This is the year of aggressive competition. Tightening federal budgets, plus the insourcing push, are proving as much. But while many say government contracting is entering a lean, mean next couple years, there’s still plenty of market opportunity. The trick is knowing who’s changing the game — and setting the terms — so you can seize those opportunities.
For the third year in a row, ExecutiveBiz brings you our annual list of Beltway Game Changers to Watch. They come from both sides of the aisle: government and industry. Some are setting the terms of engagement. Others are navigating that shifting landscape to uncover new market areas. All are leaving their mark. Check out our list below, and see why they’re proving to be 2010’s Beltway Game Changers to Watch.
1.) GAME CHANGER: Martha Johnson, GSA Administrator
WHAT SHE’S CHANGING: GSA’s image as “mere acquisition organization” into a heavy-hitting “change agent”
Ready, set, go for a new day at GSA. That’s Martha Johnson’s message as administrator of the independent agency — the “landlord to the federal government,” which provides goods, services, and building space to other federal agencies. “The old GSA was always positioning itself as an acquisition organization, but we’re so much more,” says Johnson.
Since her recent, and by many accounts, belated, Senate confirmation, Johnson’s been making up for lost time, re-imagining GSA as a “change agent” — no small task given the agency went without a permanent GSA administrator for two years. “GSA’s mission is to use expertise to provide innovative solutions for our customers in support of their missions and, by so doing, foster an effective, sustainable, and transparent government for the American people,” she said at the recent IRMCO conference.
That mission is backed by three areas of focus, oft-cited by Johnson: openness and transparency; sustainability; and customer intimacy. Current initiatives include streamlining government’s energy use through data-center consolidation; shifting to collective intelligence via greater focus on social-media tools and cloud technologies; and hammering out a new set of metrics that go beyond “measuring the pennies if you don’t have the dollars under control,” she says.
WHAT’S NEXT: Under Johnson’s watch, GSA will be undergoing a thorough review of whether it’s meeting its mission. Senior GSA officials will convene offsite to assess the current agency environment and determine what new metrics “will take us forward,” as Johnson puts it. To see how those efforts go, and hear Johnson first-hand, check out her upcoming talk.
2.) GAME CHANGER: Robert Stevens, CEO, Lockheed Martin
WHAT HE’S CHANGING: Defense industry’s response to global challenges, part of a “complete paradigm shift” by defense contractors
Well before Defense Secretary Robert Gates outlined “smart power” as an emerging tenet in security policy, Lockheed Martin CEO Robert Stevens was already on the case. About five years ago, after Stevens became chief executive, he began to focus the defense contracting giant on development and post-conflict work. A longtime industry veteran, Stevens saw the move as a necessary step amid shifting geopolitical winds. “When I started out in the business, more than 30 years ago, we probably then thought more in terms of military capability for the U.S.,” said Stevens, recently. Now, he adds, national security is defined “well beyond making provisions to apply military power.”
Stevens has been expanding Lockheed Martin’s focus on smart power ever since, often ahead of other defense players. In 2006, Lockheed Martin acquired Pacific Architects and Engineers Inc., noted for its development work in Africa for the U.N. That acquisition proved strategic: Today, Africa is a major focus for the U.S. government, which sees many troubled countries on the continent as potential breeding grounds for al Qaida and other terrorist groups. Lockheed’s own work includes training and equipping the Armed Forces of Liberia. Now, in its continuing focus on smart power, Lockheed Martin is reportedly one of several defense companies expected to bid on a State Department contract to support “criminal justice sector development programs worldwide” — worth up to $30 billion, over five years, reports the Wall Street Journal.
WHAT’S NEXT: Will smart power prove a financial boon for industry — and lasting force in global security? While some hail Lockheed’s focus as a “complete paradigm shift,” defense analyst Loren Thompson, voices caution. “Smart power is a nebulous concept that may prove perishable in the marketplace,” he tells ExecutiveBiz. “I think smart power should be viewed as one of many business-development initiatives that Lockheed Martin is pursuing, and not necessarily a central feature of the future enterprise.” Stay tuned.
