“The world is a dangerous place,” Dr. Jack London told me recently while sitting in the CACI boardroom, named after Adm. Thomas H. Moorer.
On May 1, the danger to the United States was brought into perspective when Faisal Shazhad allegedly attempted to set off a bomb in Times Square in New York City. Within two days, Shazhad was caught trying to fly out of the country.
For London, this represents a new paradigm that the United States will be forced to contend with, namely naturalized U.S. citizens who attempt to launch terror attacks against us.
In the case of Shazhad, he is a naturalized U.S. citizen of Pakistani origin. In the future, members of terrorist groups such as al-Qaida may look to have future terrorists naturalized in Western nations before carrying out attacks. This tactic has already been employed in a number of attempted plots throughout Western Europe.
Within the United States, recent attacks such as the Fort Hood shootings by Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan in November have been carried out by individuals who are U.S. citizens.
“You’ve got a complicated political, legal and threat response scenario that is going to have to be dealt with,” London said. “It’s going to be interesting and important how we conclude our decisions and policies in this area, very important for the country.”
“[Terrorists] may be thinking that choosing American citizens for terrorist actions is one way to take advantage of our self-restricting or self-restraining elements of our judicial system,” he added.
The rate of incidents within the United States has increased as well. While few attempted attacks have been successful, “The incident rate of things happening inside our country is fairly alarming,” London said.
In addition to the attempted attack by Shazhad and the tragically successful shootings by Hasan, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, dubbed the “underwear bomber,” attempted to set off an explosive on a flight into Detroit.
London believes the number of incidents will only increase in the coming years, more specifically the number of incidents within the nation. “There is no reason to think that they are losing any of their will or intensity,” London said. “The timeline for this movement is not a timeline that fits with the social perspectives of the American people,” he added. “Their timeline of events is much more drawn out.”
Asymmetric threats represent perhaps the more significant threats against the United States in the near future. Enemies of the United States use asymmetric attack vectors to circumvent the powerful conventional capabilities the United States is able to bring to bear in time of conflict.
The “objective in asymmetric warfare is to come at us in ways where we have difficulty in responding,” London said. “They don’t want to come up against our formidable weaponry, our massive retaliatory capability in terms of airborne weaponry, guided missiles, lasers and all kinds of powerful technology,” he added. Instead, the enemy looks to come at the United States through, what London terms, “our Achilles heel.”
A Fate Intertwined
Jack London was born and raised in Oklahoma City, Okla. A well-rounded student in both academics and athletics, he won a competitive appointment to the Naval Academy, which he took in 1955. Four years later, the same year Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba, London graduated from the academy, which continued a long tradition of military service in his family.
An ancestor of London’s served with George Washington’s army at Valley Forge, where he died. His son went on to serve in the War of 1812 at the Battle of Lake Erie. In addition, several members of London’s family served in World War I and World War II, one of whom participated in the liberation of Dachau, the Nazi death camp outside Munich.
Following his graduation from the academy, London entered into carrier aviation, serving in the Caribbean during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. He served with an anti-submarine helicopter unit that was involved in space-flight recovery.
For London, “it was some of the most fun flying that I could imagine. I enjoyed it immensely and it was one of the most exciting things that I ever did.”
After several years flying, he went to the Naval Postgraduate School, where he received a master’s in operations research. He also taught military strategy and tactics at the Naval Academy. In 1967, he was promoted early to lieutenant commander and served in the offices of the Naval Material Command, which was then responsible for all material acquisition for the U.S. Navy. During that time, London worked under two different four-star admirals who served as role models for him.
“I learned a lot from them in terms of integrity, ethics, leadership,” he said. “[The lessons] have stuck with me through all of these days from that wonderful experience in the late ’60s.”
London left active service in 1971 after 12 years of active duty and joined the private sector, while continuing with the Naval Reserve until 1983 when he retired as a captain. He worked at a company in Rockville, Md., that was acquired by EG&G a year later. For London, it was an early experience with acquisitions that would serve him well in the future. The same week the transition occurred, London left the company and joined CACI in 1972, where he has served in several capacities ever since. Initially hired to bring in business from the Navy, London was extremely successful in his new role, though admittedly not from the outset.
Right after London joined CACI, he was tasked with expanding the company’s business within Defense Department, particularly with the U.S. Navy. At the time, London said he was unlikely to secure any business.
“I could go out and give the customers my knowledge and understanding of their problems and issues, but I told my bosses at CACI not to expect me to go out and get somebody to just give me a project or a contract because that wasn’t going to happen, it didn’t work that way,” London recalled. “And it didn’t happen either. I had to compete and scrap for every single project we got.”
Since London’s arrival, CACI has concentrated on national-security business with the federal government. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, CACI expanded its involvement in the professional services and logistical services sectors. Additionally, London remembers, CACI has always supported the Intelligence Community, going back to the 1970s.
