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High-Technology Specialists for Hire Tame Runaway Facts

June 2001
By Michael A. Robinson

Company helps federal agencies join electronic revolution.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then Linda Gooden can qualify as an expert on both.   

Ever since 1790, inventors who wanted to protect their intellectual property against possible theft or exploitation have filed their patent applications pretty much the same way—they filled out a form on paper.

Even though the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office could arguably be considered a repository of the rich technological history of the United States, the federal agency could hardly boast it was itself a model of innovation. After all, taxpayers have been filing their returns with the Internal Revenue Service electronically for years.

For patents and trademarks, however, moving the process into cyberspace proved more cumbersome because of all the supporting documents often required such as drawings, renderings, reference materials and logos. Creating the software that can handle such a complex undertaking seemed difficult at best.

But the agency had a strong incentive to join the electronic revolution that is remaking government services. Under a 1999 federal law, the patent office is supposed to publish all patent-pending applications within 18 months. The requirement to pour through approximately 200,000 patent applications each year and publish the relevant applications threatened to produce a mountain of paperwork that would swamp the office.

Then along came Gooden. In less than four months, her far-flung technology company, which she created and now runs as a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation, custom-designed the software needed to allow inventors to file patent applications over the Internet.

The system went live last October, and since then thousands of inventors or their attorneys have downloaded software called ePAVE so they can file electronic applications in the future. Meanwhile, biotechnology companies that have filed applications by paper now can submit gene sequence data electronically.

For Gooden, putting the patent office on the World Wide Web is part of her mission to make Lockheed Martin Information Support Services (ISS) a pre-eminent provider of information technology solutions to major U.S. federal agencies.

In fact, Lockheed Martin ISS is a vital and rapidly growing part of Lockheed Martin Technology Services Group, itself the nation’s largest provider of technical and management services to U.S. federal agencies. The technology group has combined sales of more than $2 billion and approximately 20,000 employees.

Gooden’s division, with about 2,800 employees in 17 locations, represents approximately 25 percent of the technology group’s annual revenue. These figures indicate a highly efficient operation and the ability to sell value-added services because ISS has nearly twice the percentage-point representation in revenue as it does in workers.

Lockheed Martin ISS’ federal customers include the departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, and Justice, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Social Security Administration.

At a time when many other government contractors have been chasing commercial deals to improve profit margins and become less dependent on government largess, Lockheed Martin ISS remains focused on federal services. About 95 percent of its business is with federal agencies.

“Our strategic plan does not call for growth in commercial,” observes Gooden, a computer engineer who has served as president of the division since 1997. “What we are working on now is leveraging the solutions we have developed [domestically] into the international market.”

As a result, Lockheed Martin is pursuing three contracts in the United Kingdom, and Gooden hopes to announce one award by year’s end. The company also is looking for contracts in Australia. It prefers to start in English-speaking countries with local partners and spread into the rest of Europe from there. Gooden says she hopes eventually to grow international business into 20 percent of ISS revenue.

Among other services, ISS provides asset management; network architecture design, installation and operation; supercomputing operation and maintenance; and business systems application design. The unit also offers two services that are all the rage among large organizations that have large, complex databases and dispersed technological applications: customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning.

The company is developing a commercial off-the-shelf solution for the U.S. Navy to coordinate, track and update personnel management information in more than 800 locations worldwide. It also is modernizing the Social Security Administration’s computer systems to enhance service to about 48 million recipients.

Gooden says her division is at the epicenter of the groundswell of support for e-government—using technology not only to empower citizens and improve how they interact with their hired and elected representatives but also to drive down the cost of federal services.

“If we step back and look at what has happened with the federal government over the past several years, there has been a drive for better information management across the board,” Gooden explains.

“Almost every agency is looking for more information technology. They don’t just need access to data and statistics but also the ability to share information within different parts of the organization and to share more information among agencies.”

Simply put, that means Gooden believes she is sitting on a potential gold mine. In fact, she created the ISS division roughly six years ago after following press accounts about the drive to improve government procurement efficiency for programs based on specifically defined tasks to be accomplished. This broad brush approach represents a dramatic turnabout in the way government leaders view the procurement process.

In the past, particularly for military-related expenditures, agencies often put out requests for proposals and invested time and effort in evaluating competing programs as part of the postwar imperative to make sure everything was designed to meet or exceed government specifications. But in the mid-1990s, the Clinton administration stepped up efforts, which began when the former Soviet Union fell, to acquire more off-the-shelf components. This new imperative not only streamlined the procurement process but also was designed to lower overhead. Additionally, it meant agencies would soon begin to lose loyalty to particular vendors or products.

This new approach could be called the question-and-answer form of technology procurement. For example, agency heads do not ask for particular types of fiber optics systems, routers or Ethernets. Instead, their question is, “How can you link all my offices together in a network that allows them to share information quickly but securely?”

In this way, Gooden’s division and the federal government have a symbiotic relationship. Lockheed Martin does not make chips, computers or software. In fact, ISS makes no products whatsoever. Instead, this sprawling service vendor finds the correct combination of existing technologies and custom-designs them for particular applications that fit each agency’s needs. The resulting increased efficiency allows government to pass savings on to the taxpayer. The value is in knowing how to put all this technology together in a cost-effective manner that targets the agencies’ specific goals and allows the federal government to outsource more and more of its technology overhead.

Nevertheless, the task orders issued by the government do carry some market risks. Analysts observe that a task order contract specifies a level of effort that will be defined, over time, by the government in response to specific criteria. They have likened this arrangement to having consultants sitting on call in a company’s lobby. The consultants have been gathered because they possess the skills for the type of tasks anticipated. Thus, a task order could be issued for a maximum specified amount and actually yield very little for the contractors authorized to do business under the program.

But Gooden had an intuition that e-government and the emphasis on task orders could, in fact, make a very nice business. Back in 1994, while serving as Lockheed Martin’s program manager for Social Security Administration modernization contracts, she decided to propose just such a service to her senior managers. She told them she had the makings of a pilot project at Social Security that would test the validity of her idea for a new business.

She and her staff put together a four-year business plan that called for growth of 30 percent per year, a goal the unit has achieved. So, what ultimately grew into ISS started with a $40 million Social Security contract. She was named vice president of Lockheed Martin’s software support services unit that same year.

Her success led to a glowing 1998 profile in U.S. Black Engineer, published by a 20-year-old, minority-owned media services company dedicated to promoting significant minority achievement in engineering, science and technology. That came after receiving the 1996 Merit Award for Outstanding Female Technology Leaders by U.S. Black/Hispanic Engineering and Information Technology magazine. Dollars & Sense magazine presented her with the 1997 Salute to America’s Best and Brightest.

And as the accolades rolled in, so did the sales. Last December, the Lockheed Martin subsidiary received a $378 million Defense Department task order to manage the Pentagon’s backbone communications infrastructure as part of the building’s major, multibillion-dollar renovation.

A month before that, Gooden’s company received a major contract from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Under the award, which could be worth up to $118 million, Lockheed Martin ISS serves as the prime contractor for a program to provide automated identification and related services for the bureau’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division.

For her part, Gooden is careful not only to make plans but also to review them often enough to ensure that she and her business remain firmly on track. And she keeps abreast of emerging trends with an eye toward growing the business along new lines.

“Wireless technology is going to be another part of our protocol,” she concludes. “It will create new issues with transmitting data securely. But just like having a touch-tone telephone and a laptop computer now, we are moving toward wireless. We have to move in that direction because everyone is so mobile.”