From analyzing aerial image intelligence for special operations missions over Vietnam to integrating 15 subsidiaries into a coherent whole: Duane Andrews, head of the $1.5 billion defense technology powerhouse QinetiQ North America, excels at taking the long view. With more than 10 years’ experience in the military and government—and more than 20 in business—he’s seen federal contracting from all sides, and applied what he’s learned to push both SAIC and QinetiQ into rapid growth.
For a person with a low-key demeanor, Duane Andrews has a knack for catching powerful people’s eyes. A colonel he’d worked with pulled him from the Pentagon to the U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Vice President Dick Cheney, noticing Andrews’ grasp of military intelligence budgeting issues, tapped him to become assistant secretary of defense, command control communications and intelligence/chief information officer in the Pentagon. And most recently, longtime defense expert Philip Odeen pointed to Andrews when QinetiQ needed someone to operate its North American arm.
What they responded to was the former Air Force officer’s vision—an ability to look at the whole of a situation, perceive what needs to be done and quickly and quietly get it accomplished. Today, Andrews is also known for taking the long view in another sense—in addition to breadth of experience, he has one of the longest resumes in the federal contracting world, having had leadership positions since the 1970s.
Take a look around Andrews’s simple Tysons Corner office: among the de rigueur photos with Washington notables are a framed C3I flag and a hockey stick scrawled with autographs. These speak to two of Andrews’ major interests—supporting the holistic view toward military intelligence and communications and taking the grandchildren to Washington Capitals games.
He gives a relaxed interview for someone who has in a few years helped build a company from zero to $1.5 billion in revenues in the spring of 2011, and from zero employees to currently about 5,300. But people who are comfortable moving quickly are a good fit for QinetiQ, which identifies itself as a company that demonstrates agility and an entrepreneurial style, a company whose mindset is always in start-up mode—while maintaining the long view.
Putting the Puzzle Together
QinetiQ, which began as the United Kingdom’s Government Defense Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA)—much like the United States’ DARPA—was
privatized in 2001 and soon began looking across the Atlantic for acquisitions. The U.S. defense budget, which dwarfs that of the United Kingdom, held great opportunities, and QinetiQ went on a buying spree.
With 15 acquisitions since 2004, the new QinetiQ North America had the profile of a python that swallowed a pony. The new companies needed to be digested to fully realize efficiencies. Some acquisitions had been operating as independent subsidiaries, bypassing many of the advantages of integration. The challenge was to make them work together.
“It is a puzzle,” Andrews says. “Sometimes the puzzle pieces are missing, and sometimes people have doctored them.”
Odeen was on the board of Apogen, the third company QinetiQ North America bought. When he was asked to act as part-time QinetiQ CEO, he instead recommended Andrews. The reasoning was simple: Andrews had recently left SAIC, where over his 13-year evolution to executive vice president and chief operating officer he helped take SAIC from $1 billion in federal business to $8 billion and “from a lab company to an IT services company,” in Andrews’ words. During those days, SAIC sometimes grew by leaps of 15 percent to 20 percent in a year, acquiring multiple companies. It was the kind of rapid pace and quick shifting of gears that Andrews had kept up with for much of his life and that made him a good fit for QinetiQ.
Eye in the Sky
Andrews’ education includes earning a master’s degree in management and supervision from Central Michigan University and graduating from the University of Florida as a distinguished military graduate in the ROTC Air Force with a major in bacteriology.
“They were trying to get people on board for the Vietnam War early, so I got commissioned in 1967,” he says. “I went to Intelligence School because I thought I was going to be in bacteriological warfare. No way—I never saw it in my career.”
A quick shift of direction put him into imagery analysis, in the days of U2 photography, in Air Force intelligence. He soon learned that if he volunteered and had the skills, he could have more say in where he wanted to go. “I figured if I was going to be away for a year, I wanted to be in the combat zone and do
He ended up in Da Nang, seeing plenty of combat. Andrews takes his honors in stride: “I did get a Bronze Star, but that was mainly because I was fired at a lot. It wasn’t for saving anyone’s life, although we did a pretty good job of preparing our crews.”
