Peraton isn’t your typical startup.
Since its launch this past year, the Herndon, Virginia-based national security technology company has benefited from its unique position on two fronts: first, with its 125-year company legacy; and secondly, through its reinvention as a $1 billion government contracting startup.
Between those two end points, Peraton CEO Stu Shea sees big opportunity. In particular, the 35-year veteran of the government contracting industry, who most recently served as the chief architect, and later led the separation of SAIC from Leidos while serving as the chief operating officer of SAIC, is now eyeing opportunities across “emergent warfighter domains,” as he calls them. Those domains include space, intelligence, cyber and electronic warfare.
That’s where Peraton, whose name is a fusion of the Latin prefix “per” (or “thoroughly”) and the word “imperative,” can pivot off its unique background, Shea says. He’s pretty confident about it, too.
“I don’t see any competition from small to large companies that scares me,” Shea says. “We can play in all of those markets to our advantage — and we will.”
Peraton has already fended off steep competition to secure its first critical win. Last fall, the company won a 5-year, $578 million contract to help sustain security screening equipment at all U.S. airports and other component facilities for the Homeland Security Department and the Transportation Security Administration. No sooner was the contract win announced than incumbent Leidos filed a protest. Shea remains confident the contract will be upheld in Peraton’s favor.
“We will let [the Government Accountability Office]go through their process, evaluate that protest and make that determination,” Shea says. “I believe in my heart they will make the determination that, again, Peraton is the appropriate winner — we look forward to supporting DHS and TSA as we look ahead.”
Shea’s optimism rests, as well, on faith in the team he’s assiduously helped put in place in the months since the company’s launch.
In January, Peraton hired long-time intelligence community veteran and former Noblis executive Dr. Roger Mason as president of the company’s space, intelligence and cyber sector. In addition, Peraton has brought onboard former Leidos vice president and 22-year security industry veteran, Phil Mazzocco, as chief security officer, and Northrop Grumman communications veteran Matt McQueen as chief communications officer. Peraton also promoted former Harris Corp. HR executive Laurie Foglesong as chief human resources officer, and announced that former DHS Undersecretary Reggie Brothers will be joining the company in February as chief technology officer.
These strategic hires, Shea says, build up the “foundational elements of the company.” So does hammering out, and driving home, the company’s unfolding vision among Peraton’s 3,500 employees, across 32 locations worldwide.
“I want us to be ‘The Company’ that is seen as taking on the most difficult and daunting challenges that national security customers would want us to take on,” Shea says. Fostering that vision is only possible, Shea adds, by creating buy-in across Peraton that the company can be far more than a deployer of IT, but a significant driver of favorable outcomes for national security customers, too.
Simply put, a company that stands “above all others,” as Shea puts it.
Peraton’s ambitious vision rests as well on a keen understanding of where national security needs are headed. As Shea sees it, the industry already has plenty of companies that build ships, airplanes, IT systems and submarines. Peraton, by contrast, is the “little player with the attitude of the big player,” as Shea has been quoted in the press as saying, with a unique opportunity to contribute in burgeoning arenas where threats are only now being gleaned.
“Today, we are not just talking about tanks and airplanes,” Shea says. “We are worried about cyberattacks and chemical and biological attacks; we are equally worried about people who would shut down the stock market or attack our space systems and reduce our ability to get anything done.”
“Everything we do is conditioned upon space — our credit cards, buying gasoline at the pump, using a navigation system,” Shea says. “Space is the warfare of the future — that’s the new emergent domain over the next 25 years where we want to contribute, as opposed to merely focusing on building a new piece of armament or missile.”
Shea is equally focused on the “end game,” as he puts it, and the long-term aspirations of Peraton’s owners.
“Veritas [the private equity owner]will clearly have a point, somewhere in the future, where it will want to monetize its investment,” Shea says. “My job is to deliver to them a financial return that enables them to pursue that ultimate vision.”
“I don’t just worry about making money; I want to make an impact,” Shea adds. “I want it to be a better world because of us, and I want people to trust us — and count on us — to do their most difficult missions. In that process, if we do that, we will make the financial returns that our investors have [challenged us to]put forth.”
The desire to make an impact informs Peraton’s areas of focus, as the company makes greater inroads into primary markets such as space, intelligence, cyber, defense, homeland security, electronic warfare, and communications. Customers, in turn, span the National Reconnaissance Office, U.S. Air Force, Missile Defense Agency and NASA. In all cases, Peraton is seeking to build scale — and increase exposure — by going after “larger, more impactful programs,” as Shea puts it, while unifying company capabilities across a diverse customer base.
“For example, we do work at NSA in some areas, and work at the FBI in other areas, and work at the Air Force in yet other areas — but each of those areas is currently segregated,” Shea explains. “When we approach new customers, we will show them what we do collectively for the U.S. government — that’s where we’re going to look for larger opportunities.”
In the midst of that goal, Shea remains keenly focused on what he sees as Peraton’s unique standing. You might call it history in the making.
“We have the ability to craft a vision, to see it unfold in front of our eyes,” Shea says. “We are leveraging a $1 billion startup, and we are going to have a company that people are going to look at very differently six months, a year, or five years from now — they are going to say, ‘Wow, when did that happen?’”
“That,” Shea adds, “is the ‘wow factor’ I’ll be looking to evoke from our employees, our community,and ultimately, our customers.”