Dave Dacquino leads VT Group as the firm’s CEO. He spoke with ExecutiveBiz about his diverse industry background, his firm’s place in an dynamic market and his hobby of mountain climbing.
ExecutiveBiz: Could you describe maybe your background in the industry? I know you have some experience with some pretty major players in the contracting realm.
Dave Dacquino: I have been directly or indirectly supporting the government customer since the late 70s. After a year at Allied Signal, I got my start at Lockheed Advanced Development Projects. The Skunk Works was a great place to be a young aero engineer, and I worked on a number of those now-legendary aircraft including the F-117, the U-2, and the SR-71. I spent 20 years at Lockheed Martin learning all facets of the business from engineering to electronics systems to logistics, supporting the icons of Air Force aviation – all culminating with the Joint Strike Fighter win.
Raytheon recruited me shortly thereafter, and I went from a heavy focus on Air Force programs to almost total immersion in Navy missile programs. I reconnected with my passion at Raytheon, however, when I moved over to run the logistics and product support business for Raytheon Technical Services Company. I had spent much of my career working on aviation platforms; however, I realized that what I really wanted to do was support the people – the men and women in government who make the critical missions happen.
Ultimately, that is what brought me to VT Group eighteen months ago. The VT Group people have such an intense focus on supporting the government customer, a real passion for working with them side-by-side anywhere in the world. After nearly 30 years in this business, I can honestly say that it is unlike any place that I have ever worked.
ExecutiveBiz: Can you talk about VT Group and where you see them fitting into the marketplace over here? What are some offerings and strengths that you feel the firm offers?
Dave Dacquino: VT Group is focused on being the top provider in the capabilities it delivers. In the area of C4IT, VT Group is the leader in confined space installation. In places where every millimeter matters – submarines for example – we are the trusted partner for installing a wide array of sophisticated systems from electronics to life-support systems. Considering the large number of systems that the U.S. military is trying to pack into vehicles, ships, and aviation platforms, you can see how critical this type of unique capability service is.
VT Group is also a leader in comprehensive asset support. Our folks are out on the line and in the field making sure that the asset is ready when the warrior needs it. We take a platform, the AH-64 Apache for example, and deliver end-to-end management in support of the units fielding those assets: Asset visibility and tracking, logistics, oil analysis, global part inventories, and even — program management. In fact, just this last March, we won two major awards from the Army Aviation Association of America for these capabilities.
Finally, we deliver a wide array of range and facility management services. At Wallops Island, a NASA and Navy flight facility, VT Group provides services that are critical to the people running the range operations. These services include engineering and construction, facilities operations and maintenance, environmental services, occupational health services, security, fire/rescue, and even financial services.
ExecutiveBiz: Could you talk a little bit about the corporate culture at the firm? What sets it apart from other firms in the field?
Dave Dacquino: VT Group is unique for the passion its people bring to supporting the defense or civilian customer. In fact, Wallops Island offers a great example of how responsive VT Group’s people really are. A rapidly advancing beach erosion was threatening a critical launch facility and runway. The customer needed a solution quickly, so VT Group designed and constructed a one mile long geo-textile solution known as geo-tubes. The entire project was designed and constructed within 3 ½ months at a cost of $1.2 million and was completed two weeks prior to the launch.
At the same time, we are not biased or predisposed to any set of existing hardware – we focus only on helping the customer to accomplish their mission. When it comes down to it, we will do what the customer needs us to do – from technical support for a particular piece of radar, or helping to get their vehicle maintained so that they can get to the fight. For our military customers, we’re side by side supporting the war fighter and that culture permeates everything we do.
ExecutiveBiz: What are some short-term or long-term goals you have for VT? Where would you like the firm to be in 2011 or in 2020?
Dave Dacquino: Short-term, we are looking at both raising our visibility and letting customers know about our full range of services. The people who know VT Group and are aware of what we do are committed to us – we are consistent performance award winners. As a result, we are very focused on building greater profile and awareness of who we are and what we do.
At the same time, we consolidated the organization under a single brand just over a year ago. That effort has yielded some strong wins for organic growth – selling a broader array of services to our existing customers and winning new ones. We are very focused on continuing that effort, responding to more of our customers’ needs with one-stop VT Group solutions.
Long-term, we are constantly looking for new markets where we can quickly build or acquire leading capabilities. VT Group’s recent acquisition of Oregon-based Evergreen Unmanned Systems will extend our existing and extensive aviation support capabilities into the UAV space – a market projected to double over the next ten years. Evergreen’s experience with UAV platforms ScanEagle and Maveric combined with VT Group’s aviation support experience create a significant and global capability for agencies currently using or acquiring unmanned systems.
This is not a one-and-done transaction. It represents VT Group’s first step into the UAV support market. We would expect to validate the acquisition with future announcements regarding new partnerships and ultimately new contracts and task orders in the UAV market. Stay tuned to this channel for more news.
ExecutiveBiz: When you are not at VT working what are some of your favorite hobbies or interests?
Dave Dacquino: When I moved to Washington, D.C., I had the chance to run regularly on the National Mall and it has really become addictive for me. I recently ran a half marathon at Camp Lejeune and I am currently training to run the Marine Corps Marathon this month. The workouts have certainly given me a whole new respect for the people who consistently run these kinds of distances.
I am also involved with “Hope for the Warriors”, a non-profit organization which helps our wounded vets that are coming back. In fact, all of the runs that we do are in support of that great non-profit that takes care of our warriors and their families as they come back with injuries. We don’t feel like we can ever do enough to support these young men and women.
In addition to running, I enjoy hiking and mountain climbing. I am working my way through the Seven Summits – the tallest mountains on each continent. This past summer, I reached the summit of my fourth mountain, Mt. Elbrus, which is located in Europe.