Government contractors certainly hope so. Seeing an area in which the government has taken the lead, and hoping to diversify their businesses in the face of declining federal spending, these companies regard cybersecurity as a prime opportunity to develop or expand their commercial practices.
Mark J. Gerencser, who leads McLean-based contractor Booz Allen Hamilton’s commercial business, said it simply makes sense to create new bridges between the government and commercial sectors, given how interconnected the world has become.
“Cyber can’t be solved by the government alone, nor can it be solved by private industry,” he said.
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Kenneth A. Minihan, who formerly headed the National Security Agency and is now a managing director at Paladin Capital Group, agrees.
There is “absolutely symmetry between the critical infrastructure that the government needs and the critical infrastructure that the private sector needs,” he said.
Some analysts say the shift won’t be easy given the different language and business models required when selling to the commercial world. But that hasn’t stopped government-focused companies from making forays into sectors such as health care, energy and banking.
Hanover-based KEYW, for instance, has been known for its work with federal intelligence agencies, but recently announced it’s working on a commercial project. Fairfax-based ManTech International, squeezed by spending reductions in Iraq and Afghanistan, has also identified cybersecurity as an area where it is establishing commercial work.
The company had left the commercial market nearly a decade ago.
“I think we’re in the absolute best position we could be” in, said L. William Varner, president and chief operating officer of ManTech International’s mission, cyber and intelligence solutions group. ManTech’s experience working for the government “gives us a cache that few companies have.”
Cyber for government
The government market alone is vast. Herndon-based Deltek, which analyzes the government contracting market, estimates that in fiscal 2011, the government — which includes the Pentagon, civilian agencies, intelligence agencies and even Congress and the judiciary branch — posted about $9 billion in “contractor-addressable” cyber spending, or spending on the services and products that contractors can offer.
John Slye, an advisory research analyst at Deltek, has forecast that the sector will grow considerably in the next few years, reaching about $14 billion by fiscal 2016.
The possibility of using some of the same capabilities and expertise in the commercial world could make cybersecurity all the more lucrative.
“The dual marketplace does make it a very attractive sector,” said Elizabeth A. Ferrell, who leads McKenna Long & Aldridge’s cross-practice cybersecurity industry team.