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Executive Spotlight: Tom Afferton, President of Cyber Mission Sector at Peraton

Executive Spotlight: Tom Afferton, President of Cyber Mission Sector at Peraton - top government contractors - best government contracting event

Tom Afferton, president of Cyber Mission sector at Peraton, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz regarding the significant market growth and recent wins over the past year for the company as well as the work that industry is doing to address the most critical challenges facing our business today, including the impact of cybersecurity during the latest Executive Spotlight interview.

You can read the full interview with Tom Afferton below.

ExecutiveBiz: How would you describe the growth that Peraton has had over the last year. Any new work or recent wins you are excited about?

Tom Afferton: “Peraton has certainly had some nice wins over the last 18 months since we’ve come together as a team and as a company. One of our most recent wins is a contract awarded by the DoD to provide agile and analytic platforms for data management solutions.

We’re very excited about this one because the contract continues a relationship with this specific customer within the DoD that has lasted for decades. Further, the contract expands upon and draws upon our experience to provide technology-based solutions across the intelligence community and the U.S. military.

A lot of the work is sensitive, but this contract continues Peraton’s legacy of delivering unique analytics and data management solutions. We brought to the customer our united company culture and strengths from our entire organization.

We refer to ourselves as a mission capability integrator. That’s a term our CEO likes to use and that really is about understanding the mission at hand — including very challenging national security missions — and knowing the right technologies to develop as well as bringing in the right people and expertise to advance that mission on behalf of our customers.

As you look at the pieces of Peraton that came together from Northrop Grumman and Perspecta, as well as our original foundations in Peraton, we really have a deep portfolio that aligns to a broad definition of national security. Our recent wins, from data management to digital forensics to enterprise services, demonstrate our breadth of capabilities spanning defense, intelligence and civilian missions.

Now, everything has been brought together in the “new” Peraton, which includes national security, critical infrastructure, as well as our cybersecurity capabilities, traditional weapon systems and health work. It’s all been woven together into one national security company.

ExecutiveBiz: How do you see industry aiding the federal government in facing today’s and tomorrow’s challenges?

Tom Afferton: “Peraton, on more broad terms, is sharing the vision illustrated by National Cyber Director Chris Inglis with a heavy emphasis on the need for improved collaboration between the public and private sectors as well as across sectors.

As we look at creating a more resilient cyber environment, Peraton holds that collaboration as a top priority. Recently, Director Inglis admitted that, in general, industry likely overestimates what information the federal government has about cyber resilience and threats, while the government likely underestimates what industry has. That challenge reinforces the need for far greater collaboration. In line with Inglis’ vision, Peraton has structured ourselves to increase cross-sector collaboration.

For example, we have a close collaboration between the teams that are supporting our external customers on cybersecurity and our internal chief information security organization that defends Peraton’s enterprise as a member of the defense industrial base.

Peraton is a target and we face threats just like our customers do. It’s important that our internal and external cyber teams are collaborating at the speed of cyber operations. We want to ensure that we’re collaborating and understanding observations, threats and mitigations.

If people are collaborating regularly and there’s a new threat that emerges, we’re all jumping on that collectively. When we’re sharing at the speed of operations like that, it sets the stage for another vision of Director Inglis which is, “To beat one of us, you must beat all of us.”

At Peraton, we’re setting up a structure that removes that friction and promotes that collaboration across all sectors. This allows us to get in front of the challenges at hand and share best practices to mitigate risks for our customers.

For instance, zero-trust architecture. Peraton has developed a zero-trust playbook as well as some solution-based elements and trusted vendors that we can bring to the table and help our customers across all of these different domains to be able to implement zero-trust.

That knowledge across sectors creates the opportunity for incrementally building off-of solutions versus having to start completely from scratch, or at least benefiting from the knowledge that others have gained. There’s definitely a huge benefit there and builds everyone’s experience to blaze some trails together as we move forward.”

ExecutiveBiz: What do you see as the most critical challenges facing those in the federal sector as cybersecurity continues to rise in importance? In this area, what makes Peraton cyber unique?

Tom Afferton: “One of the key things that I believe sets Peraton apart in this industry is that we have established a vertical line of business dedicated to cybersecurity.  We have brought under one roof our programs that support our customers whose primary missions are cybersecurity, signals intelligence and information warfare.

As a result, we have brought together programs that support the elements of the intelligence community that emphasize the signals intelligence mission with teams who support the US Cyber Command and the cyber commands from the military services, as well as DHS, and particularly the Cyber and Infrastructure Security Agency, into one organization.

First and foremost, that provides great career opportunities for our workforce because they can move across different domains with that common experience and expertise around cyber. It will also bring together the different mission elements that are particularly critical as we look at national security and the view of achieving information advantage.

All of those factors have really come into play and we’re mirroring that collaboration that the government is recognizing as necessary in the cyber fight. At Peraton, we have structured an organization to really focus on that and develop our ‘horizontal capability,’ which is useful for issues like zero-trust that are applicable across the board.

We have that capability within our company. We can share that across the board in the health sector, the space domain or other key areas of expansion in our industry. But as we really talk about specialized cyber operations and information operations as well as signals and intelligence, Peraton has that all in one place.

I’ve already mentioned zero-trust as being applicable across all our customers, but another area that hasn’t received much attention is something like insider threat.

A lot of people characterize insider threat as a cyber challenge because insider threat can manifest itself as a risk to data systems or networks. At Peraton, we really look at insider threats as a people challenge. Within our cyber organization, we include behavioral scientists who are conducting research on the human elements of behavior that could lead to an insider threat and work to get ahead of those challenges.

The human element of cybersecurity is a key theme for Peraton. We’re conducting research and contributing to government task forces by making recommendations to help our customers address their state of thinking around behavioral science.

More broadly, as we think about cybersecurity, it is still performed by people. Those people are in short supply and in very high demand today. As Peraton looks to make investments, we look at how to bring automation to help those cyber operators do their jobs more effectively, not to take them out of the loop.”

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