The Wash100 is a list compiled annually by Executive Mosaic of the most influential and impactful executives working in the government contracting sector. Wash100 Award winners represent the best and brightest minds in GovCon, and they gain such recognition through clear demonstration of innovation, achievement, vision, reliability and leadership.
Vote for Christopher Scolese as your favorite Wash100 Award winner as part of this year’s popular vote competition! Visit Wash100.com to vote.
Scolese merited this award, his fourth consecutive, through his embrace of commercial innovation in space and his unwavering commitment to bolstering American intelligence and national security.
“Lifelong dedication from intellectually gifted intelligence leaders like Chris Scolese have maintained not only the U.S. but the world as a safer place,” said Jim Garrettson, CEO of Executive Mosaic and creator of the Wash100 Award.
Scolese is the 19th director of the NRO, and the first to be presidentially appointed and senate confirmed to the role. Early on in his post, he was known for formalizing end-to-end space operations between the Department of Defense and the intelligence community.
As the space domain has become more commercialized, contested and critical to the global power competition, Scolese has harnessed new technologies, strengthened partnerships with industry and allied nations and leveraged commercial space assets to keep pace with rising competition and threats around the world.
In May 2022, the NRO awarded a 10-year, multibillion-dollar Electro-Optical Commercial Layer contract to BlackSky, Maxar Technologies and Planet Labs. The contract allowed the NRO to significantly expand its acquisition of commercial imagery and remote sensing capabilities.
“The diversity offered by our expanding architecture comprised of both commercial and NRO systems increases our resilience and enables an integrated approach to the threats facing our nation,” said Scolese, who leads the agency with a “buy what we can, build what we must” mantra.
The contract marked a shift in the way the NRO viewed industry collaboration and prompted Scolese to more aggressively pursue commercial technology acquisition.
“About yearly we’re going to … go off and ask for commercial companies to come in with their ideas so that we can engage early, prior to having to award of contract, so they can understand what the government’s needs are and we can understand what their capabilities are,” Scolese said.
“When it comes time to go off and have a contract like we have for electro-optical imagery, for radar, they’ll be ready and we’ll be ready,” he added.
Scolese has also prioritized partnering with allies and mission partners across the globe to support American intelligence and national security missions.
Under Scolese’s leadership, the NRO launched its first national security payload into orbit as part of the agency’s Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket program. The mission, executed in July 2022 using a Rocket Lab spacecraft, was carried out in collaboration with Australia’s defense department.
“This collaboration with Australia bolsters our partnership and strengthens the foundation for future coordination as we work to secure and expand our intelligence advantage in a competitive space environment,” Scolese commented.
Executive Mosaic congratulates Christopher Scolese and the entire NRO organization on their 2023 Wash100 win, and we look forward to their continued innovation.