In 2002, the government contracting sector was at the start of a historic resurgence. The internet bust and telecom meltdown had hit the region hard, and in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, capacities were being stretched as tightly as budgets. The need for common understanding and a trusted business community among executives was critical.
Entrepreneur Jim Garrettson thought an event series that gathered like-minded professionals to hear speakers present challenging, informative content could help drive success and inspire leaders. He sought to “weave an executive-level fabric to the benefit of the business community.” Among other projects, he started the Potomac Officers Club, with a goal of presenting “headline speakers on headline topics.” One of the first speakers: U.S. senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole.
This began a series of thought-provoking forums that continues today. The Potomac Officers Club, or POC, is a nonprofit board of trade in the greater Washington area, where executives largely from government contracting and high-tech industries can share information about emerging business trends and innovations.
Central to the POC is the exclusive environment—it’s composed of executives only, of organizations with company revenue exceeding $10 million. Membership grows by referral. While selected guests who meet requirements can attend, there are no service providers with full member status. POC executive members can be confident that they’re dealing with those on the same level and that their time will be spent well and efficiently at POC events.
Now ten years in, POC’s concentration of “executives of consequence” and high-level decision makers has grown to about 1,000 members.
In addition to its meetings at least four times per year, the group presents the POC Star Award. POC is pronounced like “pock,” and it rhymes with “rock”; the POC Star Award is meant to reflect both business leadership and rock-star status. More than 30 nationally known leaders have been recognized for the indelible impression they have made on the community. Honorees have included Ted Leonsis, Charles Schwab, Tom Ridge, and Bob Woodward.
“With pressing challenges like cybersecurity, the cloud, infrastructure, and continued budget tightening, the need for high-level thinkers to share insights has never been greater,” Garrettson says.
“Looking back over 10 years, it’s clear that we’ve been ahead of the markets in addressing some of these issues at POC presentations. I hope those who attend will always feel like they’re getting a look at what’s coming 10 years down the road.”
POC attendees come for the content, not just for networking. And they get great content, including provocative concepts and lively Q&As after each presentation. For instance, a speech by retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, shortly after Veterans Day 2010, so inspired POC attendees that they sent more than 1,000 boxes of basic-need donations to soldiers serving abroad. Some past speakers have included*:
Ambassador Henry “Hank” Crumpton, president, Crumpton Group
Frank Gaffney, founder and president, Center for Security Policy
Adm. Thad Allen, senior fellow, RAND
Melissa Hathaway, president, Hathaway Global Strategies
Gen. Michael Hayden, former director, CIA
Mike McConnell, senior vice president, Booz Allen Hamilton
Christopher Smith, chief information officer, USDA
Richard Clarke, cybersecurity expert
Martha Johnson, administrator, GSA
Jim Lewis, director and senior fellow, CSIS
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, U.S. Army
John Riggins, Super Bowl XVII MVP
Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va.
Norm Augustine, former CEO, Lockheed Martin
Michael Chertoff, secretary, Department of Homeland Security; co-founder, Chertoff Group
William Cohen, The Cohen Group
Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-25th-Va.
Vivek Kundra, U.S. chief information officer
Gov. Bob McDonnell, Va.
David Walker, U.S. Comptroller General
Dan Hesse, president and CEO, Sprint Nextel
Gov. Tim Kaine, D-Va.
Knight Kiplinger, editor in chief, Kiplinger Washington Editors
Scott McNealy, chairman and co-founder, Sun Microsystems
Duncan Niederauer, CEO, NYSE Euronext
Roger Staubach, executive chairman, Staubach Company
Mark Warner, candidate for U.S. Senate, D-Va.
C.E. Andrews, CEO, Sallie Mae
Michael Chasen, president and CEO, Blackboard
Mike Eskew, chairman and CEO, UPS
Norman Pearlstine, editor-in-chief, Time
R. Donahue Peebles, chairman and CEO, The Peebles Corporation
Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, USMC, U.S. Director of Strategic Plans and Policy
Kevin Turner, COO, Microsoft
Michael Wilbon, sportswriter and commentator
John Ashcroft, U.S. Attorney General
Jim Balsillie, chairman and co-CEO, Research in Motion
Tim Donahue, executive chairman, Sprint Nextel
Carly Fiorina, former president and CEO, Hewlett Packard
Gary Forsee, chairman and CEO, Sprint Nextel
Joe Kampf, CEO, Anteon
Stan Kasten, president, Washington Nationals
Terry McAuliffe, chairman, Democratic National Committee
Chris Matthews, news anchor and commentator, MSNBC
Tom Donohue, president, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Robert Johnson, CEO and founder, BET
Gov. Tim Kaine, Va.
Knight Kiplinger, CEO, Kiplinger Publications
Hugh Panero, CEO, XM Satellite Radio
Kevin Plank, CEO, Under Armour
Tom Ridge, secretary, Department of Homeland Security
Joe Robert, chairman, JER Partners
David Steinberg, CEO, InPhonic
Tony Tavares, general manager, Washington Nationals
Jack Welch, chairman and CEO, General Electric
Bob Woodward, Pulitzer Prize–winning author
Sen. Bob Dole, R.-Ks.
Michael Capellas, CEO, WorldCom
Donald Graham, CEO and chairman, The Washington Post
Jim Kimsey, founding CEO and chairman emeritus, AOL
Jonathan Miller, chairman and CEO, AOL
Abe Pollin, owner, Washington Wizards and Verizon Center
Russ Ramsey, chairman and CEO, Ramsey Asset Management
Charles Schwab, founder, chairman, and CEO, Charles Schwab Corporation
Ralph Shrader, CEO, Booz Allen Hamilton
David Siegel, CEO, US Airways
Gov. Mark Warner, Va.
Norm Augustine, former chairman, Lockheed Martin
Dan Bannister, CEO, DynCorp
Jack London, CEO, CACI
Craig McCaw, chairman, Eagle River
Nigel Morris, co-founder, Capital One
Franklin Raines, CEO, Fannie Mae
Charles Rossotti, former commissioner of
IRS, co-founder AMS
David M. Rubenstein, co-founder and managing director, The Carlyle Group
John Sidgmore, CEO, UUNET/WorldCom
Jim Gilmore, former Gov. Va.
Sen. Chuck Robb, D-Va.
Ted Leonsis, vice chairman, AOL
*Speaker titles at time of appearance.
Heard at POC
“The government is responsible for delivering essential services. However, the fact is that the government doesn’t operate the system that delivers those services; it’s the private sector that operates the system. Until we really embrace that dependence there won’t be a private/public partnership.”
— Melissa Hathaway, cybersecurity expert, Hathaway Global Strategies, and former director of the Joint Interagency Cyber Task Force
“The Pentagon has not articulated a national strategy for cybersecurity—nothing I’ve seen deserves the word ‘strategy.’”
—Richard Clarke, who served under presidents Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Clinton
“How do you predict something like the Egypt revolution? How do you inject predictability for something that’s inherently unpredictable?”
—Michael Hayden, former CIA chief
“A new technology changes society, gets powerful, impacts society, and then has a negative impact.”
—Mike McConnell, former director of national intelligence
“I have come to believe that what’s happened in the area of information technology has created what I would call the sociological equivalent of climate change.”
—Adm. Thad Allen, U.S. Coast Guard (Retired)