Executive Spotlight: Vern Saunders, SVP of National Intelligence at SAIC

11 mins read

Vern Saunders, senior vice president of National Intelligence at SAIC, recently spoke with ExecutiveGov regarding the company’s recent growth objectives as well as how its workforce is driving value for the long term and keeping up with the pace of innovation in the federal market during the latest Executive Spotlight interview.

You can read the full interview with Vern Saunders below.

ExecutiveGov: What can you tell us about SAIC’s recent growth initiatives and how you’re driving value for your customers through contract awards, acquisitions and other aspects across the federal sector?

Vern Saunders: “One of the big things SAIC is focused on right now is a campaign called ‘IT Solutions to the Intelligence Community.’ Historically, everyone at SAIC has become accustomed to operating in the seat of domain, but this is quite different from that.

The ultimate goal is to partner with the intelligence community to support the next generation of digital transformation initiatives. We’re going to power that through our solutions as well as our talent and technology. We’re working to become the leading provider of digital transformation solutions and services for the intelligence community.

Our focus is on the key areas such as digital engineering and data. We really want to be the data provider of choice, which includes cybersecurity, DevSecops and applications development. It’s cloud migration and managed services as well.

One of the advantages of having worked in the intelligence community domain for so long is that we have a tremendous handle and understanding of the mission and our customers’ needs. At SAIC, we understand the mission. We have worked with some of these letter agencies and clients for years and even decades in some cases.

We understand government strategy and intent for what they’re trying to accomplish. As we talk about SAIC moving into the IT solutions domain, it’s a normal and natural evolution for us to be able to bring some additional value to our customers.

To summarize, there’s a lot of data available at the highest level. SAIC is planning to help as our customers collect and inspect their data as well as analyze and protect that information. We want to be able to help the decision-makers in the intelligence community analyze their data to gain insights on what that data is telling them as rapidly as possible.

That’s the name of the game of SAIC. We believe that will elevate our organization as one of the top tier solution providers in the intelligence community, which is something we’re incredibly excited about for our future.”

ExecutiveGov: With the influence of emerging technologies impacting every aspect of business, how has your company been able to drive digital transformation efforts to stay ahead of innovation in the federal landscape for yourself and your customers?

Vern Saunders: “SAIC has a few different things cooking in this kitchen. Most people know about the work we are doing with Air Force for Cloud One and if you look at the program at face value, our work is to help customers on their cloud journey.

For many people, the challenge is overwhelming and daunting. SAIC has broken the process down into simple steps to make it as easy as possible for the client coming into the journey. Most organizations are going to be in different stages of their cloud journeys, but breaking everything down makes it a step-by-step process and far less daunting.

SAIC has an explorer phase where we work with the client to develop an optimized migration plan and a target architecture that fits their mission and their needs. The next part of their journey is automation and using agile project management tactics and setting up dashboards to ensure the development and environment that it should be to succeed.

We’re helping secure their assets at the desired classification level. The big part of all this is the migration efforts to ensure you can get all of that data migrated into the cloud. The final step is optimization, which is an ongoing sort of thing for our customers.

SAIC is uniquely positioned to help our customers whether it’s a private cloud, commercial or government and a multi-cloud environment. Our company is well positioned to square our clients away in that arena.”

ExecutiveGov: How does SAIC ensure long term success for your workforce to drive value for your employees as you continue to face the uphill challenge to recruit and retain the best talent in the federal marketplace?

Vern Saunders: “The current battle for talent in our industry is as competitive as I’ve ever seen it in my 25-year career. There are a wide range of challenges in this arena, but one of the things that we really need to find a solution to is the current security clearance process.

In a nutshell, our government clients are experiencing a rapid increase in cost as well. That’s not because of an increase in skill set but rather a decrease in the availability of clear labor. We need to find a solution for that problem between partnership, government and industry to find a clear method for developing talent more rapidly. That’s absolutely paramount in my eyes.

In addition, there needs to be reciprocity between agencies and a far more disciplined approach to making certain that different types of work aren’t being overclassified. If these aspects can be done at an unclassified level with people who aren’t at a secret level, we need to accomplish that because it will provide relief to government and government contractors as well.

For SAIC, we need to excite young men and women who are graduating college or are still in high school and about to matriculate into college. We must excite them about a career supporting GovCon and what can follow them in terms of long-term success and at an everyday level.

It’s true that you don’t go into some of these career paths to get rich, but a lot of people want to make a difference. There’s not a day that you will go into the office, virtually or physically, where you will leave not feeling like you made a difference.by supporting the intelligence community or the Department of Defense and civilian agencies.

At the end of the day, it’s worthwhile work. SAIC and our industry need to continue to make a case and inspire younger talent to enter our ranks and stay in our ranks for the long term. The almighty dollar isn’t going to guarantee that result.

This is where we feel that our organization is unique. SAIC is unique to me because I’ve never seen another company with this level of commitment and passion for our business. Our executive leadership team here at SAIC is outstanding and sets us apart from the rest of the industry.

We have our cloud innovation factory team, as well as an innovation factory team, focused on artificial intelligence and machine learning and another cyber-focused team. One of the things that makes me feel very confident as we talk to our customers about their own challenges, we can gather their requirements or have them come out to home base and talk things through.

SAIC is investing and developing solutions to a lot of those problems across multiple customer sets and the federal government, including the IC, DoD or civilian agencies. We have a lot of people who are working side by side on the mission with our customers, SAIC provides a more intimate dynamic to help them improve efficiency and do their jobs as well as humanly possible.

We’re always looking for ways to improve efficiency. Is there something that can improve the client experience? Is there something that can improve the delivery of service? Our schedules, or help the government do something faster?

We believe that’s a very compelling way to partner with government clients that have been working well and SAIC will continue to do that in the future.”

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