3.) GAME CHANGER: Dan Gordon, OFPP Administrator
WHAT HE’S CHANGING: The definition of “inherently governmental” — and the relationship between government and contractors
Years of ambiguity are coming to an end, and Dan Gordon is making it happen. For years, industry and government alike relied on varying definitions of inherently governmental: Some agencies got their cue from the Federal Acquisition Regulation, others from the Office of Management and Budget’s Circular A-76. No longer. As administrator for OMB’s Office of Federal Procurement Policy, Gordon recently hammered out a single definition of “inherently governmental,” based upon the Federal Activities Inventory Reform (FAIR) Act.
“The FAIR Act defines an activity as inherently governmental when it is so intimately related to the public interest as to mandate performance by federal government employees,” stated Gordon’s office, in a March 31 memo offering draft guidance.
The move adds momentum to the insourcing wave, which began this past year when OMB Director Peter Orszag issued a memo ordering agencies to insource inherently governmental work. Picking up on that theme, Gordon’s memo directs agencies to avoid over-dependence on contractors for work that falls under “critical functions” or that’s “closely associated with inherently governmental” work. But, ay, there’s the rub. While OFPP’s letter clearly delineates 20 positions as inherently governmental — including budget analysts and criminal investigators — it still leaves unanswered the extent to which contractors should be barred from doing “closely associated” functions.
WHAT’S NEXT: OMB officials are inviting public comment on “closely associated” functions; those comments must be submitted by June 1 (Details here.) Under Gordon’s watch, the guidance is then slated to be finalized by late summer or early fall 2010.
4.) GAME CHANGER: Jeff Zients
WHAT HE’S CHANGING: The nature of public participation in the workings of government
Agencies have a lot of work to do to meet the standards of the White House’s Open Government Initiative, and the point man on that project is Jeff Zients. Open Government has been a long time coming. “For too long, Washington has closed itself off from the oversight of the American public, resulting in information that’s difficult to find, taxpayer dollars that disappear without a trace, and lobbyists that wield undue influence,” said President Barack Obama.
Those plans, which President Obama outlined his first day in office, call on all Cabinet agencies to make “transparency, citizen participation, and collaboration part of the way they work.” Agencies, in turn, recently answered that directive. Examples include: Department of Veterans Affairs Innovation Initiative, Department of Health and Human Services’ Community Health Data Initiative, Department of Energy’s Open Energy Information Initiative, the Department of Homeland Security’s Virtual USA program, and Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Homelessness Prevention Resources Initiative. Each information-sharing initiative, delivered via Internet-based technologies, aims to promote transparency, and fresh ideas, in government.
WHAT’S NEXT: “Now that these plans are published online, we hope the American people will play their part and collaborate with us to provide oversight and improve upon this information,” says President Obama. The administration has directed each agency to solicit public feedback on its plans. Like here. Here. And here.
5.) GAME CHANGER: Howard Schmidt, White House Cyber Coordinator
WHAT HE’S CHANGING: Degree of focus currently placed on cybersecurity education, information sharing, and defense systems
After what appeared like an eternity, Howard Schmidt was named White House cybersecurity coordinator in December 2009. Since then, Schmidt has been busy articulating a national cybersecurity vision based upon three goals: education, information sharing, and better defense systems. He’s also maintained a judicious take on the current threat level facing critical IT infrastructure, most of which private business controls. While some are sounding the alarm of a looming “cybergeddeon,” Schmidt says the federal government and private business alike are “much better prepared than in the past” for a massive cyber intrusion or attack.
That doesn’t mean Schmidt sees an entirely rosy forecast. Assessing federal agencies’ cyber preparedness, Schmidt, a former eBay and Microsoft executive who’s also held cybersecurity positions within the Air Force, FBI, and Bush administration, says federal agencies still come up short in protecting U.S. networks — shorter, he adds, than the private sector. A key culprit: lack of capabilities to detect breaches. Schmidt recently said the White House is calling for stronger math and science training at U.S. public schools. On the transparency front, Schmidt announced the Obama administration was partially declassifying the 2008 Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI). Plus, Schmidt is offering this singular reminder: Private sector companies must remain vigilant in protecting their own networks.
