TASC CEO on the opportunities and challenges ahead

David Langstaff returns as a CEO to a different market than a decade ago, but he still sees plenty to get excited about.

As the CEO of TASC Inc., David Langstaff faces a very different market than he did during his run at Veridian Corp. in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when annual double-digit growth was commonplace. But Langstaff still sees today’s market as one with more opportunities than pitfalls. He spoke recently with Editor-in-Chief Nick Wakeman about his goals at TASC and why this is a good time to be in the government space.

Washington Technology: So why TASC?

David Langstaff: With Veridian we had the benefit of a resurgence of our market, but today we are at the front end of what will clearly be a downturn in major parts of the defense and national security market. But that allows one to rethink basic premises and forces a company to be very clear about what it does and doesn’t do well. It sharpens your strategic focus. I find that very exciting. It’s going to be hard but it is a good time to focus a business.

WT: What will be the TASC focus going forward?

Langstaff: One of the first steps in coming out of Northrop Grumman was reestablishing the TASC identity in the market and for our employees. What motivates me is the desire to build what people will talk about as one of the great companies in our market. TASC can be that. You start with clarity of purpose. You have to establish why you exist. We talk about strengthening the security, safety and basic values of society. You have to establish security before a society can thrive. We take pride in the fact that we are on the front lines with our customers in addressing the basic elements of security in our society.

WT: In today’s market are the customers’ challenges mostly around budget issues?

Langstaff: The challenges come from a combination of things. The world isn’t getting safer so the mission challenge is the same, if not increasing. But the budget is causing customers to make tradeoffs. That’s the biggest challenge. What the budget crisis brings is a need to think differently about how to solve problems. And that is exciting for business because it puts a real premium on the innovative, agile company that is trusted.

WT: You’ve made several key hires since coming on board in March. What do they reflect?

Langstaff: A lot of our new hires reflect a commitment to the elements of TASC that we think are critical for this new market. We have a stronger focus around customers and not just as individual customers, but as customer communities. We want to have a stronger emphasis on the calling card capabilities of TASC: systems engineering, enterprise engineering, mission architecture, test and evaluation, and increasingly cloud, data analytics and cyber work. We’ve also reorganized. About two-thirds of business is with intelligence agencies so we’ve put all that into one group (under Al Pisani). All of those agencies play off one another and that is part of TASC understanding the whole community and not just each customer individually. We also are elevating our focus on our core capabilities so we hired Bob Pattishall to help us ensure that our systems engineering skills can be applied across the whole company to all of our customers. That’s exciting for our employees because they know they can access capabilities from anywhere in the company to solve their customers’ problems.

WT: What areas are you investing in?

Langstaff: We’re focused on capabilities to enhance our systems engineering and integration. We are integrating cyber, and not just treating it as a discrete offering. We’re also building a stronger skill set in doing assessments of commercial technologies because part of the solution for our customers is to bring more technology from the commercial sector. We’re also investing in cloud security, mobile and wireless applications, big data analytics and modeling and simulation.

WT: When you look at the next 12 months what do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities?

Langstaff: Our opportunities are almost unlimited because we are a company of sufficient size to be a prime to solve problems for our customers. It is great to be a problem solver in this market. The challenge is that TASC is well known in the intelligence community but not as well known in other markets. This is not a market where a rising tide is going to lift all boats. We need to play where we are strong and where our capabilities can lend themselves to the challenges of our customers.

NEXT STORY: Federal CIO details IT forecast

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