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PART 2: Sean P. Williams attributes chance meeting at ETEBA conference for move to East Tennessee

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second article in a three-part series spotlighting Sean P. Williams, President and Chief Executive Officer of Protection Strategies Incorporated {PSI} located in West Knoxville.)

There’s an organization based in Oak Ridge that any government contractor knows and probably holds a membership.

It’s the Energy Technology and Environmental Business Association (ETEBA), a non-profit trade association representing approximately 170 small, large and mid-sized companies and affiliate members that provide environmental, technology, energy, engineering, construction and related services to government and commercial clients.

ETEBA offers programming in both Oak Ridge and Albuquerque, NM, so it was natural that Sean P. Williams, then an executive with New Mexico-based Akal Global, a large government contractor, would attend ETEBA’s annual “Business Opportunities and Technical Conference” here.

“I met Bobby Beaty at that event in the fall of 2013,” Williams said. It was a fateful meeting that resulted in a significant career opportunity. Beaty had purchased Protection Strategies Incorporated (PSI) after the former owner went to prison.

Without going into great detail, Williams said the company was deeply distressed, yet he saw promise in its work. At one time, PSI had an annual volume of business totaling $70 million and nearly 500 employees.

Being the “fixer” or “turnaround” type that he is, Williams developed a strategy for how Beaty could fix the company. He presented it to the owner in mid-November 2013, and Williams took over as President and Chief Operating Officer less than three months later.

“The only reason we are here today is Bobby let me do it the way I outlined,” Williams said. “It took two years, and there were massive changes” that included relocating the headquarters from Virginia to Oak Ridge and eventually Knoxville.

In June 2017, he bought controlling interest and is now President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Williams says PSI ranks eighth among federal contractors conducting background investigations and clearances for the Federal government.

“Our largest customer is the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),” he says. “As the prime contractor, PSI processes all of the FBI’s security clearances, to include all agents, professional staff, and interns.” The contract also requires PSI to process clearances for all White House staff and all the federal judiciary – the Honorable Amy Coney Barret for example.

PSI is also heavily involved in background investigations for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for placement of unaccompanied immigrant minors that cross the border into the country. “We support HHS’s efforts to ensure all these children are being placed in safe homes, not with traffickers,” Williams says. “We processed 62,000 children in 2019, our largest number to date.”

PSI’s third largest customers are the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) where the firm has a long history of supporting Special Nuclear Material (SNM)-related security services to include developing policy, conducting vulnerability assessments of secure facilities, and providing subject matter expertise.

As an example, Williams says the company currently manages the Human Reliability Program (HRP) and the Performance Testing Program at the Nevada Nuclear Security Site (NNSS). Performance testing of the physical security forces includes activities like large scale exercises to test compliance and effectiveness of the armed security forces. HRP is a security and safety reliability program designed to ensure that individuals who occupy positions affording access to certain materials, nuclear explosive devices, facilities, and programs meet the highest standards of reliability and physical and mental suitability.

“In addition, we hold contracts with the Department of Justice (DOJ), Federal Energy Regulator Commission (FERC), and Department of Defense (DOD) where we are currently supporting operations in Kuwait, Afghanistan and QATAR,” Williams adds.

With such a deep background in national security, one might expect that Williams has some strong beliefs about challenges the nation faces and areas that can be improved.

NEXT: The views of PSI’s President and CEO on why the lack of intellectual curiosity is a real threat to our country.

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