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SAIC program office of 50 employees working on split

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The effort to split McLean-based Science Applications International Corp. now has a code name, Project Gemini, and a team of 50 full-time employees dedicated to partitioning the company into two separate public companies, each with a leadership team, board and name.

John P. Jumper, SAIC’s chief executive, said last week that the company plans to announce soon some of the crucial decisions related to splitting SAIC into a $4 billion-a-year services business and a $7 billion-a-year IT company focused on areas such as health technology and cybersecurity.

“The leadership decisions, I think are going to come in weeks,” said Jumper in an interview last week after appearing before the Northern Virginia Technology Council.

Decisions on the two companies’ headquarters locations and names will also come “very soon,” he said.

Doug Wagoner, who led SAIC’s homeland and civilian solutions business unit, is now heading Project Gemini, named for the Gemini twins Castor and Pollux of Greek mythology.

Beyond its full-time staff, the office is also working with another 100 employees “as needed.”

“Just like any program, you call in the expertise that you need when you need it,” Jumper said.

During his presentation before NVTC, Jumper explained more of the motivation that is leading SAIC to partition.

The entrepreneurial nature of the contractor — which encouraged employees to independently win and manage work — created “a company that’s got 10,000 contracts and almost as many lost patrols out there in the business world,” Jumper said.

“The model doesn’t scale, so we’ve got a great company ... but we can’t grow,” he said. “The cure is a very short list of things you can do and, of course, after a very focused analytical effort, we came down on this model of the spin-off.”

For employees, the decision provided “almost a sigh of relief,” once they knew what the solution would be, he added.

Turning to sequestration, or about $1 trillion in automatic cuts set to happen in January, Jumper said he ultimately expects to see implementation delayed in a “kick-the-can scenario.”

“I’m a glass half-full kind of guy ... and I’ve got to admit that my glass is draining as we get closer to the day,” he said. “You can’t do anything really to prepare except doing things like making sure you’ve got your costs under control and preparing for what could be the worst.”

He left the door open to sending layoff notices to employees, but said SAIC is walking a “narrow path.”

“You have to be careful about how far you go on things like [layoff notices] because you really don’t know enough right now to do anything,” he said. “But if you’re a public company, you’re obliged when you know a material event is about to happen ... to do something about it.”

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