It has been a few months since the divestiture of TASC from Northrop Grumman. We had the opportunity to sit down with Wood Parker, the President and CEO of TASC, to learn about some of the highlights so far and what some of the priorities of TASC are going forward. We also learned how TASC will attract new hires and some of the biggest challenges they see in the coming months. Watch the video below to hear Parker elaborate on the impact of Northrop Grumman’s sale of TASC to meet OCI federal regulations. And learn how Parker’s 20 year experience in the Navy has impacted his career here.
ExecutiveBiz: You’ve been on this job for a few months, so if you could brief our readers, what’s been going on in the last three to four months?
Parker: As you can recall, the divestiture of TASC from Northrop Grumman was done as a result of the government’s OCI concerns, and the increasingly restrictive OCI policies of the federal government. So TASC is delighted to be non conflicted, vis-à-vis OCI, we think that’s good for TASC, but that’s also good for the government in terms of competition. The government doesn’t have to worry about OCI when they’re dealing with TASC. But since the closing of the transaction in December, we have been working diligently to stand up TASC as a separate, independent company. That means we have to replace all of the services that we used to rely on Northrop Grumman for, we have to have our own ERP system, our own benefits plans, our own capabilities to run as an independent company. In addition to standing up the independent company, we’ve been reintroducing TASC to the marketplace as a separate, non conflicted company and it’s very exciting.
“In the Navy, it was all about the mission and indeed in TASC today, it is all about the mission of our customers” – Wood Parker
ExecutiveBiz: Can you tell us more about the expansion and what’s your plan to attract new hires and more government contracts over the next 12-18 months?
Parker: We held a hiring event a couple weeks ago, in which we advertised the fact that TASC was a new, independent company and that we were hiring people. We had 650 people come to that event, so the marketplace is abuzz about the new TASC and I don’t think we’re going to have any challenge in terms of inviting people to come to TASC. We’re hiring today, we’ll be hiring over the course of a year, and that hiring event just simply indicates the interest in TASC in the marketplace.
ExecutiveBiz: A lot of people will talk about TASC, the original culture before it got sold to Northrop, maybe you could talk about now, how would you describe the culture?
Parker: One thing I would say now is that there is a feeling of excitement throughout TASC. It’s an excitement because once again we are an independent company, once again we’re non-conflicted in terms of OCI, and the opportunities we have for business growth and for the career progression of our people is very strong. And so there’s an excitement throughout TASC. In a cultural sense, I would suggest that we’ve been part of Northrop Grumman for almost ten years now, and Northrop Grumman is a great company. But Northrop Grumman is a platform company, and the way they have to run that business is different from the way we need to run TASC in terms of an advisory services company. So, part of what you’re seeing in TASC is a return to a much more aggressive, much more empowered workforce, which is reflective of the advisory services nature of our business.
ExecutiveBiz: Could you talk about OCI on a broad basis, going through the whole process about what lessons you saw as an executive that could be helpful for future companies going through that challenge of what piece of their business to sell, that whole process?
Parker: Well, every business is different, but in the grand scheme of things, the government concerns about real or perceived organizational conflicts of interest refer to the conflict, or potential conflict, between a company providing advisory services to the government–in terms of new programs, an acquisition initiative, and future competitions that the government will hold providing advisory services—and those platform companies or the development companies who want to bid on those opportunities. So, from the government perspective, it does not want a company performing the advisory services work and, at the same time, being interested in bidding on the actual building or production or development work. Every company is different, but with respect to TASC and Northrop Grumman, we did so much of the advisory services work, and Northrop Grumman is involved in ship building, building airplanes, spacecraft, etc. The potential for perceived conflicts of interest just about covered our entire business, which made the divesture a no- brainer from both the Northrop Grumman and TASC perspectives. Other companies may not have as clean or as distinctive aspect between the advisory services and the production as TASC does today, and those companies are going to have a challenge of figuring out how they will respond to the government’s more restrictive OCI policies.
ExecutiveBiz: How important is the potential future acquisitions part of your strategy?
Parker: Well, acquisitions have been part of the TASC strategy for years. We had an acquisition just two years ago (3001, International), as I recall, and it will continue to be an element of our strategy going forward. Our new partners view TASC as a platform for growth and an important dimension for that growth will be not only organic growth, as we’ve demonstrated for years, but also acquisitions for specific capabilities or perhaps access to new customers.
ExecutiveBiz: You have some high profile owners, could you talk about that a little bit in terms of the ownership structure? I know a question I get a lot is who owns TASC now?
Parker: Well, it’s interesting. Northrop Grumman sold TASC to a partnership, or private equity firms lead by KKR and General Atlantic. KKR and General Atlantic are two venerable private equity firms, they’ve been around for decades, and they are very successful as a private equity ownership structure. It’s interesting to note that although KKR and General Atlantic obviously have the largest part, in terms of the investment in TASC, no single firm has a controlling interest in TASC. It’s KKR, General Atlantic, a number of other financial institutions including the management of TASC.
ExecutiveBiz: How has your twenty years experience in the Navy helped you be a leader today and changed you as a person?
Parker: Well, let me just tie my experience in the Navy to what we do here at TASC, in the following sense. In the Navy, it was all about the mission and indeed in TASC today, it is all about the mission of our customers. It’s a strong orientation to mission here in TASC and it just seems to me that my experience in the Navy applies to the emphasis on the customer missions today. In terms of how it’s affected me, my Navy experience, I had a wonderful career in the Navy. I was in the White House fellows program, I was AA to the secretary of the Navy during the Reagan build-up, I had command of a destroyer back during the Iran/Iraq War time period, and I think that those different experiences in leadership and management positions probably helped me in terms of the challenges we face today here at TASC.
ExecutiveBiz: We talked before in the pre-interview about some of the rumors about TASC. What are people are telling you on the street that you want to respond to?
Parker: First of all, I would say one thing that is really exciting for me is the tremendous positive reaction on the part of the customer community to the fact that TASC is non-conflicted and that we’re a stand-alone company. I’ve really been struck by how our customers have embraced this decision. I think there are always rumors in the marketplace, perhaps started by competitors or otherwise, but now that we’re no longer part of Northrop Grumman, the rumor apparently out there is that we don’t have access to the same skill level. Of course that simply isn’t true. Remember, TASC was always a separate legal entity, even when we were part of Northrop Grumman, we were operated independently. There has been no change to the capabilities or make-up of TASC and there’s been no diminution of the capabilities that we can bring to our customers and to the marketplace.