Dan Voce, senior vice president for enterprise cyber and solutions at Leidos, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz regarding the challenges to drive digital modernization across the defense, civil and health markets across the federal landscape.
In addition, he discussed the impact that recent acquisitions have enhanced Leidos’ portfolio and capabilities to drive growth and innovation for its customers. Voce also talked about zero-trust and its future in the federal sector during the latest Executive Spotlight interview.
“Innovation is one of our six core values, and like all our values, it is not just a word. We put our energy and resources behind innovation in meaningful ways, and that attracts talent. As a result, we have some of the best engineers in the industry. They see Leidos as a company that values technology and innovation, and it’s something they want to be a part of.”
You can read the full Executive Spotlight interview with Dan Voce below:
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?
In my business unit’s capability area of Digital Modernization, Leidos has seen tremendous growth with significant wins across our Defense, Civil, and Health markets. In the defense market where I focus, our growth in the DoD is the result of a concentrated effort to leverage the full capabilities of the corporation in our programs and new business activities.
We have made real strides towards instituting collaboration as something that is core to our culture. And in fact, collaboration is one of our six corporate values, alongside integrity, inclusion, innovation, agility, and commitment.
A key benefit of our scale is that if there is a problem to be solved in the Digital Modernization area– whether it be in core IT, cloud, or defensive cyber– someone in the company has probably experienced it before, and very likely solved it.
By organizing our people, processes, and R&D around a culture of collaboration, we can quickly bring the capabilities of the full corporation to a single program for our customers and their missions. Our Office of Technology is specifically geared towards enabling collaboration by pulling through capabilities and talent. My team and I, and more importantly our customers, benefit from this active infusion every day.
Another aspect of our growth focus is on targeted and strategic M&A. Our recent acquisitions of Dynetics, Gibbs & Cox, and the 1901 Group represent a corporate development philosophy that considers all markets that we address and is not just tailored to one area.
Those are all very different companies, ranging from directed energy and unmanned systems to ship design to IT managed services. But our approach to corporate integration and alignment is very disciplined and allows us to create the value that we seek.
With the influence of emerging technologies impacting every aspect of business, how has your company been able to drive digital transformation efforts to stay ahead of innovation in the federal landscape for yourself and your customers?
At Leidos, we’ve significantly increased our R&D investments in the last two years. These investments span our core capabilities, which include Digital Modernization, Cyber, AI/ML, and Mission Software. Moreover, we’ve established communities of practice and other organizations that enable us to bring awareness of these investments to our large employee base and the thousands of programs we operate.
In some areas of our work, such as hypersonics, our innovation squarely addresses product development. In other areas, like cyber, cloud, Enterprise IT, and airborne operations, our innovation efforts are focused on development leveraging leading-edge products.
Much of the capabilities our customers require in these areas require commercially developed technology as a foundation. The challenging part– and this is where many of us at Leidos focus– is integrating those technologies into end-to-end systems that meet particular mission goals, and that do so at the scale of the federal government and with the security controls required for both unclassified and classified missions.
We often equate innovation with the product itself, but some of the most innovative ideas and solutions I’ve seen have come from incredibly talented engineers designing algorithms and deployment and operating models that make those products work in the unique environments that we operate in. These environments include secure enterprise and tactical deployments at all classification levels.
In addition to our corporate investments in technology and integration, the partnerships we have with commercial companies are an important aspect of our approach. We have a number of great partners, all with strong capabilities and a willingness to co-invest in our customers’ missions.
By combining their products with our mission understanding and development, integration, and operations skills, we are able to deliver more to our customers than any of us could have on our own. No discussion on innovation at Leidos would be complete without reference to our people.
I mentioned that innovation is one of our six core values, and like all our values, it is not just a word. We put our energy and resources behind innovation in meaningful ways, and that attracts talent. As a result, we have some of the best engineers in the industry. They see Leidos as a company that values technology and innovation, and it’s something they want to be a part of.
Ultimately, our extensive R&D, strong partner network, and talented employees unify to work alongside our customers to advance innovation. We have an incredible array of customers who lean forward and look for opportunities to advance technology deployments to improve the mission. Without them, our efforts could not achieve the results we all seek.”
ExecutiveBiz: What can you tell us about the implementation of recent acquisitions you’ve made and how they’ve benefited your portfolio, technical capabilities, and driven value for your company and customers?
