Sunday, May 19, 2024

SAIC’s Hilary Hageman on the Intersection of GovCon, Law & Technology – GovCon Wire

Must read

SAIC’s Hilary Hageman grew up in Southeast Asia and Africa and witnessed the political instability that threatened her family’s safety in many of the countries in which she lived. She quickly gained an appreciation for the safety provided by the U.S. military to Americans living overseas and drew inspiration from her Peace Corps-serving father and Army veteran grandparents. After having worked in the private sector immediately following law school, Hageman was honored to have the opportunity to work as a lawyer for the Department of Defense. Hageman’s job required her to become highly conversant in government contracts, national security and technology law.

Like many in the government space, her career was altered significantly by the 9/11 attacks, but she stayed in the public sector until she was recruited by the chief technology officer of a leading government contractor to help set up its classified risk management and governance process, insert additional rigor into the classified contract review process and build an export compliance program. At this company, she worked on numerous acquisitions, especially in space and technology, which allowed her to apply her background in space law, government contracts and technology while continuously honing her skills in mergers and acquisitions.

Potomac Officers Club events are the best places to learn more about the most prevalent topics in the GovCon industry and network with colleagues and competitors alike. Join us for our upcoming June 6 Cyber Summit to discover what the government needs to help protect its data and assets.

SAIC — where Hageman is executive vice president, general counsel, corporate secretary and board member — is the exec’s dream job. After originally joining SAIC in 2016, she accepted an opportunity to serve as the general counsel at Cubic, a government contractor focused on defense and transportation technologies and later served as general counsel of a small satellite company that she helped take public. She was delighted to return to SAIC as its top attorney in 2022 where she now leads a diverse team of legal, compliance, ethics and audit professionals. She shared some of that enthusiasm with GovCon Wire during a recent Spotlight interview, wherein she discussed what makes a good general counsel, why governance is important in AI implementation and more.

What advice do you have for GovCon companies trying to move up in today’s market and increase profitability while ensuring the appropriate levels of ethics and compliance?

Approaching this from the perspective of a general counsel, here’s a piece of advice that I often share with my mentees, particularly in today’s competitive market: When seeking a general counsel, it’s insufficient to merely look for an outstanding lawyer. A corporate GC also must have a deep understanding of her company’s business as well as the larger industry, along with strong interpersonal skills to effectively collaborate with the company’s business leaders. An effective GC must inculcate ethics and compliance and actively manage risk without being saddled by undue caution that can hinder progress in this role.

Moreover, I stress the importance of not just having a seat at the table but actively contributing to strategic decision-making. For instance, government contracts must account for cybersecurity compliance and governance in an AI environment. A robust ethics program will facilitate success in dealing with this challenge. However, what truly sets a GC apart is her ability to integrate herself into the business. I encourage my team to immerse themselves in our corporate culture and gain a thorough understanding of our business objectives, strategies and culture. Knowing the business inside out facilitates swift decision-making and agility.

Finally, although it’s not mandatory for lawyers to be technologists, familiarity with technology and its strategic application within the legal department is crucial. Leveraging technology tools enhances operational efficiency and effectiveness. Understanding how technology aligns with business goals enables a GC to better serve customers and seize opportunities for growth, whether through ventures or strategic acquisitions. These skills, I believe, are fundamental not only in our industry but across various sectors. Excelling in the delivery of legal advice that is informed by a deep understanding of the business landscape, industry dynamics and technological advancements, while balancing compliance, risk and ethics, should be the goal of an exceptional general counsel.

AI, cloud, cybersecurity and autonomous tech are game changers in today’s GovCon market. How do you support SAIC in these areas while ensuring proper guardrails?

The landscape of emerging technologies, including AI, is evolving rapidly. Operationalizing AI without jeopardizing governance is crucial. I often emphasize this to my team. We must remain flexible and resilient in adapting to the ever-changing technological landscape. Operational AI requires a delicate balance between advancing technology and ensuring trust and compliance.

The concept of trusted AI is paramount. The Defense Department frequently discusses this, highlighting the importance of trustworthy AI applications. With AI’s potential showcased across various sectors, including defense and our offerings, continuous evolution is inevitable. Lawyers play a pivotal role in guiding this evolution while adhering to compliance standards.

In the absence of clear-cut rules, we must rely on guidance such as that provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. However, to effectively navigate this space, we’ve implemented a governance model within our team. This model involves input from various functions to ensure comprehensive oversight. It encompasses both external-facing AI solutions for customers and internal AI applications.

Externally, we strive to deliver top-notch AI solutions while instilling trust and maintaining compliance. Internally, we harness AI for processes like internal audit and policy research, always with an eye on governance. Our governance council, comprised of functional and technology experts, guides us in operationalizing AI in a trusted manner, both for our customers and within our organization. This approach ensures that we provide reliable, high-quality solutions while staying ahead of the curve in the dynamic AI landscape.

Space technologies are a critical part of the U.S. national security strategy. How are you assisting SAIC in growing in this area?

Space-based technologies have been a passion of mine since my college days, and even earlier in high school, where I developed a love for physics. My master’s thesis focused on the legal frameworks that apply to remote sensing technology from outer space.

Throughout my career, I’ve remained deeply involved in space-based technologies, whether it’s remote sensing technologies in outer space, unmanned aerial vehicles in airspace, or ground stations handling data transmission. My brief stint at Terran Orbital was a natural extension of my passion for space-based engineering, further solidifying my commitment to this field.

SAIC plays a significant role in space, bolstered by strategic acquisitions such as Ctor, which brought in exceptional intelligence engineers from Task. Having experienced their support firsthand during my time in government, I can attest to their excellence.

SAIC’s involvement spans intelligence, defense and NASA, offering a diverse range of exciting opportunities. Understanding the jurisdictional complexities, including delineations between air and space, is crucial. My background allows me to navigate the intricate legal and regulatory landscape confidently, whether it involves the law of war, FCC requirements, or commercial remote sensing.

My deep interest in all aspects of space technology certainly will be lifelong and I am thrilled to be part of SAIC’s endeavors in this domain.

Latest article