Leidos UK: On a mission to grow
By Howard Wheeldon, Independent Defence & Aerospace Analyst (Initially published February 8, 2021; republished with permission)
When I last wrote commentary on Leidos UK back in May 2018 it was primarily on the huge progress that had already been made by the company in the 13-year MOD Logistic Commodities and Services Transformation (LCST) contract that was awarded in 2015. This important contract required that Leidos through significant investment should bring industry leading logistics operations, underpinned by modern technology within a contract that could achieve considerable savings for the MOD customer.
Leidos, which as Science Applications International (SAIC) was founded in 1969 by J. Robert Beyster and boasts the US Government as having been its first customer, is today regarded as being a formidable force in the US and internationally for what it has achieved during its first 50 years of operation.
The company changed its name to Leidos in 2013. Leidos UK and Europe is a wholly-owned subsidiary and was formed through the integration of Leidos’ operations in the UK with the acquired Lockheed Martin IS&GS business - it has expanded its services to government at a very fast pace.
For many, including myself, until around three years ago, Leidos was a fast growing and highly respected and successful international organisation but here in the UK rather less well known than it should have been.
Under new Chief Executive Simon Fovargue, suffice to say that not only is the company on a mission to grow but one that is already very well established and doing excellent highly specialist work for various UK Government departments including the MOD, Home Office, Met Police, NATS, the Scottish government, and other customers. Leidos UK and Europe is a name that that over the next few years will be a very familiar one as it continues its strategy of growth.
Who are Leidos in the US?
Leidos is a Fortune 500 information technology, engineering, and science solutions and services leader working to solve the world's toughest challenges in the defence, intelligence, homeland security, civil, and health markets. The company's employees support vital missions for government and commercial customers. Headquartered in Reston, Virginia, Leidos employs over 38,000 highly qualified people worldwide. The company Leidos reported annual revenues of approximately $11.09 billion for the fiscal year ended January 3, 2020.
To that end, Leidos is already the largest IT services contractor to the US Government with deep experience in defence, intelligence, civil, and health market sectors.
In the US, the Leidos Defense and Intelligence divisions provide a diverse portfolio of systems, solutions, and services covering air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace for customers worldwide – including the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), NATO, and the Intelligence Community. Solutions provided include enterprise and mission IT, large-scale intelligence systems, command and control, geospatial and data analytics, cybersecurity, logistics, training, and intelligence analysis and operations support.
In the defence maritime arena, Leidos is responsible for developing the U.S. Navy’s first fully autonomous vessel – Sea Hunter – based on a resilient autonomy architecture proven out over ten thousand miles of autonomous operations at sea.
For the Intelligence community, Leidos has developed solutions that process petabytes of heterogeneous data using a broad array of machine learning models. These are classified programmes that provide massively scalable data processing based on AI/ML to transform workflows and enable discovery of mission-critical data.
Dynetics, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Leidos, develops solutions in collaborative autonomy and battle management based on AI/ML for DARPA and other research organizations across the US government. The company has also been awarded a contract under NASA's Artemis programme to design a Human Landing System (HLS) and compete to build a system to take the first woman and next man to the lunar surface by 2024.
Leidos is also a recognized leader in cybersecurity across defence, intelligence and federal government, bringing more than 30 years of experience defending cyber interests globally and delivering advanced capabilities honed from protecting some of the world’s most valuable assets. The team of cybersecurity experts brings an established track record for delivering agile, mission-enabling cyber solutions in both defensive and offensive cyber operations. For instance, Leidos manages three of the four largest federal security operations centres including the Department of Homeland Security.
Leidos UK and Europe Overview
Leidos UK is a strategic supplier to HMG and derives 85 percent of current revenues from Central and Devolved Government. The company is already a top 19 supplier to the MOD and it is worthy of note that the company has also achieved the Employer Recognition Scheme Gold Award from MOD.
Leidos UK employs 1100 people and the company has established key offices in Bristol, Farnborough, Glasgow, and Whiteley.