During the 1970s and early 1980s, CACI experienced phenomenal growth rates, topping $100 million in annual revenue in 1983 from a few million 10 years before. The company continued to expand domestically and abroad. During this time, London remembers the industry being an aggressively competitive business and industry, growing even more so in the 1980s.
Then, in 1984, the U.S. Congress passed the Competition in Contracting Act to “make procurement only through full and open (formal) competitive procedures.” This dramatically altered the way that CACI, and other members of industry, would do business. “It was a big deal,” London recalled. “It was a dramatic move by the United States Congress to restrict the procurement process to rigorously competitive and formal contracting.”
Throughout the ’60s and ’70s, CACI won the majority of its contracts through sole source bidding, in which the company worked to convince existing clients to give them more work or by going to prospective clients with new proposals. And London added, “I thought this process was extremely competitive, it just wasn’t formalized.” CACI was able to successfully make the transition through this rocky era, but it was difficult.
“[The CICA] formalized the procurement process with a degree of rigor that required respondents, participants and industry players, to have a very sophisticated staff capable of interpreting these specifications in the procurement regs and so on,” London said.
During this turbulent time, London took over as president and chief executive officer of CACI in 1984, leading the company successfully through a reconfiguration to adapt to the new requirements. London recalled just how hard the transition was. “We were able to make that transition, but it was very scary,” London said.
Through London’s leadership, CACI was able to effectively adapt to the changing times, going from the formal competitively won business accounting for merely 7 percent of revenue in 1984 to 70 percent of revenue in 1986.
A major point of concern for the company also came in 1989, when Berliners tore down the wall that had divided their city since 1961. The fall of the Berlin Wall caused concern among many shareholders, who were worried about the future of the company if Communism collapsed.
London remembers one call he took with a shareholder from New Jersey: “He called me one day and he had a pretty good number of shares and asked me if it was time to liquidate the company because the Cold War was about over. I took the call…and I said, ‘we are going to look at what our alternatives are.’”
Despite the uncertain future, CACI, under London’s leadership, was able to successfully emerge from the Cold War era and position itself to address future government needs.
Another important area of growth for CACI was IT, which began to expand in scope in the late 1980s and early 1990s. According to London, “We saw and anticipated the network services side of it.”
CACI has operated as a value added supplier of IT systems and services, largely to the DoD and Intelligence Community. The expansion into the Intelligence Community also allowed London to take advantage of his prior experience with acquisitions. Throughout the 1990s, he led the company through several acquisitions, including American Legal Systems Corporation, Automated Sciences Group and IMS Technologies. Additionally, CACI acquired QuesTech, Inc. which brought along Bill Fairl, who now serves as president of the U.S. domestic business of CACI.
London mentions Fairl as a prime example of how acquired professionals can have real opportunities for growth with CACI. “Bill has had a wonderful career here at CACI and he came to us through that transaction,” London said. “We like to point to him fondly by saying he is the poster boy of how you can make it at CACI through the acquisition.”
CACI has been an industry consolidator through the acquisitions process, having completed more than 40 transactions in the past 15 years. London notes, “We have been quite successful as a consolidator and we are very proud of it.”
London was elected chairman of the board at CACI in 1990, where he has served ever since he joined the board of directors in 1981. The company’s “niche has really been in the national security, defense and Intel business,” London said. With Chief Executive Officer Paul Cofoni, CACI will look to sustain its growth trajectory as an even larger “tier- one” player.
While CICA and the end of the Cold War significantly impacted the government contracting industry, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 transformed the industry and the nation.
Terrorists “have been very successful in what they have cost the American people in terms of treasure and energy and focus,” London said. “Just think of the expenses of the Homeland Security Department, TSA and all of the technology and things that we spend money on now to try to prevent these attacks,” he added.
For London, the experience with terrorism began early. Prior to the Iranian Revolution in 1979, he had the opportunity to visit Iran several times in pursuit of business with the Imperial Iranian Air Force. In his office, London has a sketch made by his friend Bruce Laingen, the Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. embassy, of the view from his prison cell, where he was taken prisoner during the Iranian Revolution. They were held hostage for 444 days prior to release in early 1981 upon the inauguration of Ronald Reagan.
“The revolution has set the model for terrorist push back,” London told me. “Certainly the 1983 bombing in Beirut… one car, one bomber took down our military presence, killing 241 U.S. servicemen, 220 were U.S. Marines.”
“They began to look around and say ‘hey, we’ve got a model here that will work,’” he added. “‘We can take one guy and one truck and one set of bombs and blow up an embassy and the United States ducks and runs.’”
Such decisive events have set the tone for the present war between the United States and the asymmetric actors and Islamic jihadists looking to destroy the U.S.’s way of life. CACI will continue to provide support to the security of the United States, through its skilled and dedicated professionals.
“I think CACI plays a very fundamental role, a basic role in the national security picture,” London said.
Following the 9/11 attacks, CACI has continued its drive to provide quality services to the federal government. Much of this growing capacity has come in the form of acquisitions.
