From Fleet Commander to Leidos-Navy liaison: Q&A with Frank C. Pandolfe
During 37 years as a commissioned naval officer, Pandolfe commanded a destroyer, destroyer squadron, aircraft carrier strike group, and United States Sixth Fleet. He has also served as Military Aide to the Vice President of the United States, Director for Surface Warfare (N-96) on the Navy Staff, and Director for Strategy, Plans, and Policy (J-5) on the Joint Staff. He spoke to us about how his experience prepared him for his role at Leidos as the Navy and Marine Corps Strategic Account Executive, the importance of plain English in strategic planning documents, and more. His answers have been edited for clarity and length.
What does your role at Leidos as Navy Strategic Account Executive entail?
My job is to help nurture a healthy relationship between Leidos and the –Navy-Marine Corps team. I do that by encouraging frequent and honest dialogue, trying to gain an appreciation for the Department of the Navy’s goals and how our company can help achieve them. To do this, the Leidos team interacts at all levels, from the Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Naval Operations to mid-grade officers and program managers. It's an all-hands effort every day.
Our goal is to make sure we have happy customers and stakeholders and that, if they have any concerns, we know about them early so we can address them immediately. Our success very much is a function of listening carefully to the customer.
How did your time as a Surface Warfare Officer prepare you for this work?
Being a Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) was wonderful preparation for this job because, as an SWO, you operate across domains. You operate with other ships on the surface of the water. You work with aircraft above. You work with submarines below. You interact with land-based forces and cyber forces. So, over time you develop a profound appreciation for what we now call multi-domain warfare. That prepares you well for representing a diverse organization like Leidos because we have deep expertise in providing mission support in each of those operational areas.
What are some Leidos capabilities you're most excited about that can help the Navy?
Leidos is a truly amazing company, with a rich DNA of applying science and technology to solving really difficult and important problems. That sets the table for delivering all the amazing products, services, and technologies our company develops.
For example, Leidos provides the Navy and Marine Corps with innovative warships designed by Gibbs & Cox, a wholly owned subsidiary. We have developed autonomous vehicles that truly are unique and operate at the cutting edge of technology. Dynetics, another wholly owned Leidos subsidiary, is developing hypersonic weapons, harnessing amazing technologies to meet that incredible engineering challenge.
To connect and protect naval platforms, Leidos engineers provide advanced IT and cyber systems, like the Navy and the Marine Corps enterprise IT system, all around the world. Plus, Leidos has medical teams doing innovative research as well as hundreds of counselors supporting military families at home and overseas every day.
What goes into authoring strategic guidance such as the National Military Strategy?
An effective strategy clarifies, prioritizes, aligns, and communicates to multiple audiences. A good strategic plan has two critical elements. First, it's written in plain English; it clearly conveys its intent. And second, it's short. A clear and short strategy is an effective communication tool.
A good strategy identifies the leadership's goals. It then aligns your organization to achieve those goals. If you look at planning documents across the wide array of private sector and public sector organizations, they're very similar in that regard.
But strategic planning never stops. It's iterative. Every few years, you update the previous documents, and in most cases, the changes are fairly measured. Yet, every once in a while, something happens—like the collapse of the Soviet Union or 9/11—that induces a major change in the strategic direction of the organization or even a nation. In that case, you and your team have a lot of work to do.
Outside of helping Leidos deliver advantage for the Department of the Navy, what's a passion you have in the community?
I'm privileged to serve on the board of directors of the Army Distaff Foundation at Knollwood in Washington, DC. Knollwood is a nonprofit retirement community founded in 1959 by, among others, President Eisenhower's wife, Mamie. The focus of it at that time was to provide a home for Army widows, given that World War II was not that far behind us.
Today, Knollwood has grown into a wonderful retirement community with housing, health care, and wellness programs for those who have supported our nation by way of federal service. Most importantly, it’s a way for our nation to support those who spent their lives supporting us; a way for us to give back to those who are most deserving.
Visit with the Leidos team supporting the Navy mission at Sea Air Space.