Three years ago, having wrapped up service with the Department of Defense, Steve Cambone set out to find a company whose breadth of experience in national security matched his own. He found it at QinetiQ North America. Since joining the McLean, Va.-based provider of systems engineering, IT solutions, and technology development in 2007, Cambone has gone from serving as executive vice president for strategic development to his current role as
president and COO of the company’s Missions Solution Group. Since assuming the latter role in mid-April, Cambone has been focusing on a top priority: helping customers in intelligence, NASA, the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security, other Federal agencies, and the commercial sector adapt to ever-changing missions and tightening budgets. Recently, Cambone offered ExecutiveBiz a status report on his new role and the top initiatives ahead.
ExecutiveBiz: What new initiatives are you leading as president of Missions Solution Group?
Steve Cambone: We’re in the early stages of putting two centers in place, both of them virtual. One will offer a cyber mission assurance capability for commercial and government clients. It will allow a network operator to anticipate threats like malware, spyware, etc., in a manner that still allows them to continue to achieve their mission. Second, we’re creating a software development center. We believe future markets will be highly dependent on software-enabled, software-driven, and software-based capabilities. Those capabilities will enable everything from operating robots–something QinetiQ North America offers from our Boston facility, by the way—to the missions we support for our customers in the General Services Administration.
ExecutiveBiz: Where, if at all, does cloud computing fit into future initiatives?
Steve Cambone: We are in the early stages of preparing an offering designed to assist network operators’ move from the current network model to a cloud computing model, taking into account the mission needs of their organization while at the same time identifying and addressing potential problems before they have to confront them in the form of a failure.
ExecutiveBiz: Any initiatives underway to take advantage of the explosion in wireless environments like web 2.0, 3G, and 4G?
Steve Cambone: Yes, and we’re doing so with the belief that everyone from first responders to telecommuters will want to find ways to quickly — and, as the circumstances warrant, securely — communicate through that environment in order to go about their daily lives. We are persuaded that the government will need to provide a way for people to work inside the government that is not terribly different from the way they live their everyday lives: the government is going to have to adjust to a changing demographic that takes continuous connectivity for granted. We would like to help in that transition.
ExecutiveBiz: Where specifically are you looking to expand your reach?
Steve Cambone: QinetiQ North America, as a whole, has not had a long relationship with the U.S. Air Force. So we hope to adapt more of our capabilities to Air Force missions, and to develop the kind of relationship with them we have with our other customers. We also have a growing interest in expanding our presence in the non-security sector. We recently won contract awards, for example, with the Department of Agriculture, the U.S. General Services Administration, and the Department of the Treasury. We think those are important parts of the government to be operating in.
ExecutiveBiz: What’s your biggest challenge in your new role?
Steve Cambone: Unquestionably, recruiting and retaining high quality people. Our NASA work is associated with the launch of unmanned vehicles and the satellites that go on them. Our intelligence work is for those in the intelligence community with pressing missions. Our homeland security work is for folks on the front lines protecting borders. All of these endeavors require highly qualified people who are knowledgeable of our customers’ needs and are willing to do whatever is necessary to help them succeed.
ExecutiveBiz: What specific steps are you taking to ensure you continue to successfully recruit — and retain — this top talent?
Steve Cambone: Obviously I don’t want to give away any of our secrets, but I think you find that top talent is motivated by some fairly simple things. They want, above all, to have interesting, challenging, and important work. These are people who bring a high level of commitment to the mission they serve, and it’s important to them to know that they’re joining a culture that gets commitment to mission, and that serves important missions. The opportunity to work for that kind of company naturally attracts people to us. I think they’re also attracted by success—they want to join a company that knows how to succeed, that’s profitable and growing. And that too brings them to us.
ExecutiveBiz: What future acquisitions, if any, is Mission Solutions Group eying?
Steve Cambone: Last year, we acquired a company, DTRI, which gave us a footprint in the intelligence community. QinetiQ North America has since been looking to add to that capability. Our recent acquisition of Cyveillance affords us the ability to operate across the entire internet … for the purpose of providing cyber awareness to both commercial users and, we hope, to government customers as well.
ExecutiveBiz: How can civil liberties be properly balanced against national security interests?
Steve Cambone: There is a real and understandable interest in the public at large, myself included, that privacy be protected. We are going to have to be — and we are — very vigilant to ensure that that we do protect it. We have been at pains to ensure that the work Cyveillance does, for example, continues to be essentially overt. We achieve cyber awareness in a way that, from the point of view of protecting privacy, doesn’t differ fundamentally from collecting open source information from newspapers, published papers, academic events, and things of that sort. In other words, the information Cyveillance gathers is information in the public domain.
ExecutiveBiz: What will your business unit look like in two years?
Steve Cambone: We aim to be significantly larger. I also think we will have a somewhat different mix of business as a consequence of the changes taking place in the marketplace. So, in addition to having a base of stable and long term engineering contracts, we’ll also be trying to be highly responsive to the needs not just of the Defense Department, but across the government, offering the solutions that satisfy the desire to meet schedule and performance objectives in light of increasing budget pressures.
Interview conducted by JD Kathuria.