In a conversation with Al Potter, who has recently joined the company as UK Vice President and MD of National Security and Defence business, it is clear that Leidos UK strategy involves significantly growing the national security & Defence division while continuing to develop its business in government, transport, logistics, and energy.
The division already houses some significant programmes including the Home Office HOB programme where Leidos is the main contractor in the Home Office’s biometrics transformation programme, to transition, operate, and transform critical elements of the UK’s national biometrics systems in support of law enforcement, immigration services and border security. Another recent landmark programme is the 10-year, £100 million contract awarded to Leidos to upgrade the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) Command and Control system.
Al Potter, who is well known in the UK defence arena having joined the company from Boeing, is excited about the future and tells me that “Leidos achieves competitive advantage through innovation and developing repeatable capability and skills grown in the UK but that can also be leveraged, where appropriate, from technical core competences outside of the UK”. One particularly interesting example of this type of investment is that Leidos has built two software factories in order to support clients in both Farnborough and Glasgow.
Government customers desire agility, but it goes without saying that they cannot compromise on security. Very few commercial software companies are successful at bringing agile software development to the government. Leidos however, uses SecDevOps to release new software to the end-user ensuring that it can always maintain and improve quality and security for the end user. This is a capability that was born out of programmes, such as the US Air Force Kessel Run Experimentation Lab, which is itself very much a software factory by design. Currently, Leidos have software factories in the US, Australia, and as already mentioned, two in the UK in Farnborough and Glasgow.
Constant and ongoing innovation is rightly regarded as the lifeblood of customer value and without it a company’s specific products, services, or solutions quickly become commoditised. Innovation is clearly one of the core values of Leidos and importantly, this is not limited to engineers and scientists.
For example, Leidos UK is already building out a number of specific ‘Made in Britain’ products that illustrates how the company is investing in UK PLC. Most notable of these in the defence space is the Tactical Data Links (TDLs) business and to that end it is worth noting that the company has achieved over 30 years of specialist TDL experience.
Working at the heart of the secure information community the Leidos team of TDLs subject matter experts support over 50 customers in 15 countries delivering what is clearly well recognised by specific customers. By leveraging vital tools such as this, the MOD and its NATO allies will have enabled mutual interoperability and compatibility to accelerate their mission.
Leidos UK has also created what it has called the Business Innovation Hub designed to actively solicit innovative business and technical ideas from across the organisation. The Leidos Business Innovation Hub is unique as far as I am aware and has been provided with dedicated funding in order to invest and encourage ideas that can provide the potential to bring specific new value to customers. The Hub is open to resolve all problems or to encourage innovative ideas from customers. Not surprisingly, as part of its overall expansion strategy Leidos UK are very keen to progress ‘joint projects’ potential with existing and potential new customers as part of its intention to further grow its position with strategic markets.
The coalescing factor across the national security and defence domains is that they share a requirement to use information to their advantage. Information advantage remains a vital concept for an effective, integrated security strategy for the UK and it goes far beyond the battlefield. Today, the ability to share insights across disciplines and discover new advantages by collecting and analysing data in smarter ways is creating exponentially more value across military, border security, police, and civil agencies alike. The intersections between military, political, social, technological, and even cultural and environmental factors have become central requirements and this is the reason why the company investing in national security and defence.
So, Leidos UK – an extremely interesting company, one that has a very interesting forward strategy and will be very interesting to watch. Not a household word in the UK yet, perhaps, but I suspect that it won’t be long before it will be!
About the author
Following an earlier domestic and international business career, Howard Wheeldon spent 28 years as a stockbroker and equity market sector analyst covering aerospace and defence before later becoming Senior European Strategist for two US-based brokerage operations.
Now working in an independent capacity, Howard engages predominantly in air power related strategic influence support for the military, the UK defence and aerospace industry, and providing support to defence exports. A regular speaker at military and industry events he is well-connected across the government, military, and global defence and aerospace industries, and continues to both write and speak on defence, aerospace, macro-economic, and geo-political matters. He is a regular broadcaster particularly across the BBC. As a recognised voice in the defence diplomacy debate and in support of defence capability and equipment exports he has travelled extensively across Europe, North America and within most Middle and Far East nations.