David Helfgott serves as president and CEO of Inmarsat Government and is responsible for the overall strategy and direction for the wholly-owned subsidiary of Inmarsat. Inmarsat Government is a provider of secure mission-critical communications to the U.S. government market.
As a veteran in the satellite communications and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) technology sector, Helfgott previously served in leadership roles at DataPath and SES Americom Government Services. Additionally, he served as president of Cobham‘s wireless ISR technology unit.
Helfgott recently caught up with ExecutiveBiz to discuss the role of C4ISR in the U.S. government market. He highlighted new offerings in Inmarsat Government’s growth plan, how the company is preparing for the potential effects of sequestration, how he is leveraging his previous experience to adapt to a competitive marketplace, and much more.
Here is an excerpt of that conversation.
ExecutiveBiz: How does your current position as president and CEO of Inmarsat Government differ from your previous president and CEO roles? How has that previous experience helped you prepare for your current responsibilities and the challenges presented by the current market environment?
David Helfgott: Inmarsat Government was established to provide a single point of contact for the U.S. government, both military and civilian, where customers can access various satellite, terrestrial and professional services that we provide to the market. My leadership experience in U.S. government contracting and telecommunications helped me to quickly get up to speed for this new role, which I started about five months ago.
In my previous roles, I headed up Americom Government Services, Inc., a subsidiary of SES Global, S.A. from 2001 to 2006 during the Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. We supplied leased FSS bandwidth and network solutions to the U.S. military and other government agencies. That was a very valuable learning experience as it taught me a lot about the fine points of the U.S. government contracting process and strategy.
Following that, I headed up DataPath, Inc., whose offering was at the other end of the value chain: as opposed to providing the networks and the bandwidth, the focus rested on the equipment, communications gear, software and field engineering. Over three years, we built most of the Joint Network Node (JNN) program, which is now a part of the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) program. While we served similar programs and users, the experience provided me with the opportunity to learn a lot on the manufacturing and integration side of business.
This diverse experience prepared me well for my current leadership role at Inmarsat Government. The company was created as a combination of three legacy Inmarsat government-related businesses: Segovia, Inc., well known for its fixed satellite service-based MPLS managed network services and a global, secure satellite and terrestrial IP network; Stratos Government Services, Inc. (SGSI), which was focused on the mobile satellite services and managed service business; and Inmarsat Government Services, Inc. (IGSI), which served as the business development arm for Inmarsat in Washington, D.C.
As a consolidated organization, Inmarsat Government operates as a separate entity, defined by a Proxy Agreement and supports U.S. defense and civilian agencies and programs providing Quality of Service-based capability globally.
We provide a unique portfolio of mission-critical communication services that includes the full offering of Inmarsat maritime, land mobile and aeronautical services; fixed satellite services; secure fiber networks and value added services, such as engineering, equipment and consulting services. This robust portfolio gets us ready for what comes next, Global Xpress—high-capacity Ka-band broadband network, designed as a system to enable global mobility. It will represent a fundamental shift in the kinds of services and bandwidth that will be available to users anywhere in the world in fixed and mobile use-cases. To deliver this service, Inmarsat is investing $1.2 billion in infrastructure, including three new Inmarsat-5 satellites constructed by Boeing. Inmarsat Government will offer this new Ka-band platform as a cost-effective, secure managed service that will support global broadband connections at speeds comparable with terrestrial networks.
ExecutiveBiz: Now that everything has been aligned and you’ve been at the company for five months, what are your top priorities moving forward? And how have you been working with your leadership team and organizational structures since you have taken the lead role, to ensure those priorities come to the forefront?
Helfgott: Anytime I’ve come into a new role, my primary focus has been to make sure I have the right team and understand the state of the business. I’ve been very lucky in that I inherited a great team of focused and dedicated professionals.
I’ve been able to come up to speed pretty quickly on the market side given my prior experience. And job number one for me has been to understand the product side and get to know our customers. The process of setting the organization’s long-term business vision, expanding its product line and positioning its brand in the marketplace –those are my ongoing priorities.
ExecutiveBiz: You said you are putting emphasis on the product side. What particular products and services are you most excited about? Which products are you stressing as the most important in this five-year plan?
