He is Vice President and CTO of Advanced Solutions & Engineering at L-3 Communications, with over 14 years of experience leading technical teams and over seven years of experience consulting to the DoD, designing developing and integrating advanced SIGINT, Information Assurance, and Cyber (CND/A/O) solutions.
A holder of TS/SCI FS clearance, he holds a B.S in Biology from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, an ABD (Doctoral Studies) in Physiology and Biophysics from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Executive Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Sloan School of Management.
So who is our Q&A subject today? Meet Michael Mourelatos, who spoke with WashingtonExec about L-3 Communications, investing in big data, big data in the intelligence community, big data capabilities, big data misconceptions, and more.
WashingtonExec: Please tell us about your background and role at L-3 Communications.
Michael Mourelatos: I am the Vice President of Advanced Solutions and Engineering at L-3 STRATIS, a division of L-3’s National Security Solutions segment. For many years, STRATIS’ primary focus has been delivering excellent staff and engineering support services to help our US Government and allies and civil agency clients’ most challenging security problems.
Faced with significant DoD budgetary headwinds, a little over two years ago, Mr. Les Rose, the President of National Security Solutions put into motion a strategy to transform the organization from primarily delivering pure services, to delivering and introducing innovative and integrated solutions that can positively affect our clients’ missions and ensure the safety of our nation.
“As leader of Advanced Solutions and Engineering (AS&E), I’m responsible for providing a catalyst toward the goals of transformation and building an organization which fosters innovation through delivering mission-bending solutions in the areas of Cloud infrastructure, Cyber, Mobility and Analytics.”
My background is a bit non-traditional in that I do not have a classical degree in engineering. My biology degree and subsequent graduate research studies in Physiology and Biophysics immersed me into working with complex biologic and physiologic sensors (and yes overwhelming amounts of data). As computers were becoming more powerful and financially feasible, I began to explore using computers and algorithm development to study well described mathematical physiological functions under disease state – modeling and simulation of biologic systems.
I decided to make a career change to software engineering and through several circumstances, I found myself creating and delivering solutions that can ensure the safety and health of the great nation of the United States of America.
WashingtonExec: What convinced you to start investing in big data and make it part of your company strategy?
Michael Mourelatos: Was there ever a day where we had Little Data? I don’t think you can approach any decision maker today whom does not have a high affinity for the best data they can get their hands on in order to make accountable decisions. Big Data technologies have vastly widened the aperture to leveraging things like data and variety to drive decisions and gain advantage. Computational statistical models have been around for decades, the combination of low-cost computing and technologies that can quickly parse and provide structure to a vastly unstructured infosphere is setting a new precedence and new addressable markets. Not everyone is chasing needles in the haystack – that is the case in certain markets – but everyone is looking for how to get the best possible information distilled to a set of actionable substrate.
Our core philosophy at STRATIS has not changed when it comes to delivering solutions that enable our Government clients to make germane decisions for mission success. Our approach to Big Data is two-fold: delivering solutions that can elastically and rapidly provision infrastructure in response to data demands imposed on the Enterprise and its systems, and secondly on the analytics which drive and deliver efficiencies to the tradecraft of analysis. If data is gold, the analyst in our eyes is platinum… Data can be had, but talented and intuitive analysts are a growing concern. Delivering solutions which deliver efficiencies for analysis remains an extremely attractive domain.
WashingtonExec: How is Big Data changing the Intelligence Community?
Michael Mourelatos: Fundamentally, the IC has been dealing with Big Data since its inception. The problem is never solved, it is in a constant state of being managed, understood and leveraged to further the mission. To their credit, the IC is always pushing for advances in technology and solutions. The IC has an extremely high affinity for enabling technologies and innovative approaches to managing the challenges presented by the explosive growth of data volume, variety, and velocity; however, what is lost in the buzz of Big Data is that most solutions attempt to force an analyst into a box and often fall short of implementing lessons learned.
WashingtonExec: What government agency or private industry do you think has the most to gain from Big Data?
Michael Mourelatos: It is very difficult to ascribe value in terms of which FedGov or private industry stands to benefit the most. Many are already benefiting from one form or another of Big Data using traditional Business Intelligence technologies, but the availability of new sources of data and exchanges over the internet is changing the topology by which we approach our thinking on traditional questions.
If you are asking the question from a National Security perspective, the gain is easily understandable by us all of us. If we can leverage all source data to prevent another 9/11 attack on our country would it be valuable? However, the gain and importance is as equal in agriculture, energy and other areas of government and commercial interests. If we can leverage Big Data to drive increased productivity and efficiencies in farming, would that be less important? The economic impact is highly notable. I would argue that every agency will benefit from investment into Big Data platforms and research. Emphasis must be ascribed on the “re-thinking” of the questions we want to ask versus being daunted with the amount of data accessible.
“Go back to basics, what are your questions. Align the questions needed to move your business forward, and allow the access from all source data to help influence and drive decisions.”
WashingtonExec: Is the federal government a leader in big data or data mining, or is the commercial sector light-years ahead?
Michael Mourelatos: It is an unfair question, but I believe that the commercial sector was the trailblazer for a lot of our rethinking and creating monetizing solutions that heavily relied on Big Data. Companies, like Yahoo and Google, eBay, and others dealt with the problem much earlier and invested heavily into the solutions which challenged the limitations of legacy solutions. So in this context, I would have to say commercial has had the edge.
WashingtonExec: What big data capabilities are you seeing now and how do you see it evolving?
Michael Mourelatos: For most, Big Data is as obtuse and daunting a concept as Cloud and previously Cyber. We see some quiet sprinting by some toward the juxtaposition of massive structured data repositories overlaid and enriched with results from unstructured analysis. Separately, we are also beginning to see a refocusing by many on delivering visualization tools which can be more immersive with the data through the use of semantics and ontology driven vignettes.
WashingtonExec: What is the biggest misconception of Big Data?
Michael Mourelatos: That it’s purely a new way of storing large amounts of data…a new database technology…
Big Data is about new forms of complexity that have quickly arisen due to the interconnectedness of nearly everything the modern society is producing. The ways by which we ask questions of our world is shifting and Big Data injects a paradigm that forces us to step back and rethink how to tactically approach the way mission can be enhanced.
WashingtonExec: What more do you think the government could do as far as initiatives to push Big Data?
Michael Mourelatos: Government is both a big consumer and can be a very large producer of data, however, most the data that is available for public consumption is not easily accessible via standardized and published APIs.
WashingtonExec: What do you like to do in your spare time?
Michael Mourelatos: I am fortunate to have three thriving young boys that keep me fully engaged with their school and sports activities. Most weekends I can be found on a baseball or soccer field, and occasionally, a golf course.
I remain highly passionate in leveraging advancing technologies to deliver solutions that are aimed at keeping our nation and its interests protected, and building an environment that fosters innovation empowering the team and its individuals to embrace a clear vision and thinking as owners of the organization.