With anticipated Iraq drawdown, KBR’s Bill Bodie finetunes defense contracting course

With anticipated Iraq drawdown, KBR's Bill Bodie finetunes defense contracting course - top government contractors - best government contracting event
Bill Bodie

william-c-bodieDefense contractors are seeing change on a variety of fronts. Topping the list is a shift from combat support in the Middle East to longer-term sustainment solutions. That’s no easy task given the current slew of challenges: an increase in oversight and fixed price competitions, plus a decrease in smaller contract values. For an inside look at how one defense contractor is shaping its military footprint to stay relevant, ExecutiveBiz recently spoke with Bill Bodie, interim president of Government and Infrastructure for KBR. The company saw $7 billion in government-related revenue in 2008, and expects to bring in approximately $6 billion this year.

“Clearly we will be less dependant on the work scope in Iraq if, as we expect, the current plan for a responsible drawdown occurs.” “” Bill Bodie, KBR

ExecutiveBiz: What's your principal market?

Bill Bodie: We principally serve the U.S Army, with the bulk of our folks serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and surrounding countries in the Middle East. We work for the U.S. State Department and the Department of Homeland Security as well. We perform similar service support for the UK Ministry of Defense and the Australian Government Department of Defense, both of which have forces deployed overseas.

ExecutiveBiz: What's something most people don't know about KBR?

Bill Bodie: KBR does more than provide food and life support services for deployed soldiers in the field. We provide a whole series of engineering, logistics, and construction expertise to federal agencies and the military both in the United States and around the world.  For example, much of the infrastructure associated with U.S. Air Force operations in Iraq and Afghanistan ““ runways, taxiways, and hangars ““ were built by KBR. We also manage base operations for the Air Force in Turkey, under a joint venture with Northrop Grumman.

ExecutiveBiz: Where do you see your business unit in the next few years?

Bill Bodie: Clearly we will be less dependant on the work scope in Iraq if, as we expect, the current plan for a responsible drawdown occurs and most of the troops are out by the 2010-2012 timeframe. By then, you'll see a more diverse organization. We're still going to be very committed to the federal government, the national security world in particular, but we will have a much broader presence on the continental United States in a variety of engineering and logistic support activities as well as in working for other military and international customers overseas. KBR has also learned a lot about supply-chain management, deployable construction, and self-performing work overseas that can now be applied to the needs of the U.S. Army back home in base operation support.

ExecutiveBiz: The other day, the top US military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. McChrystal, requested more forces. How, if at all, are you preparing for the outcome of that request?

Bill Bodie: We'll be ready to provide construction and life support services, as we do today, under any adjustment to force levels. We're also prepared to conduct refurbishment and relocation operations for people and equipment. In fact, we're restructuring our business unit into a very focused, US-government-centric enterprise within a broader business group to address the US customers across the mission spectrum.

ExecutiveBiz: What projects are you currently competing for?

Bill Bodie: We currently have over 300 proposals outstanding, ranging from relatively small engineering studies to a number of base operations support opportunities for U.S. forces in Kuwait, Turkey, and Spain. Outside the defense arena, we are bidding on the National Science Foundation's project to provide logistics the international scientific facilities down in Antarctica, which is almost like LogCap [a logistics augmentation contract that KBR won for the U.S. Army] on ice. Antarctica is not a hostile environment, at least in terms of people shooting at you, but it is very remote, very austere, and the actual work requirement is to ensure that scientists down there are taken care of just as soldiers are taken care of. We expect that project to be awarded some time in the second half of 2010.

ExecutiveBiz: What's something most people do know about you personally?

Bill Bodie: About me, personally? Well, my friends like to call me a “renaissance man,“ while others prefer “dilettante.“ I've had a varied professional background, having served in government, academic, think-tank, and other policy-related positions through the years, as well as on a series of corporations on both the systems and services areas. I've worked marketing and communications issues along with current line management responsibilities, and I've also published quite a bit on international relations. So I've been a jack of a few trades, trying to master as many as I can.

ExecutiveBiz: Finally, can you leave us with your overall assessment of where the defense contracting community is headed?

Bill Bodie: It’s a tough, competitive environment for federal contractors, with extensive scrutiny by various oversight bodies and demanding customers. That is fine by us at KBR, because we've been able to deliver value to government customers for many years in spite of the challenges. The U.S. defense budget will come under increased pressure in the next few years, although there will always be a need for support to deployed troops. Our national commitment to current overseas contingencies is not going to waver, so there will be continued out-sourcing opportunities for those suppliers who can offer a compelling value proposition to the government.  That's just what we're focused on at KBR, now and into the next decade.

Do you agree with Bodie on defense contracting’s direction? Share your comments here.

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