In my area of Digital Modernization, our acquisition of the 1901 Group last year is a result of strategy driving action. Their commitment to delivering repeatable processes and solutions, industry-unique consumption models, and leading technology through the multi-tenant In3Sight platform has been a strong addition to the Leidos offerings.
The 1901 Group complements our scale, and with their focus on digital workforce development and investments in our people and communities, it’s been a great fit. The 1901 Group team has touched nearly every aspect of the corporation and our customers in the short time since the acquisition.
Their approach to IT, cloud, and cyber runs counter to the more traditional ways these capability areas have been executed in the past within the DoD, which is precisely why we wanted them to join our team. They deliver outcome-based services which allow customers to put their focus on the results they want to achieve in terms of performance and capabilities and reduce the burden on the customer to define and support the ‘how’ and the ‘when.’
1901 Group focuses on hiring outside traditional markets, employing the talents of our nation’s engineers in underserved markets collocated near universities. Their culture is decidedly different from traditional companies you might find in the federal space, it embraces and enhances our focus on innovation and agility.
ExecutiveBiz: We often discuss innovation from the technical or capability side. What are some of the unique challenges that you’ve seen on the business side of innovation that hasn’t been addressed or discussed enough?
“Certainly the acquisition process has been discussed enough– for many years. However, whether it has been addressed to the level that speed of innovation requires is another matter.
Many DoD leaders over the years have pointed out that the speed at which capabilities are acquired needs to be improved. Our DoD PEOs, program managers, and acquisition specialists are working within a framework not necessarily conducive to the rapid advancement of technology that we have today.
While we do have OTAs and CSOs and have seen an increase in their usage, it is still the case that before most new capabilities hit deployment, there was a long cycle of requirements definition, RFP development, proposal development, and award determination.
Some portions of the government are attuned to the use of non-traditional acquisition tools. However, not all have been given tactical “how-to” to fully utilize these flexibilities. Many are trying to do the right thing and move with pace, but the processes and policies inhibit them.
This has to improve if we are to enjoy the latest innovations at the time they become available and viable. While there has been latitude from a policy perspective on the acquisition front, more investment may be needed in training and education to take full advantage of these new authorities.
Another aspect to the non-technical challenges we see is a bit more cultural. ‘Fail fast’ and ‘learn from failure’ are repeated often across the DoD, but when put to the test, we don’t necessarily see it in practice. In many environments, technologies that are delivered to, say, a pilot or early test event, come with an unwritten expectation that they should just work.
This isn’t a productive view of innovation as ultimately it leads to delays in trying to perfect capabilities before their time. One way to get ahead of this is for leaders within government and industry to promote open communications constantly and consistently at the earliest stages possible in the acquisition process.
We have SME’s on both sides who should be encouraged to communicate expectations early and learn from each other, which will ensure the end-user obtains the product/service they desire on schedule and within budgetary constraints.”
ExecutiveBiz: With zero-trust technology becoming a major focal point moving forward, what can you tell us about the difficulties of implementing zero-trust architectures and focusing on data security?
“Many discussions on zero trust center around the potential benefits centered around particular capabilities or solutions. The challenges are many, and though they’re not insurmountable, they’re also not solved quickly in a single program or effort.
In the DoD, the way the networks have been designed, interconnected, and operated makes an enterprise-wide solution non-trivial to say the least. Recognizing this, the approach that DISA is taking for the DoD is a good step.
Start with reference architectural elements, do a pilot, learn from the successes and failures, and then expand from there. Achieving security solutions across the joint forces is hard. It’s technically challenging, and it is equally non-technically challenging with the extensive coordination and consensus-building required.
On the implementation side, the transactional and continuous nature of zero-trust, and consideration of access decisions that include factors such as behavior, are new to the DoD and will require a methodical approach. At Leidos, our Zero Trust R&D has focused on several specific areas.
We have developed a readiness assessment methodology to identify gaps in a customer’s network that must be addressed, and we tailor the solution space based on their objectives. Alongside that is our Leidos Zero Trust lab which our customers leverage as a proving ground for new technologies.
We’re excited to be at the center of so many networks within DoD. With our large-scale work with the Navy, DISA, the defense agencies and field activities, as well as cyber programs with the Air Force and Army, we are working with our customers to strengthen the defense of the networks at an unprecedented scale. It’s a daunting challenge, but one in which our employees are skilled and our investments are well aligned.”