How the Customer Excellence team helps Leidos grow and evolve with the Department of Defense
Although the federal government has overseen the U.S. armed forces since America's inception, the Department of Defense (DOD) was not established until 1949 as the successor to the National Military Establishment, formed in 1947. The DOD is not only America's largest government entity but also the largest organization in the world, and it has grown and evolved with our nation.
In honor of DOD's 74th anniversary on August 10, we spoke with Leidos Customer Excellence leaders about how they help the DOD accomplish its mission and prepare it for the future.
Answers have been edited for clarity and length.
What has changed for DOD in the decades since it was established?
Bill Bender, senior vice president, Leidos Customer Excellence: DOD's responsibilities, first and foremost, are enormous and global in nature. Given their scale, there are no easy problems to be solved. And the dynamic nature of the national security environment calls for agility and moving at what the military would call the speed of relevance. Therefore, there is a higher reliance on industry over time because nobody can do it alone, given the dynamic nature of the environment and the fact that much of the research and development of capabilities and technology is taking place in commercial areas.
Michael George, staff director, Leidos Customer Excellence: Technology has changed our everyday lives dramatically in the past few decades, and that certainly extends to the military as well. When I graduated from high school and went to college as a Marine-option midshipman, we used slide rules to solve math problems. By my third year of college, we had progressed to simple pocket calculators. Today we have many more powerful tools to solve complex problems. Like these tools, the command and control aspects of warfare have evolved exponentially. Nearly everything that allows us to put steel on target today has its basis in technologies that could barely be imagined when DOD was formed.
Understanding change is constant, why was it important to create a Customer Excellence organization, and how does it support DOD?
Bill: We stood up the Customer Excellence team to have a strategic means for two-way dialogue with customers, and quite importantly, to advocate for their priorities and requirements with Leidos business leaders. So as technological change inevitably occurs, we’re well-equipped to act with speed, scale, and security.
Rebecca Holderness, Director, Leidos Customer Technology Exchange (CTX): We also connect our technologists directly with our DOD customers so we can thoroughly understand what's keeping our customers up at night and how Leidos can solve those problems. Having that dialogue allows us to focus our independent research and development investments and begin to solve some of those problems outside the scope of a contract.
How does Leidos help DOD address the Secretary of Defense's priorities for “defending the nation, taking care of our people, and succeeding through teamwork?"
Michael: From an information technology perspective, we provide systems that allow military forces worldwide to communicate effectively. We have the scale necessary to deliver that to the world's largest organization because of the size of our organization. We also provide our customers with the confidence that their systems will remain secure while allowing our forces to maneuver and act more quickly than our opponents.
Bill: We are also a provider of digital electronic health records. For example, the Defense Health Agency has Leidos supporting its efforts to implement and run a large health record-related program. Similarly, we are a prime contractor for Military and Family Life Counseling Services, a health liaison providing services across the Department of Defense.
You recently launched an initiative called the Customer Technology Exchange (CTX). How does CTX help DOD further its mission?
Rebecca: The Customer Technology Exchange puts Leidos account managers, business development teams, technologists, and others together to help customers solve specific pain points and enduring challenges. CTX events are highly specialized, highly customized. And we've been very proud to hear many customers walk away from them saying nobody else in the industry has engaged them like Leidos.
Bill: This initiative is envisioned not for any specific proposal the government has solicited. Instead, it's an opportunity to learn what we can so that our internal investments are focused on real problems as opposed to a guessing game. It's also about helping the customer understand what's actually possible with technology so that when work does mature into a proposal, they're not asking for the impossible.
How does CTX work on the ground?
Rebecca: Our primary focus is fashioning customer insight sessions tailored to our customers' challenges, with the goal of coming out of these meetings with tangible action items. We have multiple engagements in progress at any point in time, and they take a number of weeks to put together to ensure that we're fashioning an agenda that specifically meets what the customer wants to come into Leidos to learn and discuss.
What are some ways Leidos supports DOD philanthropically?
Bill: Our military alliance group is very active in supporting a host of Department of Defense initiatives and events. Its members volunteer in everything from mentoring and military-to-civilian transition programs to military events and parades.
Rebecca: To Bill's point, there's a huge volunteer mindset within Leidos, from prioritizing mental health for military service members to laying wreaths in Arlington Cemetery to volunteering for the Marine Corps Marathon.
Michael: We have also established long-standing relationships with Army, Air Force, Navy, and National Defense University associations and provide regular financial contributions to help build the next generation of warfighters.
What are you most proud of in your work?
Rebecca: I'm incredibly proud of the entire company. The depth and breadth of what Leidos has done for this country, for the Department of Defense, for some of our commercial sectors is mind-boggling.
What's next for Leidos and its support of DOD?
Bill: We will continue to work side-by-side with DOD so that as its mission priorities and strategies change, we change along with them. For example, there is an increased understanding of the cyberspace domain of warfare, so Leidos is delivering and evolving related technologies. Similarly, with the pivot to the Pacific as a national security interest, we're actively looking to put a Leidos presence on the ground in that theater.
What else would you like to say on the occasion of DOD's birthday?
Rebecca: Happy birthday, here's to another 74, and thank you to all who serve or have served.
To learn more about our approach to serving DOD priorities, visit Leidos.com/markets/defense.