Atkin's mission: Keeping SRA true to its roots

As chief operating officer of SRA International, Timothy Atkin is focused on the company’s day-to-day operations. The new position for the company allows SRA Chief Executive Officer Stan Sloane to concentrate on external work, particularly meeting with customers.

Atkin spoke with Editor-in-Chief Nick Wakeman about his role and goals for the company.

Q: What does a chief operating officer do?

Atkin: First is program execution, to make sure we are adding high value and completing high-quality work. This includes being on time and on budget.

Second is making sure that we have our costs aligned properly and that we are operating efficiently.

Third is acquisition due diligence and integration. Mergers and acquisitions are a continuum from when you first identify them, to doing due diligence, and integrating them in the company. What we look for [in an acquisition] is one plus one equals three. A focus of mine is to make sure we are achieving that result.

The fourth area is employee development. We really only have one resource, and it is people. We are very proud that we are in Fortune’s Top 100 best company [to work for] list for 10 years running. We hope that continues, and it is a high priority to make sure we continuously improve how we can develop our employees and support them in their careers.

Q: What brought you to this position?

Atkin: I was active Coast Guard for 12 years and commanded a couple of different cutters. I also did a couple of rotations at the White House. I worked at the National Security Council and later at the drug czar's office. That gave me some fascinating insights into the interagency process of government and national policy-making.

After the Coast Guard, I was a political appointee at the Labor Department under the Clinton administration. I worked as chief of staff for the deputy secretary. That was hardcore management across an entire department. I gained good insights into the mechanics of how a Cabinet-level department works.

Then I came to SRA [10 years ago] and started running a business program in critical infrastructure protection and cybersecurity. I did that for a few years and then started our homeland security practice when the Homeland Security Department was stood up.

From there I became deputy director of our civil sector. When my boss retired, I moved up. When we acquired Constella in the health space, I moved over to run our global health sector and integrate Constella into the company.

[In late 2008], we looked at changes in the market and refocused our efforts on our core federal services marketplace. Stan asked me to take on the role of COO to focus on day-to-day operations and give him the ability to focus more externally.

Q: What will customers see?

Atkin: They won’t see a dramatic shift. They’ll see more of Stan. He’ll be out there meeting directly with clients to make sure we are adding value and how happy they are with our work and if there are other things we should be doing to support them.

Hopefully, they’ll see continuous improvement and enhancement in the quality of our work. Those things are core parts of the culture of the company.

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