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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

The best and worst performances in 2010

As old years end and new ones begin, I can’t resist the temptation to talk about who had a good year and who had a bad year.

Admittedly my criteria are arbitrary so don’t hesitate to disagree. There are plenty of worthy candidates for best and worst year. Here are my picks. Please share yours.

Who had a bad year?

Small Businesses
As insourcing continued as a management strategy by many government agencies, small businesses felt the biggest impact. While companies across the size spectrum saw contracts go away or workers get recruited into government jobs, small businesses have the smallest cushion to absorb the hits.

Compounding the issue is that small businesses often are doing to jobs most likely to get insourced.

Small businesses also faced challenges in the market as agencies continue to bundle smaller contracts into larger ones that are difficult for small business to qualify for as prime contractors.

Who had a worse year?

Unisys Corp.

Their battle to hold onto their Transportation Security Administration infrastructure contract lasted nearly a year before they exhausted all their protests and appeals.
Unisys fought hard to keep the work, which had been worth more than $2 billion since the contract started in 2002. The recompete, worth about $500 million, went to Computer Sciences Corp.
The fight for Unisys to keep the contract went through multiple rounds, with Unisys winning most of those rounds. TSA was forced to reevaluate bids, but still picked CSC. The Government Accountability Office ultimately sided with TSA, and CSC was allowed to begin work on the contract in August.

Who had the worst year?

GTSI Corp.

I don't think I’ll get many arguments about this choice.

A Small Business Administration suspension nearly sunk GTSI and the company is still reeling.

Accused of using small businesses as front companies to funnel money and work to itself, GTSI had to jettison its chief executive officer and general counsel just to get the suspension lifted. The company’s stock sank and its reputation is severely damaged.

The new CEO Sterling Phillips has vowed to accelerate the GTSI’s strategy of becoming a services company. But he’s the fourth CEO with that goal without even considering the impact of the now-lifted suspension.

Phillips acknowledged the hit the company’s morale has taken and is frank about the challenges ahead. He’s also confident that GTSI will come out of this intact and independent.

Who had a good year?

Agilex Technologies

The company suffered a tragic blow at the start of 2010 when its co-founder Robert LaRose died unexpectedly.

He was mourned by a who’s who of industry leaders who got their start in government IT under his tutelage.

But his legacy of setting high expectations lives on at Agilex, which experience explosive growth – beyond the 2010 goals LaRose set for the company before his death.

Revenue grew 70 percent. The company added 100 employees to its headcount and it launched a fourth line of business to pursue Homeland Security and Justice department customers.

The company is also one of the first Apple authorized systems integrators in the government market.

While LaRose’s loss surely weighs heavily at the company, the foundation he left behind continues to thrive.

Who had a better year?

TASC Inc.

Northrop Grumman sold the company to get out from under organizational conflicts of interest concerns. For TASC, the independence must have come as a breath of fresh air.

With its growth no longer limited by other work that Northrop had, TASC won new business with the Defense Department and other customers that need its technical analysis services.

Its biggest win was the FAA SE2020 contract worth $827 million to support the transition to NextGen air traffic control system.

It’ll be fun watching them in 2011 and beyond.

Who had the best year?

CGI Federal

I admit this reflects my personal bias because I love merger and acquisition news, but CGI Federal stepped up in a big way when it acquired Stanley for $1 billion.

Unlike most other major acquisitions, the two companies didn’t have much overlap so you didn’t have a lot of talk about “synergies,” that polite term for cuts. Instead, Stanley brought a whole new set of customers in the defense and intelligence world.

For Phil Nolan, Stanley’s CEO and the other senior executives, there had to be an immense feeling of satisfaction of having grown the company from a few dozen employees to hundreds. It was quite a ride.

Hopefully, we’ll see Nolan and others like George Wilson, Stanley’s executive vice president, reappear in the market sometime in the future.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jan 03, 2011 at 7:23 PM


Reader Comments

Tue, Jan 4, 2011 M Reston

"Bundling" may just be the most efficient way to serve the taxpayer. Got a problem with that. If certain small businesses owners think they should be able to compete on $250 million plus jobs and not have to answer serious questions about risk, maybe they are fools. Sell to large businesses. That's how many large businesses got their - being a part of the best solution - not waiting on every more special handouts from corrput Congressmen.

Mon, Jan 3, 2011 David L Washington, DC

Despite the continuing mantra of some on the Hill that "small business is the economic engine of the country," the continuing selection of large, dare I say monolithic, antiquated, defense contractors for federal contracts continues unabated. VA, DOD and other "large" agencies continue to bundle larger and larger jobs into "mega" projects that a small business has no hope of being able to compete for and as a result, the government gets what it paid for - the same old thinking leading to the same old, disappointing results. GTSI was not an aberration, it was business as usual.

Mon, Dec 27, 2010 Peter G. Tuttle, CPCM

Nick: I wish I could disagree with your observation about small business, but unfortunately I cannot. The bundling of requirements coupled with the unrealistic fed notion that if they have only "one belly button to push," programs will be easier to manage, both serve a double death blow to small business. This is especially infuriating since the government then denies itself the opportunity for small business agility and innovation to be infused into the ongoing business process. Here is hoping that 2011 will bring more serious federal efforts to truly capitalize on the value that small business brings to our Nation.

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