Brett Dody has always been a man with an eye on supporting “the mission.”
But after an extensive federal career leading teams that developed communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities to support the national intelligence mission, he was ready for something new.
After taking five months to decompress from “the everyday grind of public work,” Dody decided the time was right to transition into the private sector.
Today the former intelligence official and a Brookings Institution Congressional Fellow is the vice president of the Intelligence Systems Group at Vencore (formerly the SI Organization).
Dody opened up to WashingtonExec in a recent interview about his public to private transition, the challenges he faces in his current role, technological disruptions to the Intelligence Community and his advice to those he mentors.
After a series of recent transitions, Dody said Vencore is leveraging its more diverse portfolio to stay ahead in a world permeated by constrained federal budgets and the increasing availability of information that threatens to disrupt the Intelligence Community.
WashingtonExec: What is something that you’ve learned since your transition to the private sector that you didn’t realize initially?
Brett Dody: It confirms something I suspected and that is that even in a tight budget environment, there’s opportunity out there for people that are willing to work hard. I think the challenge, when you transition from federal service, is trying to find the thing that excites you in the next phase of your career or phase of your life. I took about five months to decompress and really think about what I wanted to do and I think that’s what really helped me. I do a lot of mentoring with folks that are thinking about getting out of government. I always ask them: what excites you, do you want to manage people, not manage people, full time, part time, work for a big company, small company, or consult? There are opportunities out there for all of that but you really need to identify something that you can pour your passion into. And I always tell people, just because you’re a senior manager that doesn’t mean that’s what you need to do going forward. You really want to do something that interests you, where you can make the most impact, and that may involve being an individual contributor or subject matter expert.
WashingtonExec: What is your best piece of advice for one of your mentees when deciding whether to remain in federal or enter the private sector?
Brett Dody: It’s really doing that self-evaluation of what makes you tick and finding your passion. As you’re transitioning from federal to the private, that’s the time to really get it right and do what you really want to do.
WashingtonExec: What’s the largest challenge you face today as a defense contractor?
Brett Dody: Probably just the ongoing budget crisis out there in the federal government. It seems to impact everything we do. It impacts potential business, delays awards of new business, results in unexpected de-scopes, and all of that impacts employees and their job security. The budget has also taken a toll on a lot of folks that maybe would have stayed in federal service longer, but are just kind of tired of it. Instead they choose to step aside and I think that’s causing some gaps in business acumen.
WashingtonExec: How are you overcoming those challenges that you face?
Brett Dody: The exciting thing for us, with the newly launched Vencore brand, is that over the last couple years we have added what was part of the original Bell Labs R&D shop, and a precision communication analysis company called Phase One. Now with the acquisition of QinetiQ North America, Services and Solutions Group, I think we have a much more diverse portfolio of skills we can bring to the customer. The customer requirements haven’t gone away and the budget has gotten tighter. So they’re looking for quick, solid solutions, more efficiencies and better value in their investments. I think what Vencore brings to the community now is going to make us even more competitive.
WashingtonExec: Which technology would you say has been most disruptive to the intelligence community during the past five years and how?
Brett Dody: I think it’s just the availability of actionable information. The adversary or target that our customers go after is a lot more sophisticated now. I think the challenge is trying to stay ahead of them. After 9/11, there was a big push to share data, which is great; collaboration across the community and collaboration with our coalition partners can prevent bad things from happening. But at the same time, it also puts a lot of capability and information at risk, whether it’s insider threat or just a sophisticated target.
WashingtonExec: What do you see as key to fostering innovation while keeping privacy in intelligence gathering?
Brett Dody: Target sophistication and trying to stay ahead of them at a time when budgets are constrained and yet requirements are going up creates a real need for customers to redesign their organizations, rebuild their capability and at a faster pace than ever before. The need for agility to address the speed of a changing mission, and to staying ahead of those challenges will drive innovative solutions.
WashingtonExec: And as it relates to privacy?
Brett Dody: As it relates to privacy, I am part of an industry Security Council and just recently was exposed to a discussion on the work that social media might play in future security clearance adjudication. At what point do you cross the line from a civil liberties perspective? If you sign an agreement to protect national security secrets are you giving up some of that? What do you post on Facebook, what do you post on LinkedIn? If you hold top secret security clearances you ought to feel pretty confident that the information you post is probably open to government to use for security adjudication. That’d be one example of new technology from a privacy standpoint. And I would support that use of social media. If you’re going to be in the business of protecting the nation’s secrets, then I think social media should play in that adjudication.
WashingtonExec: Your company has gone through a few changes in the past four years. Is there an acquisition in the future or do you think this is the start of a season of consolidation for other companies?
Brett Dody: In the late 80s there was a consolidation in industry as budgets got tight, and through the early 90s with the peace dividend and the wall coming down there was a lot of consolidation. I think as far as Vencore goes, we’ll probably let the dust settle on this latest acquisition and get our feet on the ground and start leveraging the capability that we’re going to be able to bring to the mission. I think the acquisition of QinetiQ North America, Services and Solutions Group, takes us to about 4800 employees, with about 1.3 billion dollars in annual revenue. The really exciting thing about the recent acquisition was that out of our combined annual revenues, there was almost no overlap. So, the combined company brings a whole new customer suite and a lot more capabilities for us to support the customer mission. You combine that with our heritage that we brought from Lockheed and, along with ACS and Phase One, I think it’s going to position us to really be able to deliver solutions to our customers that solve some of their most complex problems.
WashingtonExec: What is something most people don’t know about you?
Brett Dody: I think like a lot of people in the community, I try to play golf when I have time. That’s one outside activity. I also donate time through our local church by directing traffic every Sunday morning. That’d be one thing most people wouldn’t picture me doing, but it’s a way to give back a little bit. I also try to stay involved in some of the NGO work where you can make a contribution in those global areas as well.
WashingtonExec: Do you have a particular one?
Brett Dody: The International Justice Mission. When I was on the Hill it was combating trafficking of women and children around the world and I was exposed to that worthwhile organization through the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. Congressman Frank Wolf, whom I served through my Brookings assignment, was a co-chair of the CHRC and instrumental in getting a focus at State Department on that important issue. That’s one organization I follow with interest.