The intelligence and defense communities are tasked with the unenviable job of aggregating, examining and sharing data and intelligence to help keep Americans safe, protect our soldiers and identify, and eliminate threats to our national security.
To do this properly, the military works with private industry to establish the systems necessary to harvest mountains of information, analyze it to find essential intelligence and relationships, safely store it where it’s free from the prying eyes of adversaries and share it among the disparate entities responsible for national defense.
One of the trusted partners to the defense and intelligence community is KEYW, a technology and solutions company that works with its customers to overcome the toughest challenges in cyberspace, geospatial intelligence and counterterrorism. The Hanover, MD-based company’s solutions and deep industry knowledge have helped it in the past year, as the organization works to transition to new leadership in the wake of the sudden retirement and death of its founder and CEO, Len Moodispaw.
Bill Weber was brought into KEYW as its new CEO in October of 2015, and immediately set to task steering the company. Bill will be joining the ACG membership at this year’s Technology Showcase during the 2016 Mid-Atlantic Growth Conference, where he’ll be addressing the company’s capabilities and technologies.
We recently sat down with Bill to discuss his background, navigating KEYW in transition, the trends driving the need for big data and data analytics in the federal government, and the impact of the ongoing election cycle and budget uncertainty on companies that partner with the federal government.
Here is what Bill had to say:
CGCS: Can you tell our readers about your background and professional experience? How did your previous experience at XLA, Kaseman and GTSI help prepare you for your role at KEYW?
Mr. Weber: I have been fortunate enough through my time in the Army and then in corporate America, to have been put in increasing areas of responsibility – often by leaders above me who took a chance in putting me in those roles – and I am extremely grateful to have had those opportunities.
Most recently, leading large organizations like the ones you mention above whose mission is to serve this country’s national security mission have each brought their own set of unique challenges, and I am a better leader for having served in each one.
In short, I am the leader that I am today because of those experiences, and I am confident that those experiences have made me the right leader for KEYW as we move forward – I could not be more excited.
CGCS: You joined KEYW at a very difficult time for the company and under difficult circumstances. What would you say were your largest challenges when you entered the company in October, and what steps are you taking to overcome them?
Mr. Weber: I think a lot that is in the eye of the beholder. Yes – it’s unmistakable that the men and women – and many families – of KEYW were and remain in mourning over the loss of their founder and leader, Len Moodispaw.
But, Len built a fantastic legacy here at KEYW, and the tragedy of his passing has allowed an opportunity that will honor him – a fresh set of eyes from the outside to come in and lead this company forward. We will be a more integrated, focused, expeditionary provider of unique technology solutions to the intelligence community, because that’s what our customer needs from us.
So, I suppose there have been challenges – we needed some focus and alignment of the business that has involved some divestitures. We needed a significant investment in Business Development that involved new leadership. We needed a crisp, clear message of who we are and what we are capable of that our employees, our customers and our investors could get behind.
KEYW has responded extremely well to all of these opportunities, though – and I am proud of the way they have rallied behind making KEYW as great is it ever has been.
CGCS: Sequestration was difficult for many companies that sell directly into the federal government and is one of the reasons why many government contractors and service providers have struggled in the past few years. Are you seeing similar challenges on the horizon due to the somewhat unpredictable political climate and election cycle? How do you see the government contracting market trending in the near term?
Mr. Weber: Again, I think this is one of those, “depends on your perspective,” questions. I think we have a tendency in our industry to blame budget cycles and machinations for difficulty in the way our businesses operate. Because of KEYW’s current size, and with a significant available addressable market to grow into, our perspective is there is plenty of budget, and more certainty around that budget than we’ve enjoyed for almost a decade.
Regardless of what happens in the upcoming elections when America chooses its next set of leaders, our belief is there is enough demand for what KEYW uniquely does for the Intelligence mission in this country for KEYW to thrive going forward.
CGCS: KEYW helps government agencies – especially those in the defense and intelligence space – aggregate, analyze and protect their sensitive data. What unique challenges are intelligence and defense agencies facing in this area? Why is geoint, big data, data analysis and network security paramount concerns for these sectors today?
Mr. Weber: The same basic challenge that the rest of the world faces around how to collect, transport, store, and analyze massive amounts of data exists, and is very real in the intelligence community. However, the challenge is compounded for our community by the urgency of the events involved, the need for extreme operational security, and the life or death consequences of operating in that continuum flawlessly and efficiently.
The ramifications of, “a hole in the data,” slow processing, failed analysis, or a lapse in security are dire. KEYW and the other great organizations that support these customers go to work every day knowing that these are the stakes.
CGCS: You’re going to be appearing at the 2016 Mid-Atlantic Growth Conference and presenting KEYW during the conference’s annual Technology Showcase. What made you decide to participate in this event, and what can attendees expect to hear from you and KEYW?
Mr. Weber: KEYW was asked to consider participating, and as it was described to me, it is intended to be a showcase of unique technology talent sets resident in the Washington, DC business community. KEYW is every bit of that.
If you recall above, one of KEYW’s challenges has always been because of the way the company grew out of acquisition and because of the unique community we serve, it has not always been clear to our employees, our customers and our investors just who KEYW is and how deep our unique technologies go.
When people hear the story – their response tends to be the same across the board: “Wow, I had no idea…” I hope the annual Technology Showcase is an opportunity to do more of that.