in harsh environments. We bring the ability for our warfighter to have the capabilities we take for granted back home.
GovConExecutive: What issues do you think the government-contracting community will face as a whole in 2011?
Doug Smith: I think they are going to see shrinking budgets. I think we all have to live in an environment where, as a country, we have to be able to do more with less.
GovConExecutive: I’m sure there probably isn’t much spare time, but is there anything you like to do when you are off the clock?
Doug Smith: I love to drive motorcycles. I scuba dive, write and paint. All I need is 48 hours in a day, and I’ll be happy.
GovConExecutive: Is there anything you would like to add?
Doug Smith: One of our values inside our company here is we like to say that we bring the best of commercial culture to government contracting. Commercial culture is a delivery culture. There is a constant pressure to perform, there is constant competition and it’s all about delivering on time and on budget in the commercial world. That’s the culture here at Oceus Networks– we are looking to bring to mission-communication systems. I think that that is what the end customer wants as well. They want companies to do what they say they will on budget and on time. I think we all have to attend to that.