Gil Guarino, retired Air Force colonel and executive vice president of CACI’s Transformation Solutions Business Group, knows acquisition policy forward and backward. In his current position at CACI, one of the largest government contractors, Guarino is responsible for all stages of his group’s business — from acquisition through project delivery.
Guarino talked with ExecutiveBiz about his springboard moment, federal acquisition reform and his efforts to navigate uncertain federal budgets.
ExecutiveBiz: What was a springboard moment that kind of propelled you to where you are now?
Gil Guarino: I would say it was the acquisition of American Management Systems’ Defense and Intelligence Group by CACI and then the opportunity to manage and help integrate that business into CACI. From that point forward, and in terms of my current business group manager role, it was more my ability to lead a great team to grow the business and execute it profitably.
ExecutiveBiz: I understand that you are pretty keyed into acquisition in your current role. What is your take on some of the efforts to reform federal acquisition? What do you think are lessons learned or best practices to take away from that?
Gil Guarino: You can talk about the subject of acquisition reform from many different perspectives. From a macro perspective, our acquisition system is hard to change and it’s something that requires a persistent effort over an extended period of time — a little fix here and a little fix there isn’t going to address the issues that need to be addressed going forward. I’m a firm believer that acquisition reform needs to have, at its core, the recognition that successful acquisitions are a function of effective government and industry dialogue. I’m very encouraged to see that there are initiatives being endorsed by Vivek Kundra and OMB toward more open dialogue.
The other aspect of acquisition reform that is critically important is the recognition that, typically, inadequate requirements definition and ineffective governance cause major acquisition problems. Establishing a detailed requirements baseline at the outset of a project/program is critical to its success and there are many ways to accomplish just that. Taking the time, with the right group of acquisition, functional and user stakeholders, to establish a firm baseline of requirements, will not only help insure successful development, but more importantly, begin the transformation and change management process that will result in user acceptance and early system deployment. Lastly, a rigorous up-front requirements phase will also help limit scope creep and force early buy-in to the “to be” capabilities.
As acquisition reform looks to reduce the cost of acquiring services and solutions, approaches need to be adopted to do more than drive industry margins lower. Government and industry need to look further at the risk factors that drive costs and have a dialogue and initiatives that reduce those factors which most often result from ambiguity, inadequately defined requirements, insufficient governance and execution concepts that are not properly segmented.
If we talk about IT system acquisitions, governance (along with detailed requirement definition), is of critical importance. If a customer doesn’t have a governance process to deal with requirements or the issues that come about when you are dealing with multiple stakeholder groups, across functional boundaries, and across multiple organizational boundaries, an acquisition is doomed from the outset because no acquisition program office is going to be able to bring the various functions or components to the table in an ad hoc manner for coordinated decision making.
ExecutiveBiz: With uncertain federal budgets, what’s your strategy for navigating that climate?
Gil Guarino: While headwinds are certain and may cap the size and growth of the federal budget, federal budget spending tied to our customer missions, provides ample opportunity for growth. CACI is a $3.5 billion company. We estimate that our addressable market is about $400 billion. So with less than 1 percent market share, there’s considerable room to continue on our growth slope in revenue and earnings.
Rather than worrying about the macro trends, we’ve been focused on the micro aspects of our many business segments. We’re prepared to operate with these headwinds. For our existing business, we work hard to prevent surprises, maintaining excellent communications with both economic and technical buyers, as well as the contracting community so we keep the business we have and earn the right to retain it in recompetes. Delivering results above the parity line for our current customers is priority 1 and the foundation for future growth. For new business, we look for adjacent markets where we can bring high value and innovation. We also look for customers who are not pleased with their current service and solution providers and selectively pursue takeaways. And we are constantly looking at how we can help the broader federal market customers transform their business to achieve higher levels of efficiency and effectiveness.
We plan to stay focused on our core business of defense, intelligence, homeland security and transformation of government. In each segment of the business, we’ve developed strategies that anticipate that the environment is going to be more competitive, that customers are going to have less money to spend, and that they are going to be looking to get more bang for the buck. We’re prepared and will prepare further to bring them innovation to yield those results.
Last, we continue to win customer-buying vehicles so that we have broad access to the market and task order flows. And whether you consider it good or bad, we are bidding enough work to offset the extending acquisition time frames and slower deal flow. Again, as a federally focused solutions and services provider with broad presence across the entire federal market, we are fortunate to have many business segments that have and will continue to enable CACI to grow.