Eric Eifert serves as ManTech’s cyber defense solutions business unit general manager and as of April 1, the Air Force veteran and cyber expert can add senior vice president to his list of titles.
Eifert recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz about the larger voice this promotion gives him in the company’s future direction for cyber defense services. Other topics discussed included the prevalence of cyber attacks and how the company plans to leverage product lines obtained through its acquisition of HBGary in order to achieve business unit and company growth in cyber defense services.
ExecutiveBiz: What are your duties and what role does your business unit play in ManTech’s enterprise success?
Eric Eifert: ManTech has three business groups, each with profit and loss business units. I work in the mission cyber and intelligence solutions group and run our cyber defense solutions business unit. We provide cyber security functional capabilities across all customer sets including the Defense Department, the Intelligence Community, federal civil, state and local government, and commercial customers.
We also have a division that focuses on information assurance and law enforcement customers, with a heavy emphasis on Justice and Homeland Security. DHS and DOJ are unique customers in that they have a law enforcement mission, an intelligence mission, and a litigation mission. Many of their mission requirements for information technology infrastructure, analysis, and cyber security are unique to the law enforcement community.
My role is to provide the right resources to effectively execute support to our customers and grow the business in specific areas. This involves providing strategic guidance on where we need to focus our resources within the business unit, identifying business development opportunities, and identifying how ManTech can apply its capabilities to an ever-evolving industry.
Whether it is cloud computing, continuous monitoring, or mobility, I recommend how we can apply ManTech capabilities to our customers’ missions as they exist and as they evolve. As ManTech expands its footprint, we actively look at partnerships with small businesses as well as large companies, custom training, internal research and development investments, and companies that ManTech may want to acquire.
ExecutiveBiz: What strategies do you use to ensure the business is effectively providing cyber solutions to its customers, and how do you aim to grow ManTech’s customer base?
Eric Eifert: The first thing with most areas is you need to understand the challenges customers face currently and as they evolve into the future. We work directly with our customers to understand what their pain points are, what their main challenges are, and where they can invest to mitigate those challenges. Then we look at our unique capabilities and, when appropriate, the capabilities of our strategic business partners, to resolve and satisfy our customers’ needs.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you work with other business unit leaders within the company in order to coordinate cyber offerings to the public sector?
Eric Eifert: ManTech has phenomenal capabilities and we are leaders in several areas, whether it’s secure infrastructures, program security, personnel security, or logistics. We’re starting to see customers put out larger procurements with multiple task areas. A contract might not be just for cyber security but have that as one of the tasks. It could be tied to a secure infrastructure contract that has instant response and security operations requirements, or it could be a large enterprise IT program that has information assurance and certification and accreditation embedded in it.
In these cases, we work closely with the other business units that offer these services or have deep customer insights. I’ll have one of my colleagues focus on their areas of expertise, and we will provide our expertise to meet their cyber security requirements. We complement each other very well. We are able to augment another business unit in providing cyber security capabilities within a larger program, as we leverage these capabilities for our customers’ requirements and emerging needs.
ExecutiveBiz: How will HBGary’s capabilities be integrated with those of ManTech to expand the company’s federal business?
Eric Eifert: HBGary is a fantastic cyber security product company that has some leading-edge technologies in identifying malicious code used to attack and penetrate systems and then exfiltrate data. We believe that their products combined with our services will allow us to better focus on continued development of advanced cyber security products that address emerging threats. Together, we are working to align our cyber security defense services with world-class product lines to enhance offerings for both federal and commercial customers.
ExecutiveBiz: How does your Air Force experience and your knowledge of law enforcement aid you in your current position?
Eric Eifert: I joined the Air Force Office of Special Investigations when I graduated from college. I got my exposure and really developed a passion for cyber security while I was in the Air Force. I was a computer crime investigator, and it was my responsibility to investigate intrusions into Air Force systems, support information operations, and support criminal investigations.
I conducted computer forensics in support of homicides, counterintelligence investigations, and counterespionage operations. This experience really sparked a passion and exposed me to all the different facets of cyber, from offensive exploitation to defensive operations.
As a reservist, I still am involved in investigations and supporting the Air Force. I work with all the federal investigative systems, understand the importance of evidence, and know how to navigate the litigation process. My involvement lends itself to a cross-pollinating capability in my work. I also learned a lot about how to effectively deal with people.
As a special agent, most of my job requires the ability to talk to people. Whether it’s conducting witness interviews, talking to system administrators, or briefing generals on the details of an investigation, I need to have the ability to speak to all levels. I think this is one of the more challenging things to master within the cyber space.
Understanding the requirements, being able to articulate them, and also immediately tie in the right capabilities to resolve challenges has helped me on both the business development side and the technical side. If I’m meeting with a potential customer and they’re talking about some of their challenges, I can very easily relate to them and talk about things that we have seen with other customers that emulate their challenges.
My Air Force and OSI experience have been invaluable to my career progression at ManTech. I’ve been very fortunate to have followed the career path I have taken.
ExecutiveBiz: How have cyber attacks affected the way companies and agencies function, and how must organizations ensure cyber safety despite budget constraints?
Eric Eifert: Cyber attacks have affected every aspect of our lives. Identify theft is something that affects every individual. Anybody that has bought something with a credit card in some way has probably been affected by cyber attacks, because their data is stored somewhere that is potentially not secure. When it comes to companies, information is their intellectual property.
Whether it’s competitive intelligence, their products, their customer lists, or research and development, information is the key to a successful company or agency. Organizations are realizing that they need to protect their data from being stolen. They are also starting to realize they need to monitor their networks for intrusions and data theft.
Budgetary constraints are pushing organizations to prioritize spending. If you look at the Pentagon budget, they are reducing the budget significantly, but they are increasing the budget for cyber security. If the biggest threat is an attack on the cyber infrastructure, then the reallocation of funding from a program of lower priority to protect those data systems and the data itself becomes paramount. There’s never a silver bullet to resolve this problem.
You have to look at how you protect data when the networks and systems to be secured inherently possess vulnerabilities that are identified on a daily basis and are built on meshed infrastructures that pose significant security issues. Being able to protect the data in an infrastructure that is never going to be 100 percent secure is where I see the focus of the future. How do we protect the data our adversaries want in an infrastructure that is not completely secure?