About 18 months after starting the process to pursue classified work for the U.S. government, NEC Corporation of America’s relatively new National Security Systems (NSS) business expects to be fully mitigated against security risk and have its facilities clearances in January, the president of the business said in a recent interview.

The Foreign Ownership, Control, or Influence (FOCI) mitigation status with a Special Security Agreement will allow NEC NSS to pursue and address a “broader and deeper market,” particularly with the company’s existing customers in the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice and State, Kathleen Kiernan told Defense Daily sister publication, Homeland Security Report. After working briefly as the interim president of NEC NSS, Kiernan was named to the top position late this summer.

“There is going to be a lot more classified work but you’ll never see it because it’s classified,” she said.

Kiernan said the process of obtaining the FOCI mitigated status with the security agreement, which will allow her business to do classified work, was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before joining NEC, Kiernan led her own consulting firm specializing in intelligence, law enforcement and national security, and prior to that spent 29 years in the federal government, including as assistant director for the Office of Strategic Intelligence, and Information for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

NEC Corporation of America, part of Japan’s NEC Corp., launched NEC NSS to focus on the federal market in two areas, identity solutions and biometrics, and artificial intelligence and machine learning. Kiernan said that in addition to the core identity solutions and biometrics capabilities, her unit will bring computer vision technology, advance analytics, and digital trust, adding that as requirements change, “we change with it.”

NEC’s biometric matching algorithms are highly regarded and widely used by federal customers.

Kiernan said her business has 32 employees and that she’s in hiring mode, particularly for software engineers, solutions architects and capture managers. Her team also includes business development and sales personnel.

The business unit is based in the Ballston area of Arlington, Va., in a new office that she said was established as a center for technology and innovation. Before 2021 is out, Kiernan plans on initiating a series of thought leadership roundtables that will include customers, collaborators and likely competitors…to talk about issues that impact society and what are the solutions that those environments require? Not to sell them anything. Listen to them and see what is the most complex problem they’re after.”

Kiernan also highlighted the “thought leadership” that her team will bring to bear with all of its current and potential customers. Whatever the megatrends in the world are such as drought, famine, disease, and human trafficking, “what are those big issues that impact society and impact our future workforce. We’re engaged very heavily there. So, thought leadership is as valuable as a commodity as something you develop and deploy.”