An eye for opportunity
Last Byte: CACI exec wants to boost company's national security business
- By David Hubler
- Jan 19, 2009
Zalmai Azmi, CACI International Inc.’s new senior vice president of strategic law enforcement and national security programs, began his long journey to the Arlington, Va., government contractor in 1980, when he left his native Afghanistan just as the Soviet Union invaded the country.
That journey included a stint in the Marine Corps during which Azmi was able to use his extensive language skills. After that, he worked in various government technology positions, rising to become chief information officer at the Executive Office for the U.S. Attorneys and the FBI.
Azmi joined CACI in November 2008. He recently spoke with Associate Editor David Hubler.
Q: For years, the FBI was virtually a closed shop, with limited interaction with the contractor community. How is that relationship today?
AZMI: I would say [it is] much better than before. It’s not 100 percent because the bureau has a lot of classified programs that they are not going to talk about. But anything on the law enforcement side that is sensitive but unclassified and anything that is on the administrative side, such as financial management and human resources or training, those are the things [for which the bureau] always seeks feedback from the industry.
Q: What can you carry from the FBI into your new role in the private sector?
AZMI: One of the things I did as CIO at the FBI was to look at the capabilities the bureau had on the law enforcement side of the house and [ask], “Would that apply to intelligence?” Working with the intelligence community, I looked to see if they had capabilities that would work on the law enforcement side.
From a technical perspective, this is something I will be focusing on here [at CACI], to see if we can reuse the services that we’re developing for our clients because I think that would [result in] a quick return on their investment, a quick time to market, and they will be looking at something we’ve already done for another client.
Q: Are there other avenues that you expect to explore to increase CACI’s offerings?
AZMI: CACI has a lot of capabilities within the country as well as things our partners are using overseas. I will look to see if some of that technology can be used internally in detection and prevention. Can we bring some of that technology in here to use for border security or for our critical infrastructure security? That requires a sort of high-level overview in developing a strategy and capabilities. What are the needs, what are the capabilities and how can we bring those together?
Q: CACI is known primarily as a federal defense contractor. What you are outlining suggests that the company is looking to grow in the state and local market. Is that correct?
AZMI: Absolutely. That is the whole goal. We already have one side of the coin, so how are we going to match it to the other side? How are we going to get to the first responders, how are we going to get to local and state [officials]? What are their needs, and how are we going to match them to what we currently have? We have the capabilities on the [Defense Department] and intelligence side that we can actually give to the local and state [market]. That is something that we are going to explore and look at.
Q: What do you believe is the biggest obstacle to successfully implementing that plan?
AZMI: The biggest stumbling block probably will be [the varying state] policies and procedures.
We talk a lot about information sharing and collaboration, but we really haven’t achieved a lot in that area. The other part is the private sector, in terms of what information they need from the federal government to protect their assets and what information they can provide to the government for more situational awareness. We all know that cybersecurity or information assurance impacts all sectors, from local and state to DOD. So how about if we share that information with each other?
David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.