Cofoni gets comfortable in new role at CACI
- By David Hubler
- Apr 04, 2007
"Most of my leadership learning came from those four years in the Army. [That's] where I learned 90 percent of what I know about leadership today." ? Paul Cofoni
Paul Cofoni's retirement as president of Computer Sciences Corp.'s federal business unit in 2005 was supposed to be kept under wraps as part of a regulatory requirement. CSC and his new employer, CACI International Inc., were to announce the transition simultaneously.
However, while on a flight to the West Coast the day after turning in his retirement papers, Cofoni received a call from CSC informing him that the news was out. "It was a Friday night that I retired, and Saturday morning at 8 o'clock, the media was on it," he said. "I never did find out how it was leaked."
Fortunately, the Securities and Exchange Commission chose not to pursue the regulatory slip, and Cofoni did not view it as an omen about his appointment as president of U.S. operations at CACI. He's been on the job about 18 months and says he feels quite at home in his new Arlington, Va., office.
"This is a company that, depending on how you look at it, is either a large small company or a small large company," he said. "Part of what excited me about coming here were two things: One, the ability to help the company make the transition to tier-one status and, secondly, the opportunity to learn new things. Here, I am involved with things I wasn't really involved with at CSC."
Cofoni plays a key role in CACI's mergers and acquisitions program, advises Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jack London and is a member of the board of directors, a wholly new experience, he said.
"This is a chance for me to work with a company that, because of the fact that it isn't part of a much larger corporation, sort of charts its own destiny, lays down its strategy, and the people at the senior leadership level really have a strong voice in where the company is going," Cofoni said. "We chart that together."
Cofoni's experience at CSC and General Dynamics before that was an asset London wanted to bring to CACI. "He was coming out of a business situation where he was running an operation of several billion dollars and we're passing through those numbers ? or soon will be ? and so that was the first criterion," London said.
Cofoni's attitude met London's second criterion. "If you've got somebody that's got a positive, constructive attitude and knows how to work in a team environment and exhibit leadership skills, chances are it's going to work if you get that part right," London said.
Cofoni has matured and grown into his role at CACI, London said. "I think he's risen to the challenge and has a good notion how to continue to build the company."
Cofoni likens his 17 years at General Dynamics and 14 at CSC before joining CACI to Goldilocks tasting the porridge. "I just had to go around [until] I got to the third one, and it's just right," he said.
Cofoni added, however, that he views those 31 years as part of the value he brings to CACI. "My background has been involved almost completely with large-scale systems integration, an area in which CACI aspires to get more involved," he said.
Although CACI is large ? 10,000 employees in 130 locations ? the goal of the company is to double in size by fiscal 2011 to more than $3 billion. CACI ranked 13th on the Washington Technology list of the Top 100 federal prime contractors in 2006, with $1.07 billion in revenue.
CACI's stock was trading at about $47 a share at the end of March, up from a 52-week low of $44.70. In that same period, the stock had a high of $68.24.
CACI lowered its fiscal 2007 guidance in mid-January 2007, due to what Cofoni described as a combination of industrywide and CACI-specific factors. The company is projecting revenue of $1.875 billion to $1.95 billion for its fiscal 2007, which ends June 30. "The Department of Defense shifted prioritization of spending to operations in Southwest Asia, and most of the federal government has been operating under a continuing resolution for the government's fiscal year 2007. We also experienced protests on new, multibillion-dollar contract awards, temporarily delaying the start of work," Cofoni said.
Those issues notwithstanding, he said, "We remain confident in the value we provide to our customers and shareholders. We are encouraged by our sizeable recent contract awards and funding orders. They bode well for future results."
Such Wall Street fluctuations and corporate experiences will help Cofoni make CACI's transition to tier one more efficient, "but not make the mistakes I made before," he said. "I've got scars all over me from not going the right way the last time," he added, laughing.Many IT Services
The 45-year-old company offers a wide range of IT services, from systems integration and managed network solutions to knowledge management, engineering, simulation and information assurance. CACI's major clients include the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Navy, Army and the General Services Administration.
Cofoni credits the military for his rise to a top-level executive. "Most of my leadership learning came from those four years in the Army. [That's] where I learned 90 percent of what I know about leadership today," he said.
Cofoni employs those same skills as a member of the executive committee of the Profes- sional Services Council, an industry trade association. PSC president Stan Soloway said Cofoni is committed to finding ways to improve the relationship between the private sector and the government and to address issues of concern to both.
"There are sometimes frustrations, but I've always sensed that he was a guy who just really was focused on figuring out the way forward," Soloway said. "I find Paul a very easy guy to talk to, very thoughtful, low-key but engaged."
The PSC executive committee tends to be very supportive, Soloway said. "Like others on the committee, Paul really makes an effort to get to the meetings he needs to get to despite a ridiculous schedule."
With federal budgets tight due to the war effort and agencies spending judiciously, Cofoni knows his leadership skills will continue to be tested. Protests against contract awards are also having a braking effect on federal contracting in general, he said. Competitors lodged protests against all but one of CACI's recent wins, which included the Army Information Technology Enterprise Solutions 2 Services contract. Resolution of the protests took four months to almost a year, he said.
"That has had the effect of slowing down the work coming to us," Cofoni added. "It's made it difficult to forecast."
Defense spending will not be reduced anytime soon, as it was after the Cold War, Cofoni said. "The new reality is that the threat we face is a threat that will be here for decades," he said, "and we have to be prepared to meet that threat."
Confoni said he's confident that CACI is prepared. "We are positioned very, very strongly in defense, intelligence and homeland security. We think those are the big needs going forward for the country."Associate Editor David Hubler can be reached at email@example.com.