American Systems, a government contractor generating annual revenue of about $325 million, is hiring a chief financial officer to assess new investment opportunities.

The Chantilly company provides systems engineering, technical and other services to government contractors — including command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, and surveillance. It has about 1,300 employees nationwide.

The new chief financial officer would replace the current one, who is retiring after several decades, according to the company. The CFO would work closely with the board of director’s audit committee, and would report directly to American Systems’s chief executive, Peter Smith.

Smith, who is also the company’s president, talked with Capital Business about the position.

How is American Systems’s CFO position unique?

We are the 40th largest majority-owned [employee stock ownership plan] company in the U.S. We want to make sure whoever we bring on understands we are employee owned and that our employees are actually our shareholders.

As CEO, I’m looking for someone to partner with — to work our way through creating value in government services. That will require looking at things from both an organic growth perspective and then also through the acquisition process as we look to acquire other companies to expand either the capability of American Systems, or the customer set we’re reaching into.

Our head of contracts and administration heads up the acquisition council. It really is he, and the CFO, and myself, working together to evaluate potential acquisition properties.

[And] looking at how we can get the funding we need to go though that process, either working off the cash-flow American Systems has, or working with other institutions to get some investments behind us, or some loans to help us grow in those particular areas.

What are those growth areas?

We do intend to stay a federal contractor and follow the shifting priorities of government. Since 2001, that’s certainly been focused on the Defense Department, the war efforts that have been going on, and of course, the global war on terror.

We’re looking at areas like health care IT in support of the federal government, also energy IT. We don’t want to go out and drill oil wells, but rather help meet the program management and systems engineering requirements.

What’s the most challenging part of navigating the federal market amidst tightening budgets?

We’re looking for someone that has experience in the federal government. It is somewhat different [than the commercial market. It’s understanding how budget fluctuations follow the priorities of government, looking into the future and doing some appropriate planning. And the regulations of the industry are different than the commercial world.