With shifting defense priorities underway, many military contractors face a pressing challenge: continuing to diversify business over time. In the case of DynCorp International, it’s a challenge the Falls Church, Va.-based PMC and aircraft maintenance company is meeting head-on. Recently ExecutiveBiz caught up with Ballhaus, who fills us in on what he’s doing to make sure DynCorp stays in the “sweet spot” of the nation’s foreign policy objectives.
ExecutiveBiz: It’s been about a year since you became CEO, how’s it going?
Bill Ballhaus: It’s been an exciting year. Having gone public in 2006, DynCorp International is in many respects a young company. Over the last year, we’ve seen tremendous organic growth. Looking forward, I think that DynCorp is right in the sweet spot of the market and on center stage with respect to our nation’s priorities, particularly its foreign policy objectives.
ExecutiveBiz: The company recently announced reorganization, tell us about that.
Bill Ballhaus: We’ve aligned the company to focus on two primary markets: platform support, and stabilization and development. On the platform support side, we’re focused on the strong demand for platform reset … reset of equipment coming out of Iraq, full life-cycle support to both aviation assets and land systems and, over time, supporting platform service life extensions. In the midst of today’s pressures on the defense budget, those capabilities and services are increasingly relevant.
“Working in the defense industry is something that I’ve done since I was 19 years old. To think of doing anything different is just beyond comprehension.” — Bill Ballhaus
ExecutiveBiz: On the stabilization and development front, what relevance are you seeing?
Bill Ballhaus: There has been a lot of discussion recently about the three Ds: defense, diplomacy, and development. Going forward, I believe that DynCorp International is uniquely positioned with the Department of Defense and the State Department to play a major role in this administration’s focus on smart power.
ExecutiveBiz: What’s your biggest challenge in business today?
Bill Ballhaus: Continuing to diversify our business over time. This is not a “this year” challenge — we’ve seen tremendous growth, particularly in our support work to post-conflict operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example. The challenge is more over the next two to three years.
ExecutiveBiz: How is DynCorp staying ahead of the economic downturn?
Bill Ballhaus: Over the last year, we’ve doubled our liquidity. As a result, while our growth performance historically has largely been organic, we’ll be looking over the next year or two to add acquisitions to our future growth profile. We’ll specifically be looking at acquisitions as a way to address the strategic challenge of diversification.
ExecutiveBiz: Tell us about your current work in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Bill Ballhaus: In Iraq, we’re focused on post-conflict stabilization and development … training the police force, mentoring and advising the ministries of defense and the interior, and supporting the platforms in the country. Over time, we expect to get involved with the reset of equipment and the repositioning of personnel tied to the draw down of U.S. combat forces. We’re also providing linguists and translators in support of operations in Iraq. In Afghanistan, we’re providing maintenance and training in country. We’re training the police. We’re building base camps to house Afghan security forces throughout the country, most notably along the border with Pakistan.
ExecutiveBiz: How has your background at BAE Systems helped you succeed as a CEO?
Bill Ballhaus: At BAE, I learned what it takes to grow a business. During my time there, the company grew from $4 to $17 billion in the United States. I have brought that perspective to DynCorp. My goal is to see the company continue on its journey from a $3 billion-plus business to becoming the leading global government services provider in support of US national security and foreign policy objectives.
ExecutiveBiz: If you had the opportunity to jump into any other job, what would it be?
Bill Ballhaus: There isn’t another industry that I could ever see myself working in. Working in the defense industry is something that I’ve done since I was 19 years old. It’s part of my personal DNA. To think of doing anything different is just beyond comprehension.
ExecutiveBiz: Speaking of DNA … your grandfather and father were both CEOs in the aerospace and defense industry. What leadership lessons did they impart?
Bill Ballhaus: Having a grandfather and a father who were both leaders in this industry helped me solidify my own leadership principles. First and foremost, they taught me it isn’t just about dollars and cents. When you come to work every day, you have to have absolute conviction. The work has to be meaningful. You need a broader purpose. They also impressed upon me the importance of vision and the fact that most companies are limited by the vision they put in place. They taught me to work hard — and smart — and, finally, to always do the right thing no matter what.
ExecutiveBiz: What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Bill Ballhaus: Never before have I worked at a company that had such a dramatic impact as DynCorp International does serving shoulder to shoulder with our customers. That’s why I come to work every day. That’s what gets me out of bed early in the morning.