Peraton chief: Contractors must think bigger to address today’s threats

Stories |
Stu Shea

For Defense News

The last two years have brought an onslaught of challenges that vexed the United States, including the COVID-19 pandemic; cyberattacks and supply chain compromises; environmental disasters; international leadership changes through embattled elections and coups; economic instability; and the onslaught of global refugee flows, among a host of other consuming issues. On its own, COVID-19 disrupted life worldwide, with far-reaching effects going well beyond global health and impacting the economic, political and security domains.

In addition to illustrating the precariousness of our country’s situation, these problems show how the defense security, infrastructure security, health security, financial security and economic security of our citizens are inextricably linked. No longer can these areas of focus be viewed independently and addressed myopically.

The lines between traditional and nontraditional security issues are rapidly blurring. This shift has been occurring across multiple presidential administrations and was most recently acknowledged in the strategic competition posture laid out in the March 2021 Interim National Security Strategic Guidance.

We’ve learned a critical lesson here: Our national security today is not only dependent on our ability to effectively deter our adversaries, but also our ability to deliver robust citizen services, protect our financial systems and rapidly respond to an increasing volume of unconventional threats. Such systemic issues require the U.S. take a more expansive view of national security. National security also must incorporate human security, where we not only protect our borders and deploy our military forces, but also invest in the security and well-being of our citizens.

It’s true that connecting sensors that span the military services and the intelligence community can create a decisive advantage for our war fighters. Unified command and control across all domains is a critical defense security goal, embodied in discussions around Joint All-Domain Command and Control — otherwise known as JADC2.

But our national security needs are broader; they also depend on such disparate goals as maintaining the integrity of supply chains, preventing widespread fraud from disrupting benefit programs and disability payments, and preparing for the next global pandemic. This is where the concepts of national defense and national security diverge, as the former remains attached to military and traditional security issues, while the latter must increasingly account for the nexus of nontraditional security issues.

As a next-generation national security company, Peraton has always focused on this critical intersection. While some companies have narrowed their concentration to specific areas of competence or mission support, we’ve grown sevenfold in the last year to deliberately diversify our capabilities — and our customers — to address the new paradigm. Government contractors that invest across the entire portfolio of government security needs — and build purposefully to address those diverse fields — will be more competitive for the growing number of multibillion-dollar contracts because they will be able to provide more comprehensive and integrated solutions.

A proprietary tool/system/platform mentality is no longer adequate to protect our citizens. A comprehensive set of capabilities is foundational to addressing the broad expanse of needs in this complex ecosystem of national security in 2022 and beyond.

Not every large government contractor will respond positively to these pressures. A company dependent on producing a small number of platforms is still going to try to sell as many instances of that platform as possible, no matter the alternatives. But for a mission-capability integrator like Peraton — focused on bringing together the best people, solutions and strategies to help customers ensure mission success when lives are on the line — I believe the key to success and growth is forgetting old notions about what a national security company should or should not do.

Being able to pull relevant capabilities across the business — no matter the security issue being addressed — will result in a greater return on investment for the government customer and a more cost-efficient outcome for the American taxpayer.

Today’s threats often don’t fit neatly into traditional definitions of security. We must be nimble, agile and open-minded to respond to the challenge at hand.

I hope to see more of our industry colleagues look at our collective national security universe holistically so that we can work together to solve the increasingly complex challenges confronting our government customers. This more expansive work will result in a safer, more secure world.