WHAT’S NEXT: “Howard [Schmidt] has one of the toughest jobs in government but he’s got the skills and experience to pull it off,” says Jim Lewis of the Center for Security and International Studies. “Cybersecurity,” he adds, “is now on the national agenda and we’ll see real improvement over the next couple of years.”
6.) GAME CHANGER: Bill Ballhaus, CEO, DynCorp
WHAT HE’S CHANGING: Awareness of the role private equity is playing in re-energizing government contracting industry
Two years ago, in May, Bill Ballhaus took over as chief executive of DynCorp International, a leading global services provider that supports U.S. national security and foreign policy goals. “A guy like Bill is somebody who could be with the company for 20 years, who could build us into a world-class operation,” said DynCorp Chairman Robert McKeon at the time. Ballhaus has been moving DynCorp in that direction ever since, expanding business through contracts that offer professional and technical services abroad, in areas such as drug eradication, law enforcement training, and security. Now comes another slated milestone: The company has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by private investment firm Cerberus Capital Management.
The deal speaks to a broader shift underway in government contracting: the increasing role that private equity is asserting in the marketplace. In 2009, TASC was acquired by two private equity firms, KKR and General Atlantic; in 2008, Booz Allen & Company by the Carlyle Group. Meanwhile, Schafer Corporation was backed by Metalmark Capital in December 2008, and is an active acquirer. Now enter Cerberus, which offered $1.5 billion for DynCorp — the largest deal the firm has struck since its unsuccessful bid on Chrysler. Shares of DynCorp jumped 47.15 percent within days of the announcement.
WHAT’S NEXT: Based upon a “go-shop” provision, DynCorp has 28 days total to find an offer that exceeds its agreement with Cerberus. But it looks like both parties are settling into the current terms just fine. Surveying DynCorp’s 60-year history, Ballhaus — himself a third generation aerospace executive — states: “This transaction is a major milestone for DynCorp International’s continued leadership in serving our customers and supporting U.S. national security and foreign policy objectives.”
7.) GAME CHANGER: Robin Lineberger, CEO, Deloitte Federal Government Services
WHAT HE’S CHANGING: The competitive landscape among federal management consultants and systems integrators
The boom years may be over for federal contractors. But don’t tell that to Robin Lineberger. It was a year ago, in May, that the business unit he was leading was acquired by Deloitte. Tough market forces or not, Lineberger and his team have been on an upward swing ever since. As CEO of Deloitte Federal Government Services (and principal of Deloitte Consulting LLP), Lineberger has overseen an impressive year of growth that includes: 400 new staff; an integrated, consolidated federal headquarters in Rosslyn, Va., which Lineberger’s team negotiated, leased, built out, and moved into within six months of the acquisition; and 100 percent acceptance from clients when transferring their work from BearingPoint (previous company) to Deloitte.
Most impressively, Lineberger’s unit has achieved three times the market growth — yes, you read right — since the acquisition, snagging significant new contracts with federal agencies including Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Looking back on a successful year, Lineberger says: “The acquisition marked an aggressive expansion into the U.S. federal space, which changed the competitive landscape among the federal management consultants and systems integrators.” Changed, for sure. And definitely more competitive. A lot more.
WHAT’S NEXT: Insourcing, coupled with budget and deficit pressures, will spell more competition among federal contractors through 2011. Lineberger is gearing up for the challenge, as he told us recently: “[Our goal is] to become the premier professional services firm to the federal government. We’re now able to pursue the biggest business challenges that clients are facing across government. And we now have the scale to operate; size is no longer a challenge.”
8.) GAME CHANGER: Paul Cofoni, CEO, CACI
WHAT HE’S CHANGING: The level of focus placed on national security — an area Cofoni says is seeing “geographically dispersed, unpredictable asymmetric threats”
Well over a year ago, when a change in administration was underway, many industry experts were predicting that non-defense government spending would grow faster than defense spending. CACI CEO Paul Cofoni heard that prognosis, and he wasn’t exactly moved by it. Then and now, he has maintained a singular focus on national security. For good reason. “The threats to our national security are greater than ever,” said Cofoni recently, citing the attempted bombing of an international flight to Detroit, the Fort Hood shootings, as well as the suicide bombing of a CIA base in Afghanistan. These attacks, says Cofoni, are “geographically dispersed, and unpredictable asymmetric threats.” They also include, he adds, increasing cyber attacks, such as the one on Google and 34 other U.S. companies.
