having those 16 contractors in PEO Maritime versus the government trying to recruit and hire 16 civil servants and enlarging the government employment rolls?

I think it's an easy call with a customer like SOCOM and what we offer is both flexibility and agility. SOCOM's requirements evolve and change very rapidly. So the kind of person that they need today is probably not the same kind of 16 people that they're going to need six months from now. ... There's a role for contractors that can react quickly, rapidly, and can staff with the right people at the right time, and then as those requirements evolve, we change the staffing mix to folks that other contracts and other programs need and continue to meet the government's requirements.

On a per-hour basis, are you able to deliver a cost that's commensurate or better than the government can with civil servants?

I absolutely think we do, though it's very difficult to make this kind of apples and oranges comparison because the costs of things like health care, retirement, pensions, and things like that, for example, are kind of hidden in the government's overall number. But I absolutely think we've shown over time that, in the right circumstances, this kind of contracting provides tremendous value. As you know, DoD has received the mandate from the secretary to in-source personnel where they can, and we're happy to fill the SETA role where it's appropriate. I think that our tasking with PEO Maritime is just a great example of that appropriateness.

How long have you been doing this kind of work, sir?

I have been a contractor the whole of my professional life, since 1987. I graduated with an engineering degree, and for my very first customer I developed a firearms training simulator for a special warfare unit at Fort Bragg. It was a DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] program. I worked that for about a year-and-a-half and that was my introduction to the special warfare community. I've also taken what I learned in the special operations community and applied it to our homeland security, law enforcement, domestic security, and other kind of things that we do. A lot of the techniques and tactics and the like are very adaptable to domestic counterterrorism missions as well.

Those 16 folks that are currently working on your tasking at PEO Maritime, they're people with names and homes and mortgages and cars and kids. Tell me something about those people. What kind of person are you putting into the positions over there at PEO Maritime at SOCOM?

Well, these people, they're all professionals of one sort or another. So, they cover the full range of requirements analysis. You've got some folks who understand how to approach the requirements process for building special warfare boats, so some are helping the government in developing the requirements for new maritime systems while you've got other folks that provide engineering services who understand the lifecycle requirements of a system once it's fielded. This way, they can help our government customers come to terms with all the downstream maintenance or logistics requirements involved in fielding a new system. So, those are the kinds of people we hire, and most of them have come out of the special warfare community or defense community in general and are familiar with this customer and the maritime world in general. Some are retired military. Some are folks who have just been in engineering for different companies for most of their careers. Folks that generally have been doing this for a long time.

And what do you see as the professional rewards for being in the SETA contracting arena right now? I mean, we're in the odd situation that you're in a business where the secretary of defense has recently "called you out," and yet here you are. You've got a brand-new contract with a new delivery order and 16 people you've put to work over at SOCOM. You've got to be feeling pretty good given the circumstances, don't you?

You know, it's one of our marketing lines: "... it's the missions that matter." You know the reward is the ability to do this kind of work to make our nation safer and support our warfighters. That's the kind of intangible reward that goes beyond the business itself. And the fact that we can make a business out of that is just so very rewarding for us, both from a business perspective but I think even more so from an intellectual and an emotional perspective. It's a tough business, and you've got to work hard to make the business work. But again, we really never want to lose track of the fact that there are a couple of wars going on and this command is in I don't know how many countries around the world right now. But we'd have a hard time finding places where they are not. So it's a big responsibility, and one that we take very, very seriously. It's easy to motivate those kinds of people when you've got this kind of issue to work on. And this contract at SOCOM is just the start. We're also looking at working the IT area, which we're very strong in, and there are some large IT opportunities here at SOCOM as well. So, we're looking at how we might take some of our cyber security or logistics practices into this world.

DoD and the rest of the government keep talking about wanting to minimize the need for SETA-type contractors and yet we've seen a continual growth in the industry back to the 1970s when companies like SRI and BDM first started really doing it. But some day we're going to come home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and with all that said, what do you see for SRA International both as a company and as a leader in the DoD SETA business? What do you see it evolving into?

Well, we're in the best position that we can be in this industry. One of the reasons is we're not a platform company. We provide services and information technology, so a lot of the spending in our business specialties isn't going to dry up because of that. In fact, one of the reasons we're here at SOCOM making such an investment is we see the mission here at Special Operations Command as expanding in the post-Iraq and post-Afghanistan timeframe. You know, you cannot train a SOF force after a crisis breaks with the kind of missions that they do, and the kinds of training we do with our allies, getting ready for contingencies and the special operations themselves. It's going to be a large, growing component to our overall defense policy and so we want to be a part of that. So I think this kind of contract and the other work that we're doing here, and the kinds of work that we do in the Defense Department in general, have positioned SRA ... to continue to expand and succeed. I like where we are.

Where would you like to go? As you leverage the work that you're doing or have been doing, where do you want to go with it? Do you have any avenues that are clearly opening up as business opportunities or directions you want to follow up?

Absolutely! There are certainly things that we've got a lot of specialized skills [in] and initiatives that we can develop. Cyber security and irregular warfare - we're really one of the thought leaders in terms of irregular warfare analysis. We do a lot of work for JIEDDO [the Joint IED Defeat Organization] in that capacity. I would say in terms of leveraging this contract in this relationship would serve us all very well. We would like to be more involved in the whole life cycle systems engineering area; maybe not necessarily for SOCOM, but maybe for one of the services where we design and build development requirements in the whole life cycle systems engineering process for something like an LCS mission module or for some sensor platform for a UAV. I think SOCOM is a good place for us to make that branch because they're not doing a lot of ACAT-1 and ACAT-2 sized programs. They take things, modify them, and do it relatively quickly. It's of a scale that we can kind of sink our teeth into. It may appear to be a large effort to the public, but we're still rather modestly-sized compared to some of our competitors. And I think SOCOM is a great place for us to branch out to that systems engineering.

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