Work in the U.S. ‘War on Terror’ boosts Oberon Associates to the top

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by Donna C. Gregory

In America’s “War on Terror,” the enemy often is a shadowy figure who plants a roadside bomb and then disappears in a crowd.

To separate the good guys from the bad, the U.S. military calls upon companies like Oberon Associates Inc.

Soldiers use its biometrics systems at checkpoints, identifying potential security threats through fingerprints and facial recognition technology.

These types of military applications are one reason the revenue of Manassas-based Oberon soared 4,732 percent from 2003 through 2006, making it the fastest-growing company on the 2008 Fantastic 50. 

Six-year-old Oberon provides engineering and IT services to the U.S. military at home and abroad, drawing upon the experience of its founders, David L. Young and Jodi L. Johnson. They worked together at federal IT contractor Mystech Associates and its successors for more than 20 years. “We’re not new to the defense or federal engineering business,” says Johnson, Oberon’s CEO. 

Neither are most of Oberon’s employees. About 75 percent have military experience, giving them an edge in assessing the needs of military personnel. “These folks have that real-world experience of what it’s like to be in a foxhole,” says Johnson.

Oberon has called on that knowledge to win federal contracts in such areas as communications, biometrics, intelligence, data management and information technology.
Oberon’s biometrics systems are being used to create a national identification system in Iraq. So far, more than 1 million Iraqis have been registered, including those who work on U.S. military installations.

In some cases, fingerprints logged through biometrics have been used to track down terrorists. “There are so many people who have been enrolled in the system that when IEDs [improvised explosive devices] go off, there are fingerprints on some of those bomb fragments, and we’ve been very successful in matching fingerprints to determine
who built that device,” says Johnson.

Also in Iraq, Oberon provided phone and e-mail systems for Ambassador Paul Bremer during the early months of the war.  “You can imagine that in a country that’s in the middle of war, it’s not like picking up the phone and making a call,” says Johnson. “If you can’t move information around effectively, it doesn’t do much good to have it.” 

The company also offers tactical and intelligence training. After the disclosure of abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, it took over advanced interrogator training at domestic military bases. 

Young, Oberon’s president, says it has been able to keep pace with the growing demands of the military because of the company’s management experience at Mystech.  “I think most small companies that are six years old or younger grow in stair steps,” he says. “Through those [Mystech] acquisitions, Jodi and I have managed organizations of $250
million and 2,000 people. One of the reasons Oberon has been able to grow so quickly is that we’ve experienced what’s needed to manage a bigger company.”

Within the next six months, Oberon plans to increase its work force from 500 to 700 employees. “We are proud of the work that our folks do and the meaning of that work,” says Young. 

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