In the midst of that sobering reality, Cofoni has continued to focus CACI’s resources on helping government customers preserve, what he calls, “the freedom and liberty of our nation’s citizens.” That focus has translated into solid growth in the company’s core competencies — the strongest increase being in its C4ISR integration services. Growth in this area includes the company’s continuing support for tactical warfare — specifically, information collection, analysis, and presentation that protects U.S. forces and helps pinpoint future threats.
WHAT’S NEXT: Along with CACI’s C4ISR integration services, the company is making strong headway into cybersecurity. “We are working with our clients to integrate cyber capabilities into their business processes, including supply chain security, threat identification, and network access control,” says Cofoni, who has positioned the company’s Cyber Attack Mitigation and Exploitation Lab, known as CAMEL, to meet the need.
9.) GAME CHANGER: George Pedersen, CEO and Co-Founder, ManTech
WHAT HE’S CHANGING: Strategies for navigating organizational conflict of interest, plus expectations of longevity among executive ranks
Among the more remarkable aspects of George Pedersen’s leadership, perhaps none is more noteworthy than this: He’s still going strong. Yes, more than 42 years after he first started ManTech International, Pedersen is still directing the course of what, today, has become a leading defense and intelligence contractor. That kind of longevity is nearly unprecedented in this industry — in any industry. As one industry analyst put it a few years ago: “It’s pretty unusual for a company in this industry to become a billion-dollar company with the same CEO at the helm, much less the founder of the company.”
That’s exactly what Pedersen has done, just as he’s helped the Fairfax-based company achieve new levels of growth since it went public in February 2002. That growth has continued, unabated, into 2010 — a tumultuous year if ever there was one for government contractors. Yet, while many contractors wrestled with issues such as organizational conflict of interest, Pedersen and his management team have found new market opportunity. As The Washington Post reports, government agencies are looking for companies unmired in OCI issues to conduct testing and systems engineering. That’s where ManTech comes in. Among its contract wins is a $286 million contract with the Army Electronic Proving Ground to support testing.
WHAT’S NEXT: Since the start of the year, ManTech has added about 1,000 new employees — much of that growth, as reported by The Washington Post, related to testing and evaluation, and systems engineering work. That, and ManTech’s acquisition earlier this year of Sensor Technologies, suggests the company will continue its grow through 2010. Where will we see Pedersen along the way? One thing’s certain, as he stated in 2006: “In time, I may give up the CEO title, but I will remain chairman of the board until the day I die.” So far, though, doesn’t look like Pedersen’s going anywhere, anytime soon.
10.) GAME CHANGER: Lt. General Keith Alexander, Nominee, U.S. Cyber Command
WHAT HE’S CHANGING: the depth of understanding, and treatment of, legal and policy issues related to the military’s role in protecting cyberspace
His confirmation isn’t official yet. But, by all accounts, NSA Director, Lt. General Keith Alexander, is on his way to becoming head of U.S. Cyber Command. Back in June 2009, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the Pentagon’s intent to create the command, as part of a larger effort to coordinate computer-network defense operations and provide support to civil authorities. It’s this latter area that has raised concern. During Senate confirmation hearings, senators have voiced concern that the new position could open the door for military involvement in domestic issues — a space already occupied by the Department of Homeland Security and NSA.
Alexander has offered this assurance: “This is not about efforts to militarize cyberspace. Rather, it’s about safeguarding the integrity of our military system. My goal, if confirmed, will be to significantly improve the way we defend ourselves in this domain.” The need is growing more urgent by the day, he later added at a computer security conference in San Francisco. The government, he said, needs to find a better way to monitor — and respond — in a timely fashion to intrusions on both government and private networks.
WHAT’S NEXT: U.S. Cyber Command is slated to open in October. If confirmed, and Alexander settles into the command’s office at Fort Meade, Md., he faces the sizable tasks of helping define how far his new role should reach domestically and developing a strategy to facilitate collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security.