A conversation with Michael Campbell and Steve Trevino heading into SOF Week 2023
SOF Week provides the opportunity to discover and explore solutions for some of our nation’s toughest problems. What problem are you focused on solving for SOF?
Michael Campbell (General Manager, Privoro Government Solutions):
If you carry a mobile device in a combat zone, it’s been shown, over and over again, you can become a target because it’s a radio and it’s something that people can lock in on and they can spy on you. However, it’s just the reality that, in a current war zone, everyone is carrying a mobile device regardless of these risks. They’re carrying them to achieve better mission effectiveness and they’re doing things with smartphones and mobile tablets that no one even thought about before this technology. But then they are also blending interpersonal communications, maybe logistics, so, they’re doing command and control. They’re doing mission, they’re doing logistics, and then they add personal devices on top of all that. For the first time in history, really everyone is connected. This is the thing that I think the US military is not prepared for because it’s considered too risky. So, in government spaces you’ll see phone lockers, or you’ll see phones left in parking lots and everyone goes inside and connects to a desk phone, or a desk wired IT system. Or the alternative is they just take the risk. They just say, oh, it’s not risky for me. I’m not a target. And then allow the full use of a commercial mobile device. And those two answers aren’t sufficient. They’re not going to solve the challenge or mitigate the problems. I think this has been recognized by a pretty large portion of the special operations community, and I think they’re going to be the ones that lead the way. It’s going to be a privilege to be a part of that. The rest of the military is definitely struggling.
Steve Trevino (Director Innovation & C5ISR, SOFtact Solutions):
For STS, it’s not about one problem specifically, it’s about understanding all of the customer’s needs and providing them with the best technologies that can be integrated and utilized as enterprise solutions. STS has done well in employing personnel from all facets of the government space to provide the knowledge and/or understanding since a good portion of our staff have just transitioned from actually being the customer. 20 plus years in a wartime environment provides an innate perspective and holistic knowledge of the gaps that exist. Likewise, the ability to comprehend and interpret the required transitions to a post-war environment has been critical to providing our customers with appropriate innovations. Funding has diminished, funding strategies have changed, tactics and processes have matured and require technologies and capabilities that are more conducive to conflict-based operations. Likewise, our adversaries have progressed and are now more sophisticated; the battlespace is extremely complex, and we are laser focused on providing solutions that solve those new complex problems.
Answering the question, how do we enterprise a solution? This is where Privoro and STS have hit pretty hard. The strategic and operational transitions require solutions that customers can adopt and permeate throughout their entire command, whether it’s training, funding, sustainment, acquisition, understanding what a training mission set looks like… We have taken all that on and are doing what we can to better advise and consult customers we have on what’s next and what may be the best solution for an ever-changing and convoluted battlespace.
Partnerships in this industry are fairly common, but usually pretty superficial. You can be teammates on one opportunity and competitors on the next. How is this partnership different?
I think the cultures of STS and Privoro are very similar. One is looking at directly solving a problem and understanding the need and the other one is building a complicated solution but, in this case, we are not necessarily fully informed, not necessarily smart enough in the customer space to know that what we’re doing is actually what is needed. And so, the blending or the gap that STS adds and makes a good holistic relationship. People like Steve, and other members of STS, they’re walking in the door with very fresh experiences and can guide us to solving the problem in a way that is relevant so that our solution is not just a shot in the dark, it’s actually going to hit the target.
The greatest benefit is knowing the customer. It’s an honor and a privilege to continue to serve and provide solutions to the organizations a lot of us have been a part of throughout our military careers. There’s a lot of trust involved, and we don’t take this trust lightly; and so, although we are vendor agnostic, we make certain to only introduce and integrate technologies / partners we believe in and know have the best solution for the problem set.
It has got to be technology that we know they need, that fills gaps and solves problems for the guys on the ground and it’s got to be worthy. Every technology that we have brought forth to the customer, we have endorsed, we believe in, we continue to push because we know it is exactly what they need. We know exactly where to put it and how it can be used. We believe in Privoro. We believe in the solution. We know this has been needed for years. It’s a solution set that we just didn’t have 10 years ago or even five years ago and it solves a multitude of problems. So, we’ve endorsed it heavily, and we’re going to continue to. At the end of the day, it is going to solve the problems that the government has and it’s going to save people’s lives.
Both of you came out of the SOF community and there is always conversation around “finding the right place” once you retire or separate from service. What led you to choose working for STS and Privoro respectively?
Much like the SOF community; it wasn’t about money, it wasn’t about status, or any of the other things. It was about working with people that you’ve known for years, people that you’ve trusted, and working for an organization that ultimately wants to solve problems.
So, when I had the opportunity to go to Privoro, it was like going into this special operations of business. It’s nimble, it’s first name. You have extremely, extremely experienced people.
Any last thoughts?
I’ll add a personal perspective as a soldier. I either personally procured or was issued mobile devices my entire career to do my job. I carried mobile devices before people even really realized what they were, I would carry them both in, like a Garrison headquarters type environment. I would carry them in the battlefield environment, and I use them almost exclusively.
Whereas the rest of the things I wouldn’t use so much. So, at the end of my career, I was actually carrying four different mobile devices. I was carrying an iPhone, BlackBerry, a top-secret phone, and a tablet. And since then, mobile devices have become considered too risky or challenging and a lot of times again, they’ve either been banned, or the risk has been considered great and you have to select to take that risk. I would find it frustrating to operate in today’s environment without the option. And I think that’s what people are facing. There are billions if not 10s, lots of billions of dollars that are being spent on IT solutions, technology, capability but all of it is designed to be plugged into a wall, plugged into a transmitter of some sort. There’s no need for new money, and at a time of declining budgets, there’s a need to transition. I think this is what Steve was highlighting in part of what he was stating is that the military is not sure yet, so it hasn’t really made the turn. It needs someone to help them understand. It needs to transition from fixed legacy IT wired to mobile. All indicators are there, that it is possible if we work together. And again, it’s not one person, it’s not a Privoro only thing. It’s going to require an ecosystem of a solution and a company or a leader that’s willing to integrate it all together.
STS is about capability and solving problems for the customer. It’s understanding the newer technologies and capabilities and being knowledgeable on what it actually does for the DOD, whether its security based, logistics based, it doesn’t matter. We are extremely motivated in advising the customer on how to use a system/platform to better solve their problems.
Furthermore, innovating within is crucial to future successes. Helping to better understand the platforms already paid for and in operation, and how to expand that capability to do more. Doing more with what you have, obtaining needed technology and then enterprising those solutions and using all of its capability versus 1 bell or whistle.
Privoro has a solution that no one else can provide. We have partners that are working in a similar space, but they do not solve the problem that Privoro is solving. The only other tie in would be other elements within DoD. Right now, our primary customer is the special operations community. But when you look at the vast abilities/flexibility of these solutions that Privoro has, the greater DoD and every service can leverage and benefit from their capabilities.
This discussion originally appeared on the SOFtact Solutions website at https://softactsolutions.com/privoro-and-softact-solutions-for-sof/.