Editor’s note: At a time of growing competition, some bet the best strategy is to stay the course

April 1, 2012

You hear a lot these days about the cloudy prospects for government contractors, particularly those who do business with the Pentagon.

You’d think that might mean trouble for a company like A-T Solutions, a Tysons Corner contractor born in the aftermath of 9/11. The company helps authorities deal with roadside bombs and the bad guys who make them.

The company today employs about 800 and appears on track to end the year with more than $200 million in revenue — a big enough book of business to attract interest from rivals large and small as federal dollars grow more scarce.

“There are definitely more firms trying to eat our lunch,” said Dennis Kelly, the president and chief executive.

The company’s strategy, he said, is to stick to its knitting, betting that agencies will choose quality over low price.

A-T Solutions brings what Kelly calls a “complete tool belt” to the mission. When a bomb is detonated, it can reconstruct the episode (using A-T- software) and piece together how the device was made so replicas can be built (by A-T) to train (by A-T) troops that might happen upon copycats.

A-T also employs fingerprint and DNA specialists who can identify the perpetrators.

As the U.S. presence shrinks in Iraq and Afghanistan, Kelly still sees room to grow.

A-T recently partnered with another firm in the United Kingdom to see if it might win work from other governments. After all, there were 6,800 makeshift bomb explosions outside Iraq and Afghanistan last year that claimed the lives of 12,000.

Kelly thinks the company can do $500 million in revenue in the not-too-distant future, and it is keeping its eye out for the right acquisitions to help it get there.

It’ll be interesting to watch how firms that stick to what they do best fare in an ever-more competitive procurement environment. One thing seems certain: The threat is not going away.

“Unfortunately, IEDs tend to be the weapon of choice,” of rebels worldwide, Kelly said.

Dan Beyers is the founding editor of Capital Business, The Washington Post’s go-to source for news about the region’s business community.
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