Helfgott: I see our portfolio in four major product and service categories. The first one is in our Mobile Satellite Services suite of capabilities that includes Inmarsat L-band services such as BGAN, Fleet Broadband, Swift Broadband, BGAN-Link, BGAN M2M, Swift 64, satellite phones and other mobile satellite services.
The second category is our fixed satellite services, IP-based MPLS backbone, hybrid network solutions and end-to-end managed network services. These cost-effective solutions are right on target with our customers’ needs: as more pressure builds on federal budgets, the need to move to more cost-and bandwidth-efficient networks becomes essential. Inmarsat Government has the infrastructure and expertise in place to provide that type of service today. We really have an advantage there, and we are seeing more and more demand for that capability.
We have moved very aggressively in the last several years into what I call “value added services”, which represent the third category of our portfolio. This includes field service engineering, consulting, communication products such as satellite terminals, C4ISR equipment as well as logistics planning and other types of communications services.
The last category is one that I am most excited about: Global Xpress. This is a game-changing Ka-band capability that represents an extension and expansion of what we have done so well with our Inmarsat 3 and 4 L-band services in terms of global mobility, security and managed services. Because of the enhanced capabilities in the spot beams, we are able to provide high levels of flexibility and high bandwidth portability–functions that are absolutely critical to enabling military units to operate in remote locations throughout the world.
Global Xpress is designed from bottom up to augment existing milsatcom capacity such as the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) capability to support the operational requirements of these users. When you are built to be global, you can act locally; and when you’re built to be mobile, you can act in a fixed way. But, you can’t do it the other way around. That’s why Global Xpress will redefine fixed and mobile satellite services. This broad portfolio of capabilities, with Global Xpress at the top, puts Inmarsat Government in a very unique place moving forward.
ExecutiveBiz: What customers in the U.S. government will benefit most from both value added services and Global Xpress?
Helfgott: Inmarsat Government serves both U.S. military and civil government agencies. The Department of Defense (DoD) is the largest user of telecommunications and satellite-based services, but we also serve the Department of State, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, both directly and through our partners.
I’m excited about the way our products and services are positioned in the U.S. government market. Our portfolio fully supports the U.S. government current and future requirements that are driven by network-centric operations, greater use of expeditionary forces around the world, and the use of applications that demand higher data rates and on-the-move and on-the-pause types of mobile communications.
This is often true in the defense sector, where Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) platforms drive the need for greater bandwidth, mobility and agility to communicate anywhere. We find the combination of our capabilities very well suited to meet those demands.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you see the recent U.S. government budget environment affecting Inmarsat Government and other providers of mission-critical communications?
Helfgott: We are all observing with great interest the U.S. government budgeting process for 2013, 2014 and 2015. We are keenly watching sequestration and what will actually happen. There has been no material change in demand for our type of solutions, largely because we are well positioned as a provider of operational command & control type of solutions versus large-platforms/programs that may be more at risk at this point. We are paying very close attention to these trends. We are working with our U.S. government customers to help them save precious budget dollars by providing them with more efficient mission-critical communication solutions.
ExecutiveBiz: Are you looking to invest or move into any adjacent markets to capture opportunities that once your traditional market segments feel a little bit more strained?
Helfgott: The short answer is yes. We are always looking to move into adjacent markets. The trick with adjacent markets is that you have to understand first and foremost what your core is. You have to know where your strengths and differentiators are and how they match to the specific needs of your target markets.
We are focusing on servicing customers who require mobility and agility to communicate anywhere. We provide them with capabilities that we do well—a full suite of satellite-based capability across multiple platforms, delivered end-to-end.
ExecutiveBiz: We have spoken a lot about moving forward, and it seems as though you have a lot of very exciting things coming together. Is there anything in particular you are excited for what’s to come?
Helfgott: The U.S. government market is inherently interesting and exciting. I’m very enthusiastic to be positioned the way we are in this market, with offerings that match our customers’ needs now and in the future. I’m inspired with our new, innovative products such as Global Xpress, which is being designed to be the best solution for worldwide mobile users that require high throughput, flexibility and affordability.
I am optimistic about our company’s future: Inmarsat Government has positioned itself in a really unique place in terms of serving the U.S. government market today, and we plan to expand on that as we move into the future.