MITRE’s Roger Furr on Nonprofit Org’s Role as Government’s ‘Bridge’ to Commercial Sector

Roger Furr leads work to form and administer both contracts and subcontracts in his role as an executive director at nonprofit research organization MITRE Corp.

MITRE operates federally-funded research and development centers for the government that act as hubs for agencies and commercial companies to collaborate on scientific research, analysis, development, systems engineering and integration.

Furr recently caught up with ExecutiveBiz to offer his perspective on MITRE’s role as a connection between government and industry through FFRDCs, his work to identify and retain contract professionals and his journey to the organization in the 1990s.

ExecutiveBiz: What’s the biggest evolution you have seen at MITRE over five years?

Roger Furr: We’ve grown and diversified in our role as an operator of FFRDCs and support many other government sponsors and customers.

ExecutiveBiz: Where do you plan to focus much of your attention on this year?

Roger Furr: We have several contracts for FFRDCs up for renewal this fiscal year and again in FY 18. My focus will be on those renewals and comprehensive reviews leading to that state.

I’m also finding one of the biggest challenges is to attract and retain good contract professionals. It is such a competitive market and MITRE is not unlike any of the commercial companies when it comes to this issue. Finding the right people and putting them in positions to be successful is a challenge for all of us.

ExecutiveBiz: How would you describe MITRE’s unique role as a non-profit in the GovCon arena?

Roger Furr: Simply put, we are a trusted adviser to the government. We serve as the “bridge” between government agencies and the commercial sector and as a channel for them to collaborate with industry and academia. MITRE is unique compared to others in the GovCon arena because we have no commercial interests, owners or stakeholders.

ExecutiveBiz: Which responsibilities do you hold for estimating policies and procedures?

Roger Furr: MITRE operates seven FFRDCs for nine different government sponsors. The company is organized into different business units and each business unit pursues proposal and contract formation activities associated with their sponsors and customers. However, the Contracts Management Office is a corporate resource for all of MITRE.

By having the corporate estimating policies and procedures reside within the CMO, we ensure consistency in how we do estimating and pricing for all of our government customers.

ExecutiveBiz: What led you to join MITRE in 1994?

Roger Furr: Prior to 1994, I worked for Atlantic Research Corp. as a part of the Sequa Corp. In 1993, Sequa decided to sell off the professional services group of ARC — we were ultimately acquired by Computer Sciences Corp. When Sequa initially announced that it would sell off the part of the business I supported in terms of contracts activities, I thought that there was a high probability that I’d be lost in the divestiture.

I started looking for different career opportunities and had several offers to work for different companies. MITRE was the most challenging and interesting opportunity. Ironically, all the senior contracts folks at ARC survived the acquisition and were placed in contract management roles within CSC.

It would have been an interesting opportunity to stay at CSC, but I had already started talking to MITRE about the possibility of coming over here and having an impact on their contracts organization. I’ll celebrate my 23rd anniversary with MITRE this July.

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