A longtime veteran of the GovCon space, Jon Rucker joined Ultra Intelligence & Communications last fall as president and CEO.
Ultra I&C delivers the capabilities needed to support secure real-time vital data movement in the defense and intel space. We asked Rucker to bring us up to date on the changing requirements of the national security community and to describe how Ultra is working to meet that need.
What challenges do your government clients face these days?
There is the continuing need to create speed to decision, to make informed decisions more rapidly than an adversary. What that really comes from is delivering better information securely ahead of need ⏤ giving an advantage in the information that’s in front of them. There’s a ton of data out there. Getting to information from that data across the multidomain battle space, and getting there quickly and securely, is critical.
How does Ultra I&C help?
Our Orion radios provide the communications backbone in both the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps and soon will provide critical capabilities for the U.S. Navy. Our software, ADSI, short for Air Defense Systems Integrator, provides a datalink command and control system, that is leveraged across a wide variety of programs worldwide.
Our Orion radios are upper-tier tactical radios: Think about a big pipe that is able to move data across the battle space. And ADSI is managing all things around data links, which are used to connect all sorts of systems like radars, weapon systems and UAVs to name a few. ADSI manages those datalinks and creates the interfaces between various systems for those datalinks so that they can communicate effectively and quickly across the battle space.
What differentiates your approach from that of other GovCons?
The big challenge the customers face is: How do I get my data where it needs to be and when it needs to be there, and how do I get it there securely?
We literally have a business that focuses on connecting communications, from tactical radios to satcom. And we have another business line that focuses on securing communications in a zero trust architecture. And we have another piece of the business that focuses on movement of data across the network.
We have all of those pieces, which when brought together really makes us very unique as a business, particularly as we look to connect the battlespace across the tiers.
Where do you see opportunity for growth, and how are you working to achieve that?
Right now, our customers span the U.S. DOD, and we also have significant customers within the U.K. government, and the Canadian Department of National Defense. We also have customers across the broader Five Eyes community and NATO partners.
Our growth strategy starts with our customers. The world is changing: As we move away from the counterinsurgency mission to the near-peer threat, that is changing the scope and scale of the sort of solutions that are needed.
We are spending time with our customers understanding what that looks like across key programs, and then looking at how we’re going to invest internally to continue to develop the ever-advancing capabilities they need.
Historically within Ultra I&C, those three pieces that I mentioned have operated as individual business units: We’ll sell you a radio; we’ll sell you a cyber solution; we’ll sell you a command and control system. We are investing a lot into integrating those three pieces. That’s where the compelling value of this business is going forward: advancing those capabilities, and then integrating them into broader solutions.
What’s the biggest business challenge you face, and what do you do about it?
First, there’s a challenge that is not unique to us, which is dealing with the global supply-chain challenges. When you are delivering end items like radios and antennas, the global supply chain is critical.
We have managed to get out in front of the purchasing chain in places where we knew our customers have needs. It means having to take on a little bit at risk, but it puts out in front of those supply chain challenges. It means our customers are able to get the capabilities they need, when they need them.
Another challenge is that Ultra Intelligence & Communications is not a known brand in our industry. We are in a whole host of major programs, but people don’t know who we are. I’m going to be working to make us a better-known brand in this industry: who we are, what we do and what our capabilities are.
On a personal note, what makes this work interesting or satisfying for you?
I have been in GovCon for 20-plus years, and I love the people, both the people that I have worked with at the companies I’ve been at and the people across the industry. I also love the technology; watching it develop over time and contributing to it is both fascinating and fulfilling.
It is rewarding to do work that is absolutely at the heart of a very meaningful mission. We’re ultimately talking about the men and women who keep us safe and delivering capabilities to keep them safe. There’s just no greater calling.