A-T Solutions President & CEO Dennis Kelly Discusses Growth and Opportunity in the High-Stakes Security Industry

Dennis Kelly, A-T Solutions

Dennis Kelly, A-T Solutions

For the eighth year in a row, A-T Solutions was named to the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing companies in 2014. President and CEO Dennis Kelly attributes A-T Solutions’ continued growth to its capacity to address the entire spectrum of terrorism threats.

“We’re somewhat unique in that we provide both,” said Kelly in an interview with WashingtonExec. “About 85 percent of our business is services and subject matter experts that we provide to our customers’ missions, and about 15 percent of what we do are products. Our work takes a team of people and a tool belt of capabilities, if you will. We bring a number of tools to the table, in the form of software or hardware solutions.

As an example, one of the software solutions we bring is a customs and border protection targeting system that allows customs agencies around the world to work the customs targeting issue in a smarter way, using big data and analytics to target which ships and containers need to be looked at, because you can’t obviously look at all of them.”

This and many other powerful counterterrorism solutions are fueling A-T Solutions’ growth, and as we mentioned, Inc. has noticed that growth for eight years straight.

“First and foremost, our people are the reason for our success and growth,” said Kelly. “Our people are on the front lines with our customers every day, supporting their missions. We have an extraordinary team of former military intelligence professionals, federal law enforcement, state and local law enforcement folks, and technologists who do a super job for our customers every day.”

The missions Kelly’s team supports are also responsible for the company’s growth, as our country relies more and more on counterterrorism and national security.

“Keeping us safe is our government’s most important mission. The fact that we’re focused on that segment of the market, which is in demand, has been a key driver to our growth.”

For A-T Solutions, growth means expanding the company’s reach beyond national security.

“Counterterrorism has always been a hallmark of what we do, but as we widen the aperture of our market, more traditional national security missions come into play as well. We’re expanding our operations across the intelligence community increasingly, which further adds to our national security footprint.”

Mitigating Security Threats across Multiple Fronts

According to Kelly, A-T Solutions got its start working to mitigate the IED (improvised explosive device) threat, but has expanded to working with customers on countering weapons of mass destruction (WMD), including chemical and biological weapons, as well as nuclear weapons. “These weapons are a critical concern for our government because it would be a game changer if a terrorist were to use one of those WMD devices here at home,” he said.

A-T Solutions is working with a number of organizations such as the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), and it has primed a couple of programs there to address and mitigate those threats.

“What we’ve been doing in the market is getting ahead of the terrorist network. A lot of the work we’re doing – from identity operations and forensic intelligence to data we collect after an event happens – we’re doing it right on the front lines alongside our customers, and that information can be used to hopefully prevent a future event from happening,” Kelly added.

A-T Solutions is also working to mitigate the onslaught of cyber threats to US government entities.

“As the world becomes more wired, the cyber threat is expected to be an increasing threat against our critical infrastructure. We provide support to the intelligence community – by training first responders – to thwart that threat.”

Transportation security is also a major focus for the company right now. “Transportation seems to be a favorite target of the bad guys, and it is an area that we focus on, so much so that we acquired a company about a year ago called GreenLine Systems,” said Kelly. “This company, which develops transportation security solutions, is working with Customs and Border Protection to prevent threats from coming to our shores or across our borders, and also working with foreign countries around the world to do the same.

We’re also starting to get into passenger tracking systems that monitor the movement of people who may be coming in to our country or other countries looking to do harm. So transportation security is another area that we’re focused on, and our acquisition of GreenLine Systems gave us a great capability to redouble our efforts in that area.”

Training the Next Generation of Security Professionals

With so many threats facing the country, the industry needs a continuous supply of educated and trained homeland security professionals. We asked Kelly how college students can prepare to enter the security field upon graduation. Since his son began his freshman year at Virginia Tech this fall, Kelly framed his answer as he would pass along advice to his son:

“When students want to prepare for a job in the contracting industry or in the government, a great place for them to start is in the government because that really gets them closer to the mission with applicable, technical skills. It might be computer science skills or cyber security skills, or it could be electrical engineering to help with a variety of mission sets out there. It could also be accounting skills – forensics accounting to track terrorist financing – but I think it’s important that students have a good set of technical skills.”

Kelly naturally added that having a high GPA and distinguished academic record is helpful as well.

According to Kelly, family is why people in his industry do what they do.

“In part, we’re in this mission because we want to keep our country safe from threats. Most of us hold family very dear.”

Supporting the EOD Warrior Foundation

For Kelly, the mission to support our military goes beyond the office walls. He is involved with the EOD Warrior Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides assistance and support to wounded or ill Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians, both veteran and active-duty, and their families.

“I became involved with the EOD Warrior Foundation when I started working at A-T Solutions,” Kelly said. “Our founder, Ken Falke, and our COO, Jeff Simons, jointly founded this organization to support injured EOD warriors and the families of the fallen. These folks have an incredibly difficult job, and they’ve sacrificed greatly in defense of our nation. So we support that community with solutions. We have seen the trauma and the mayhem that’s been caused as a result of being engaged in two wars now.”

The foundation supports wounded warriors and their families when they are in the hospital, helping with transportation costs, as well as helping with ongoing care, rehabilitation, and even adaptations to their houses once they return home. For those warriors who have passed away, the foundation offers a scholarship fund for children of survivors.

“Many of our employees come from this community, so we work to support it,” Kelly said. “We really feel like part of their team, and we take it personally when one of them gets harmed. They deserve our support and honor.”

A-T Solutions supports the foundation in several ways. Mr. Simons serves on the board, and the company regularly participates in the annual golf tournament, 5-K race and polar bear plunge.

“I can say that, on at least two occasions, I’ve jumped into the Rappahannock River in February,” said Kelly. “If you’ve never done that, it’s a life changing experience, especially when the firefighters are breaking the ice away from the river to allow you a place to jump in.”

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