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Columbia’s takes flight with $900M, decade-long US Air Force contract

The new indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity agreement, combined with a recent $25 million private placement and the rising attention to cybersecurity, leaves the company's CEO feeling positive about its future. CEO Mandy Long. (Courtesy photo)

This editorial article is a part of Navigating a (Possible) Recession Month 2023 in’s editorial calendar.

Barely 90 days into her tenure as’s CEO, Mandy Long can already boast a handful of significant victories. Perhaps chief among them is the $900 million, 10-year contract the cybersecurity company recently announced it had secured with the United States Air Force.

The Columbia, Maryland-HQ’d company’s announcement of the contract described it as an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) agreement, which means the awardee may provide an undetermined number of services within a fixed timespan. Long described it as a “contract vehicle” for which underwent a stringent process that resulted in 92 vendors earning the ability to service the Air Force through this avenue.

The former IBM executive, who is based in the Chicago metropolitan area, added that this IDIQ contract’s size and structure reflect the company that became after going public via a special purpose acquisition company process in 2021.

“What we’ve been working on since that moment, and we are still actively working on, is: How do we — for our size, shape, who we are today — get on contract vehicle, as a prime [contractor], that matches our size so that we can compete for task orders and move the ball forward at that level?” she told “So I think of this as a validation of who we are. It’s representative of the size of organization that we are, the competencies that we bring to the table.”

The company’s size can be ascertained by both the number of workers it employs — over 600, according to Long — and the seven physical US locations it maintains beyond the Columbia headquarters, including three in Virginia.

Long emphasized that according to the IDIQ model, the Pentagon-based Air Force has not yet identified exactly what services it wants from That said, the company has worked with the military agency for over a decade; Long credited such colleagues as SVPs Greg Goldwater and Tom Tschuor, as well as Proposal Manager Jessica Mansilla, with helping make the contract and relationship possible.

We have a responsibility to continue to play a role in supporting our nation's security. specializes in a range of artificial intelligence-driven data analytics, cybersecurity and related solutions for public and private clients across various industries. While the Air Force-specific service requests remain undetermined, Long said that she felt that was well positioned given the ever-shifting landscape of cyber threats and infrastructural issues that the company can help clients address. She cited the work has already done with clients like space tech company Redwire, with whom developed cyber tools that were employed in the development of a Department of Defense-sponsored satellite communications program.

“We are now living in a society of global geopolitical unrest and disruption that is, I would actually say, unprecedented in my time in the professional world,” she said. “The key thing to acknowledge, too, that I, frankly, got a thorough education on in my short window here, is that we have a responsibility to continue to play a role in supporting our nation’s security. Our adversaries are paying attention and they are investing as well.” followed up the contract announcement with another noting its receipt of a $25 million private placement — in other words, the company is selling almost 14,000 shares of its stock in an agreement that does not require a public offering. Long said that this private placement “addresses a liquidity challenge” that she encountered when she came aboard as CEO back in October, which was barely two months after the company underwent a “restructuring.” Account Manager Edward Lin of Merritt Group, a public relations firm working with, did not immediately provide a number of employees who were laid off through this restructuring.

Regardless of these prior challenges, Long noted that the company has survived them and is now in a stronger position to continue serving clients. While she cannot predict the company’s immediate future, she did note that the lucrative defense market and its needs offer an opportunity for to weather a recession that might hurt other companies.

“I think it’s going be very hard for companies to get through this extremely challenging period,” Long said. “But one area that is a critical, indisputable area of need is investment [in] and what we’re going to be doing to bolster what we have from a defense and intelligence standpoint.”

“We have some of the most formidable technology and high-end AI, hyper-tailored AI, as well as full-spectrum cyber work,” she added about “It’s time to use it.”

Series: Navigating a (Possible) Recession Month 2023

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