Richard Durand, client executive vice president – National Security, AT&T Public Sector and FirstNet, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz regarding the support that AT&T has offered for national security agencies across the federal government for more than 20 years and the technology necessary for their customers to deliver on their significant mission needs.
In addition, Durand also discussed the significant role that 5G capabilities will play in national security efforts for the U.S. moving forward as well as AT&T’s recent growth initiatives and the company’s work to drive value for its customers during the latest Executive Spotlight interview.
“Our National Security customers are very interested in understanding the possibilities our 5G services can create for them. Most of them operate globally, and 5G will be available to them wherever they need it worldwide. These customers will be very, very deliberate about deploying 5G into the areas they consider secure.”
You can read the full Executive Spotlight interview with Richard Durand below:
ExecutiveBiz: You’ve supported AT&T’s National Security customers for more than 20 years. Can you speak a bit about your team’s work in support of National Security agencies?
Richard Durand: “Our focus with National Security customers is modernizing their networking and IT infrastructures and, often, operating their networks and related capabilities. We support their mission and enterprise technology environments.
Historically, our focus has been on network modernization. As IT platforms and networks converge, our technologies and professional services have become critical to these customers.
We support federal national security agencies in a few different ways. First and foremost, we provide advanced network connectivity solutions. We also offer managed solutions that are powered by professional services. More recently, we are delivering mobility technology and services and, to enhance public safety communications, FirstNet services.
AT&T offers a breadth of connectivity and advanced networking capabilities. We combine those with our professional services and bring those together to support our customers’ needs. Our National Security business is a significant part of our federal public sector business.”
ExecutiveBiz: What technologies do National Security agencies need to deliver their missions?
Richard Durand: “We have mission customers and, separately, customers supporting enterprise IT capabilities for their agencies. Many of these government agencies are operating highly complex enterprises and, in many cases, span a more extensive geographic territory than that of many mid-to-large private sector companies.
Our National Security customers manage large complex infrastructures, often with shrinking operating budgets. As a result, they’re being asked to do more in an increasingly dynamic global environment.
There are two key areas of particular concern to our National Security customers. Right now, government agencies are focused on providing more with less in terms of elastic bandwidth, self-healing networks, and faster provisioning of capabilities wherever they need to operate around the globe. And they have to do this on tighter budgets.
With their budgets shrinking, many of our National Security customers come to us for counsel and expertise: they want to know how to operate and manage their networks.
That’s usually where the conversation starts. How do you do it? How do you manage global network operations? How are you interacting with the cloud service providers to improve efficiency? After a while, the conversation evolves, and we end up winning contracts to operate network IT infrastructures for these customers.
We help them accomplish their mission goals and beyond. Often, our professional services are critical to these engagements. We can efficiently and effectively ‘walk in’ and manage their network environments. Typically, they will have a complete portfolio of global communication services from the commercial marketplace. Often, they also have their own network assets. If that’s the case, we will help them operate that secondarily.
Alternatively, these customers may want help with network capability. ‘We need your expertise and solutions to meet our network needs,’ they’ll say. Mobile is also becoming increasingly important, so much so that National Security customers that previously prohibited mobile communications are now considering mobility services in specific environments.”
Many of our national security customers have uniformed police departments, medical staff, security personnel, and in some instances, fire departments. We are servicing these customers with our FirstNet capabilities as well.”
ExecutiveBiz: Where does 5G fit into the networking modernization plans of National Security agencies?
Richard Durand: “5G is different from 4G in the sense that 4G was about the consumer, primarily. 5G is really about business, enterprise, and government applications.
The transformative possibilities of 5G are still being developed. The technology is rolling out quickly. We expect to see the creation of 5G ecosystems of providers and solution developers who will create applications that will fundamentally change and improve how private and public enterprises conduct their business and missions.
Our National Security customers are very interested in understanding the possibilities our 5G services can create for them. Most of them operate globally, and 5G will be available to them wherever they need it worldwide. These customers will be very, very deliberate about deploying 5G into the areas they consider secure.
Currently, policy restrictions prevent the full deployment of 5G technology among National Security agencies. Historically, many of these agencies wouldn’t even allow cameras on the premises, but it’s clear they see the benefits of 5G services. Some have identified specific use cases; others will likely adopt 5G services over time. They’re building their roadmaps to ensure their transition to 5G makes sense for them.
We expect National Security agencies will require the high speeds 5G can deliver with high bandwidth for edge computing applications. We expect adoption of 5G to support their IoT needs as solutions are developed.
Generally speaking, the network endpoint requirements among these agencies are low bandwidth. At some point, the data on those endpoints needs to be moved to the agency’s data center or cloud system. The high speeds and low latency characteristics of 5G and its built-in cybersecurity protections will support those computing tasks across data centers and the many cloud providers that support edge computing and data storage at scale.
Our National Security customers are astute and curious about 5G. They’re very savvy about technology. They are looking for the optimum, most efficacious way to deploy 5G and support their missions in the most highly secure manner. We expect to continue to help them do this with AT&T 5G in the future.”
ExecutiveBiz: What can you tell us about the company’s recent growth initiatives and how you’re driving value for your customers through contract awards, acquisitions, and other aspects across the federal sector?
Richard Durand: “We meet our customers where they are. Many of the contracts we pursue in the National Security sector are people-centric: these agencies seek a robust complement of our professional services experts. We have a strong and growing focus on professional services for government agencies.
Professional services enhance our ability to offer our other advanced technologies and strategic capabilities. We have become trusted advisors to many of our customers, and we help them deploy a broad array of networking technologies.
With our professional services teams working with our customers almost every day, it allows for conversations about our advanced capabilities that can offer benefits to these customers, including high-speed Internet services, SD-WAN, bandwidth, fiber, cybersecurity solutions, mobility, 5G, IoT, and FirstNet. These are all becoming essential services in the federal marketplace.
We offer a robust portfolio of capabilities to support the missions of our National Security customers. Our professional services-led engagements often open the doors to broader uptake of our portfolio of advanced capabilities among this customer set.”
ExecutiveBiz: How does your company ensure long-term success for your workforce and drive value for your employees as you continue to face the uphill challenge to recruit and retain the best talent in the federal marketplace?
Richard Durand: “For many of our National Security customers, recruiting challenges are extra difficult because of clearance requirements. Security clearances pose various hiring challenges; many of our customers are working through these challenges as best they can. The Covid-19 pandemic added another layer of complexity to this situation.
At AT&T, we have a wide range of programs to recruit and retain the best available talent. It’s extra-critical to us in National Security, where a preponderance of our contractual agreements is professional services led.
We’re constantly working and innovating to uncover new approaches to flexible benefits, compensation programs, employee training, and other elements that combine to create a highly experienced and motivated workforce.
Employees want to find purpose in their work. We champion their contributions and aim to create a working environment that allows them to succeed and be rewarded for their success.
We’ve been undergoing a significant workforce transformation ever since before the Covid-19 pandemic. Our National Security business has launched several innovative recruitment and security clearance programs with colleges in Virginia and Maryland. In addition, AT&T runs a comprehensive recruitment and training program companywide.
Training is a big part of it, but new employees also need help managing their work across our large company. As of December 31, 2021, we employed more than 200,000 employees in nearly 60 countries.
Across our company, we offer an excellent place for employees to learn, work and build a career. We’re doing great work in the National Security sector, and it’s all built around employing the best available talent committed to helping these agencies deliver their missions.”