After that, he went to the Pentagon as part of a program for young Air Force officers. Meanwhile, by the mid-1970s, the CIA and FBI were under congressional investigation by the Church and Pike committees for international covert actions and gathering information on U.S. citizens. Out of this came the new House and Senate intelligence committees— and they needed someone with combat intelligence experience to do budgeting work. A colonel he’d
worked with at the Pentagon tapped Andrews.
“They kind of made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Andrews says, including expediting his exit from the Air Force within a week. As a professional Budget Committee staffer for a dozen years, he worked with both sides of the aisle on areas ranging from military intelligence to the CIA and eventually became staff
Around the committee office, he says, “one of the most interesting—and most interested—was Dick Cheney,” who by the late 1980s was House minority whip. “He used to come over and spend afternoons with the staff just asking questions. Most of the members you’d see a couple of hours a week. He would spend a couple of hours a day, when he had the time.”
Most memorable was a long flight on a small plane to Pakistan. Andrews and a few other staffers and Air Force liaisons talked shop most of the way out while Cheney sat and read. But on the way back, Cheney peppered Andrews for hours on end with incisive questions on military intelligence. By January 1989, Cheney had enlisted Andrews’ help to plan a congressional delegation to South Korea.
In the middle of planning, Cheney called Andrews and told him he had accepted the Secretary of State position. “I said: ‘Well, I guess we’re not going to have
any trouble getting an airplane for our trip then,’ ” Andrews remembers.
An intense new phase of his career occurred through Cheney’s quick selection as Secretary—and through the future Vice President’s demand that if he accepted the post, he would be able to bring over anyone he chose to be on his team. Andrews became Assistant Secretary for Command, Control and Communications for Intelligence, which also eventually included the CIO position.
Close-Up View of Business Development
In 1992, as the administration changed, Andrews went to SAIC as senior vice president for corporate development. Many in Washington, he says, come straight out of the Pentagon, civilian or military and into business. He considers himself lucky to have had the chance to learn business development at SAIC: “If you have never written an intro to a proposal or put a book together or delivered that proposal, you never get to see that. If you don’t do business development and see how hard it is, you can’t appreciate it.”
Andrews says he learned at SAIC how the entrepreneurial spirit is fostered in a large organization. “Other people may argue with this, but my view is you get agility by empowering lower-level people who have direct interface with customers to make the decisions quickly. You don’t require approvals 10 layers up.”
“You want to stay customer-focused—which means that you have to discourage bureaucracy because bureaucracy strangles entrepreneurial spirit.”
He has applied these ideas at QinetiQ: “As we pulled the companies together, every day I had to fight the building of a bureaucracy. Every time I hired a person, managers wanted to hire two more, and I would say no, you want to keep it lean.”
For now, the focus is building a contract portfolio. There’s also a challenge to balance holdings through consolidation and, though this is on pause for now, future acquisitions. For instance, QinetiQ North America has a strong presence in the Army and Navy but not the Air Force—something Andrews, with his 11 years of Air Force service, hopes to remedy.
His government-honed ability to finesse complex situations involving power imbalances may also help in QinetiQ North America’s situation. It has grown
up to be bigger than its parent, with North American revenue at about 60 percent of that of the total company.
In both acquisition and development, Andrews says, he looks for projects that have immediate use and meaning. “We do robots that defeat IEDs and defeat explosives, work that protects lives. A lot of our system engineering work is independent verification and validation. We do a lot of science to support both things and people.”
These include the Q-Net system, which protects armored vehicles from rocket-propelled grenade attacks; the Individual Gun Shot Detection System, a shoulder-mounted device that allows soldiers to detect the direction of sniper fire; and the Dragon Runner 10, a micro unmanned surveillance vehicle.