As Jerry Hogge contemplates today’s federal landscape, he sees data — lots and lots of data, waiting to be put to good use.
As senior vice president of MITRE Public Sector, Hogge engages with a range of federal agencies: the Federal Aviation Administration, the departments of Treasury, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, and the judiciary, to name a few. That’s a wide array of customers — or “sponsors” as MITRE calls them — but there’s a common thread that runs through all these agencies.
“One major challenge they all face is around data analytics, putting data to use to support their missions,” Hogge said.
The Department of Homeland Security, for example, deals with thousands of people moving through security at airports. FAA monitors and administers 5,600 flights per day over the continental U.S. HHS seeks to advance the well-being of all Americans by fostering sound, sustained advances in the sciences, underlying medicine, public health and social services.
“All of that important work is driven by data,” Hogge pointed out.
Federal agencies don’t lack in data, but they can require assistance in turning vast amounts of data into actionable information. They might need support to get the data into usable, verified and high-quality form, and then to apply analytic methodologies that produce actionable information in support of good decision-making practices.
“One of the core strengths of MITRE is our data analytics platform and methodologies,” Hogge said. “We have methods for analyzing different types of data, analytic tools, as well as addressing data quality which implicates the cybersecurity aspect — making sure that the data hasn’t been corrupted when it was produced, when it was collected, when it was stored and then ultimately, when it was processed.”
And MITRE has been able to apply those core capabilities effectively and to the benefit of its sponsors, he said.
From a business perspective, the specific needs of each agency are always somewhat of a moving target, with shifting budgets and continuous adjustments to the mission goals. One of the biggest challenges in GovCon is keeping abreast of those evolving priorities.
“We want to maintain alignment with our sponsors over the short and long term,” Hogge said.
That means having the right leadership and the right organization, and working very closely with sponsors as MITRE delivers on the work. That helps to ensure it stays aligned with mission priorities and can adjust swiftly as circumstances and environmental challenges dictate.
“Agility and adaptability are key tenets of the MITRE culture, and two attributes we have been able to demonstrate amidst the COVID-19 environment,” Hogge said.
The social distancing required during COVID-19 might have presented a challenge to that kind of close coupling. In fact, Hogge said MITRE has sustained strong ties to its sponsors and remained fully available and responsive to them despite the novel and unpredictable COVID-19 operating environment.
MITRE was able to shift rapidly to a remote working modality.
“We got to that very quickly, with more than 80% of the team working effectively and efficiently remotely, depending on the sponsor,” Hogge said. “In addition to being agile and adaptable, another important aspect of MITRE’s culture is being highly collaborative, which is essential to delivery excellence in our work.”
Despite operating in a largely remote work environment, MITRE’s leaders and teams have remained highly collaborative with each other and with its sponsors, Hogge said.
“We made all of these fundamental operating changes, and I would say we did it without skipping a beat,” he added.
At the same time, the pandemic has opened doors to new kinds of engagements. Hogge’s team has undertaken research efforts to help agencies explore a safe path going forward, with a host of research initiatives focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on each sponsor’s mission objectives.
“The COVID-19 work is critically important to our sponsors and to our great nation,” he said. “None of it was work we had planned for, but it is an opportunity to deepen the engagement, to help our sponsors with issues not faced by our nation and the world in over a century.”
The breadth of Hogge’s portfolio makes his team uniquely positioned to conduct that kind of work. Where agencies have legislated mission focus areas, and thus view COVID-19 in that context — some focusing on health, others on economic consequences — MITRE’s diverse range of sponsors allows a broad perspective and potential beneficial insights that can cross from one sponsor to another.
“We have a depth and breadth of perspective,” Hogge said. “When you look at the tradeoffs between the undesirable societal effects of unemployment, and the COVID-19 health risks of having people go back to work; to go back to what were normal societal interactions our broad range of work can provide a wider perspective than you may have in any one agency.”
‘The Right People’
A 30-year veteran of the public sector space, Hogge has learned to navigate the often-complex GovCon landscape.
“Success in the federal market environment always comes down to having the best people structured in the right organization to ensure positive engagement and positive interactions with the various acquisition authorities and the program officials and teams accountable for the work within our sponsors,” he said.
In addition, Hogge said you need tight alignment with the people on the program side to deliver the work. That tight coupling and alignment creates a virtuous cycle no matter the nature of the work, and no matter the sponsor.
Hogge puts a heavy emphasis on having “the right people.” That includes fundamental technical and subject matter expertise, combined with a deep understanding of the specific domain, and sponsor environment within which that expertise will be applied.
“We hire a lot of people who either worked for the government or as part of the military,” he said. “They know the landscape, they know the ropes, and that helps with what can otherwise be a large learning curve for individuals with only commercial market experience.”
As he marks his 1-year anniversary with MITRE, Hogge said he is pleased on a personal level to be engaged in the work of supporting a multifaceted federal mission and honored to be a part of MITRE.
“It’s important work, and I get a great deal of personal and professional satisfaction from that,” he said. “I like knowing that as an organization focused on excellence in all that we do, we are responsible for helping make our government more efficient, and ultimately, for improving the health and safety for all of our citizens and people around the world.”