Todd Probert, president of National Security and Innovative Solutions (NSIS) for CACI International and 2021 Wash100 Award recipient, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz regarding his efforts to drive CACI’s growth initiatives in the national security space, the challenges his customers are facing, the latest initiatives involving electronic warfare for the U.S. military and less known initiatives that CACI is developing that you may not be aware of in the tech sector.
“I think my 30 years of diverse experience has really positioned me well. I have a unique mix of engineering expertise combined with positions leading defense business and technology organizations. And that really matches up well with what we are focused on here at CACI.”
ExecutiveBiz: After becoming CACI’s National Security head in Aug. 2020, how have you been able to bring your expertise to the role and drive the company’s growth initiatives in the national security sector?
“It is a very exciting time to be at CACI. The team in our sector has a rich legacy of mission experience, building technology solutions that are designed to meet some of the toughest challenges within the national security space. We like to say that everything we do is “mission-driven,” meaning our focus and vision are solely on our customer challenges.
We have some of the best and brightest doing some of the hardest things for the intelligence community and DoD customers around the globe, in almost every environment. And our acquisition and investment strategies are aligned so that we are building out technology credentials organically through research and development, but through investment externally as well. Together, this mix sets us apart and will drive our continued growth.
I think my 30 years of diverse experience has really positioned me well for this role. I have a unique mix of engineering expertise combined with positions leading defense business and technology organizations. And that really matches up well with what we are focused on here. Our portfolio is dedicated to harnessing the rich technology heritage from acquired companies like Bell Labs and Mastodon and leveraging decades of software expertise to offer software-driven tools and capabilities that meet the market where it is today, but also where it will be in the future.
A big piece of that is our collaboration with just about every national lab and DARPA. Those folks are the real founders of technology for our nation. We spend a large amount of our time on research and development. We are tackling tough challenges and doing them well. I think we’re making a difference on a national scale.”
ExecutiveBiz: What are the greatest challenges facing your customer’s national security in terms of advanced technologies? How do you drive customized and innovative solutions to help them “meet their missions?”
“There are a lot of challenges facing our warfighters today when you look at it from a technology perspective.
I just got back from CyberQuest, one of the Army’s premier experimentation activities. It gave me a renewed focus on the challenges of today. One of the most memorable demonstrations was a simulated command post. It showcased how warfighters and military leaders manage modern warfare in 2021.
One of the most striking takeaways I had is that the amount of information coming at a soldier today is extremely daunting. Every soldier is a sensor that ties into a broader network of things and is overlaid with potential cyber threats on the battlefield. We have seen this challenge emerge over recent years, but the complexity and scale of this is growing at a pace that we need to get in front of.
We’re dealing with information in a whole different sense in 2021. The information needs to provide the warfighter with situational awareness so they know what’s in front of them and how to respond with the best information possible in real-time. Information is now a weapon.
Cybersecurity is something we need for defense, but also as effects used as part of an integrated fires approach. You also need to account for the kinetic evolution of warfare and figure out how to mix information warfare in the middle.
We are not technology limited from a sensor standpoint, and CACI does build very exquisite electronic warfare and radio frequency sensors. The process of orchestrating all that information that comes at the modern soldier, especially at the speed of software against an enemy with similar capabilities is a significant challenge facing our warfighters. At CACI, I think we’re uniquely suited to provide those capabilities.
The classic way to come to market is a lot of intellectual property locked within a unique platform. CACI is fundamentally different in that regard because we’re one of the first adopters of true open architecture. The hallmark of my team is that they create value every day. We’re not slapping large intellectual property monikers on the things we produce. Our focus is leaning in and working closely with our customers.”
ExecutiveBiz: What are the key initiatives that CACI is working on to address electronic warfare and the electromagnetic landscape for the U.S. military and intelligence community?
“I’d say one of the biggest things to know about CACI is that we are world experts in signals intelligence. We spent a lot of time and effort honing that and bringing it to a focal point. We are positioning ourselves to allow software to logically come in and build to adapt. However, when you’re in the EW space it’s waveforms. It’s how you employ those waveforms and sense those same waveforms.
We are experts in foreign signals intelligence. Our men and women work through the intelligence community to listen to the threat signals. After listening to those threats, we can decode what they do. It’s amazing how they look at a decrypted telemetry stream and say, ‘Hey, this is video data’ or this is ‘a thermal point’ or ‘this is a command point.’ We possess very deep subject matter expertise in what’s riding on the signals themselves.
We are world experts in all things cellular. As 5G technology continues to advance, it encompasses the entirety of the spectrum, so when you overlay 5G into that it goes from literally kilohertz, all the way up to millimeter wave, so in the 30 gigahertz range. Our broad expertise across that spectrum allows us to understand how to utilize surveillance against that spectrum and use communications within the spectrum.
In addition, we’re fielding multi-mission small factor software-defined radios. In today’s world, that is essential. There are all sorts of ways to get inside, jam, and defeat a radio.
To prevent that, you need to understand your RF spectrum, respond and communicate. You want to go frequency hopping around or work some sort of other waveform types of dimension to protect your communications.
Warfighters need a device that’s multi-mission. They need to be able to sense and communicate with an environment. We’re fielding devices today. We have programs of record from the special operations community that we are transitioning into the big Army capabilities.”
ExecutiveBiz: Are there product offerings that CACI is developing that you feel the market may not be aware of?
“CACI is the world leader in counter unmanned systems technology. For decades we have been detecting, tracking and defeating threats from drones of all kinds. Unmanned systems have become a challenge not just for our warfighter but for many environments and missions. A lot of people are concerned about drones and how people use them.
We have the largest footprint of unmanned systems currently deployed – over 700 systems around the world. Because of this experience, no one else can compare to how we get inside the signals. We have a library of hundreds of threat signals. These threat signals are everything from what’s called ‘Group One,’ which is radio shack or hobbyist drones to ‘Group Five,’ which is nation-state type systems. We understand the signals, operations, and telemetry of an unmanned system.
The other system that we feel has really surged as a product of the COVID-19 pandemic is something we call the ‘Remote Support Kit.’ We’ve worked with augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology, which we combine with a communications platform to allow us to forward deploy our field support representatives. The old way of doing things pre-Covid was to send folks around the world to do maintenance, installations and operations.
COVID prevented that old way. Therefore, we’re now sending a kit forward. We receive great returns on just mailing a communications platform with VR/AR goggles sets. The challenge is ensuring that you have secure communications. We’ve worked with our customers to do exactly that instead of sending our people around the globe. Now, we can field things virtually.
Lastly, we’ve got probably the world’s best laser communications capability out there right now, it’s roughly a five-pound system, so the smallest system that anybody’s fielding for space operations which we’ve spent a fair amount of our own internal R&D to develop. Our systems are targeted at the emerging Space Development Agency and a number of other space efforts.”
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