HII Chief Technology Officer Todd Borkey took on his first CTO role over 15 years ago, and has since gained a wealth of experience in defense and communications technology as well as in systems engineering and research and development. Prior to joining HII, he was CTO of Alion Science and Technology.
In his current position, which he was elevated to in September 2022, Borkey leads HII’s research and development investments and the strategy to expand its technology portfolio. His work serves as the foundation for the company’s efforts to provide market leading products and services during a period of rapid technological change.
Borkey recently sat down with ExecutiveBiz for an Executive Spotlight interview, during which he shared his insights on the trends shaping the evolving government contracting landscape and the implications of emerging technologies, most notably artificial intelligence.
What is your outlook on the global defense landscape? What significant changes or trends do you see?
Rapidly advancing threats posed by peer adversaries will continue to drive strong U.S. defense investment. The nation is experiencing a combined economic and military challenge that is different from historical precedents. Behind it all is a race for an information advantage, where knowing first and knowing more is critical. The pace of technological change and acquiring and utilizing that information has never been greater. While previous generations saw the commercialization of military technology, our generation must pivot to the militarization of commercial technologies. To achieve this we must modernize contracting and business models to leverage the agility of our entire industrial base.
Silicon Valley technology has enabled and fueled the information race we are witnessing today. The information race is also changing the speed of warfare. The speed at which we can detect, decide, and act is dramatically improving with these technologies. Our new abilities to collect, process and manage the right data at the right time is revolutionary. These trends are accelerating as high performance computing, secure clouds, cloud to edge data fabrics, edge inference and AI-powered analytics are all able and ready to serve. The new technology is instrumental in helping us operate effectively against the new threats of a future conflict.
Which emerging technologies do you anticipate will have the greatest impact on the federal landscape in the next few years?
The AI revolution is far and away the greatest force in technological change today. AI can understand the context of human languages, recognize objects to describe scenes in images and video, automate detection by classifying sensor signatures and recognize relationships and patterns in complex data better than humans. While the internet provided us with global connectivity, AI will transform the quantity of information possible from that connectivity. This impact is history-making.
The AI revolution, arguably now in its sixth year, has required numerous types of business adaptations to conquer its effective use. Synthetic data, from trusted physics-based models, is needed to develop better AI. AI is revolutionizing the quality by which we can virtualize systems, platforms and processes. The same gains improve human training and will rapidly expand the potential for human-machine teaming. While generative AI, which uses large language models as chatbots, is creating quite a stir, we see neuro-symbolic AI models as a path to leverage machine learning and deep learning for superior performance with humans “on the loop”.
Commercialization of space is changing the economy, volume and recency of data collectable from space. This too is a powerful trend which will affect the entire federal government. I must also mention quantum sensing. The potential for quantum sensing to affect several of our markets within the next few years is very real.
These are exciting times. I have never seen a pace of change like this. The federal government can gain massive efficiencies, improve defense and provide better services to us all.
What role can AI play in managing the enterprise?
Natural language processing, machine learning models and data science tools are creating a completely new way to think about diagnosing performance of the enterprise. We can use these tools to measure the efficacy of design transfer, detect constraints, find leading indicators of problems and make performance predictions.
These tools, which enable new types of virtualization, are transforming how we think about digital twins. Digital twins are no longer just for machines. We can make a twin of the environment, the people and the machines to create an operational or enterprise twin. When operating in real time, these twins can serve as human decision aids. They are an excellent example of how human-machine teaming can extend reliable performance when conditions become too complex or fast paced for humans “in the loop”.
What are the most impactful trends you are currently seeing in the GovCon market? How are GovCon organizations responding?
The most impactful trends in GovCon are the pressures we see for acquisition to keep pace and control performance amid the level of technological change. The government has started to address these challenges with the Defense Innovation Unit, Other Transaction Authority contracts and technology transition services contracts like those administered by the Federal Systems Integration and Management Center. We have been active with silicon valley teammates for years on our HII big data analytics projects. Modern cloud data enterprise solutions, which are extensible to the edge, allow the government to control its data while operating more freely across a constantly evolving set of software service options. The security to achieve this has already been figured out.
I must also mention the challenge for human capital. The information race has created a shortage of technical talent for all the work that I described earlier. GovCon primes are now competing with FinTech, Silicon Valley and the reshoring of US manufacturing. We must move aggressively to develop resources with training, stimulate STEM enrollments and recruit special talent globally. The hypercompetitive resource situation will likely be here for the foreseeable future, and creative solutions are needed.