Innovation focus of Leidos driving projected jobs expansion: Q&A with CFO Jim Reagan

Headquartered in Reston, Leidos is a science and technology solutions leader working to address some of the world’s toughest challenges in the defense, intelligence, homeland security, civil and healthcare markets. The company’s 38,000 employees worldwide support vital missions for government and commercial customers. Leidos reported annual revenues of almost $11.1 billion for the fiscal year ended January 3, 2020.

Jim Reagan, Leidos’ executive vice president and chief financial officer, talked to the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority about the company’s mission, technology and innovation focus, and its projected hiring plans for nearly 9,000 new employees worldwide. The company’s expansion plans include building a new software development factory right across from the corporate headquarters in Reston that opened early in 2020.

FCEDA: What is Leidos’ plan for getting your workforce back into the office?

Reagan: When the pandemic began, we made telecommuting something that was strongly encouraged to everyone until we had a pretty good handle on how well those protective measures were working. We have a limited number of people in the office today, and we’re expecting to start ramping up to as many as 50 percent sometime between now and the first or second quarter of this year – depending on guidance from the government and the threat of the pandemic. We want to have our employees back in the office as soon as we know it’s safe to do so. Our new Reston headquarters is an amazing space, one where people want to come back in, but they would just want to know that it’s safe and within the boundaries of what public health authorities are recommending.

FCEDA: What are some of Leidos’ most innovative programs?

Reagan: We are a company that, 50 years ago, was founded on innovation as being something that differentiates us in our marketplace. One of the most interesting, innovative areas that we’ve been working in is on autonomy. So think about a program like the Sea Hunter, where we’ve built a couple of fiberglass-hulled trimaran ships that are able to navigate the waters anywhere in the world autonomously, gather information that our customers are looking for, and do it in a way that’s cost effective.

Another area where we’re planning a lot of new innovation is in the security products area. We did an acquisition earlier this year of the L3Harris Technologies security and automation businesses. These are areas where we’re able to innovate and provide a seamless transportation experience for people that are transiting through airports. Also, there’s a product line that brings a new level of security and inspection levels to cargo. Specifically cargo coming in via rail or on cargo ships or even through trucks and personal vehicles running across the border.

FCEDA: Speaking of acquisitions, tell us about the Dynetics acquisition and the Human Landing System (HLS) efforts to land the first woman and next man on the moon.

Reagan: We’re really excited about what the Dynetics acquisition has done for us. The Dynetics people, and the capabilities all based out of Huntsville, Alabama, are bringing a new level of technology to the company.

The Human Landing System is a program where we were awarded a $250 million contract. The first phase of that is being run right now. During the next phase, NASA will down select to potentially two contractors. We’re hoping to be one of those two. That contract is one where we would design, build and assemble a vessel that will sit atop a launch rocket and eventually ferry the first woman and the next man to the moon. This will hopefully take place by 2024, if we can agree on a schedule with our customer. But if not, then certainly will work to meet the customer’s demands and deadlines.

Leidos Innovations Center (Photo courtesy of Leidos)

FCEDA: Describe the Leidos Innovations Center.

Reagan: The Leidos Innovations Center (LInC) is where we do a lot of our early innovation stage projects. So think about everything from innovative, highly-complex sensors (both on the software side and the physical product side) for some of our most important U.S. government customers. These programs that start small and eventually become much larger. We think of it as “acorns-to-oaks,” and some of the technology that we use in the Sea Hunter program started in the LInC.

The LlnC is where we can solve some of our customers’ most important and pressing needs for innovation and new technologies.

FCEDA: Is Leidos currently recruiting new employees for the Reston location? What types of employees are you seeking?

Reagan: This year we expect to hire as many as 9,000 people worldwide, and probably the Reston and Northern Virginia locations are going to be where we’re going to be concentrating the lion’s share of our efforts – although not to the exclusion of many other locations. Here in Reston, we’re going to be establishing a new software development factory in Reston Town Center.

We are looking for people with a lot of other technical disciplines right here in Northern Virginia. Some of those categories include science areas and our sensors collection and phenomenology group. A lot of our corporate functions, whether it is finance, accounting or legal contracts, are also going to need talented contributors. We are viewing Fairfax County and the Reston headquarters location as regions with a lot of growth, both on the technical side of our business, but also the corporate support side.

Over the coming year, we’re targeting organic growth of over 10 percent. Much of that growth is going to come right here in Reston and Fairfax County.

Reston boasts many amazing amenities, and it’s going to be close to the new metro stop. We’re looking forward to this being a real magnet for new talent.

Leidos HQ, Reston Town Center (Photo courtesy of Leidos)

FCEDA: Why is the Reston Town Center—and Fairfax County—a great place for your HQ?

Reagan: We’ve been here for several years but we were in two different buildings in Reston Town Center, not even on contiguous floors. That didn’t make for the most effective way of people to get around and interact with each other. When it came time to for us to select a place to consolidate into a single location, for some obvious logistical and security reasons, we took a look at a number of options. It became clear that our headquarters workforce wanted to stay in Fairfax County. We then looked at a couple of options and settled on just moving down the street here in Reston Town Center. It’s a nice landmark and a kind of an anchor here in the Washington metropolitan region.

To find out more about Leidos, visit Leidos.com.

January 14, 2021