“We’ve been very forthright in our investing and certainly put a lot of money into acquiring niche companies, technology companies that are very supportive in the Global War on Terror from a technology standpoint,” London said.
“In the Intelligence Community arena, we primarily built our significant portfolio through acquisitions,” he added. “Probably 40 percent of our business today is related to intelligence work and the C4ISR field.”
While CACI is paying attention to other growing fields, such as healthcare and energy, “For the foreseeable future, I would see our emphasis continuing to be in the national security arena,” London said.
As the budget for the DoD continues to increase, the areas CACI currently focuses on continue to be well funded, at least in the short term.
“The areas that we concentrate our business in are well funded and will be increasingly funded, at least in the short term,” London said. “[We] certainly are paying attention to the directions of the government planners in the sense of budget emphasis, where our funds are being planned for the future and the president’s budget for the next year,” he added.
A Lifetime of Service
Sitting across the table from me is a man dressed in a blue-striped suit, with the Navy eagle, shield and anchors cuff links; a man who has dedicated his life to serving his country and exudes patriotism. He talks lovingly about his family; his two children live in the Washington, D.C., area, within about a mile of CACI headquarters. He has six grandchildren, who brighten his face the moment they are mentioned.
“It’s a pleasure and a delight,” London told me. “I’m very pleased and very thankful frankly for having them so close by.” His grandchildren have also taken to his wife, Jennifer, whom he married in 2007. “Sometimes, you have extra blessings in this life, as you know, and that is really one of them,” London said with a smile.
In 2004, CACI experienced a dark time. An avalanche of media outlets reported alleged incidents of torture involving U.S. personnel and Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison facility. Some outlets claimed a CACI employee had been involved in the abuse.
CACI worked quickly to try to determine the facts and remove the unfounded stigma of involvement in impropriety against any detainees. That time period, London recalls, “was a horror story beyond belief.” Despite the lack of evidence to support any improprieties on the part of a CACI employee, CACI was dragged through the mud by the media and the political extremists.
“We went through a lot of media bashing and investigative work, Congressional oversight and so forth,” London said. “[We] were able to demonstrate after quite some time that we didn’t have anybody that was guilty of any of those charges at all.”
“Once you get whacked with that and tarred with that brush, you never really get it off,” London added.
In 2008, CACI published Our Good Name, an account of the debacle and a documentary demonstration of the lack of evidence to support the allegations thrown at CACI. For London, the book was necessary to set the record straight for CACI employees and individuals within the government who dealt with the company, as well as shareholders and the general public.
The book is not just idle praise of the company, either. Several years ago, London spoke about the book to a number of historians in the Armed Services. The chief historian for the DoD approached him and mentioned that the book, which they found to be well documented, was going to be placed in the DoD and Army repository as a possible source for the official history of the War in Iraq, which historians will likely begin preparing and writing in 10-15 years. When the subject of Abu Ghraib comes up, Our Good Name will be consulted as a possible resource.
So what does London see as the value CACI adds to national security?
“I think what we do is important,” he told me. “I know we play some really vital roles, especially in our data collection and our analysis and our sensor systems and that kind of work which directly supports the Intelligence Community and, therefore, the warfighter.”
Increasingly, the company and industry at large, are providing more direct support to the warfighter, particularly with the conflict in Afghanistan. CACI promotes a patriotic sense of duty in each employee.
“We take it seriously and our people take it seriously, and I want to continue to recognize them,” London said. “I want them to know that it is important no matter what.
“We want people to perform at their best and when you ask people to do their best, guess what by God, they tend to do it,” he added. “We build our culture that way.”
And they do. Flanking the walls in the hallway that approaches the Adm. Thomas H. Moorer Boardroom are pictures of prisoners of war from Vietnam. The exhibit features 30 POWs who were released in 1973. The program was put together in 2003, 30 years following the prisoners’ release. Unlike most histories, which focus on the era of captivity, this exhibit focuses on the POWs’ lives after their return.
The exhibit was originally displayed around the D.C. area, with a brief stint at CACI headquarters. The display was going to be donated to the Smithsonian, but Taylor Kiland and Jamie Howren, the author and photographer, quickly found out that the pieces would just be placed in storage. So, the artists offered it to CACI and CEO Paul Cofoni worked out a deal to buy the exhibit.
For both London and Cofoni, the exhibit “represents the ethics, morals and values of our company.”
As I surveyed the boardroom, I understand what London means. The entire room is filled with awards and recognition the company has received throughout its history. CACI has supported The American Patriot Fund, which serves the children of 9/11 victims, and has been extremely active in the support of the Boy Scouts. The company also supports CAUSE, a charity supported from its beginning by CACI employees that provides comfort and recreational assistance to injured military veterans.
In 2012, CACI will celebrate its 50th anniversary of supporting the national security of the United States.
“Unfortunately, the world is a dangerous place,” London said. “In fact, one could argue that it is getting more dangerous all of the time.”