Major Reston IT contractor hires climate scientist

Stephen Ambrose, SAIC’s chief climate scientist (courtesy SAIC)

The Reston-headquartered Fortune 500 company Science Applications International Corp. known as SAIC (12010 Sunset Hills Road), has hired its first chief climate scientist.

Stephen Ambrose joined the information technology and engineering government contractor in early May. His decades of previous experience in climate science includes a 25-year tenure at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“Climate change is one of the grand challenges of our time,” Bob Genter, president of the defense and civilian sector at SAIC, said in a news release. “Stephen brings a wealth of experience and expertise to SAIC as we continue to help our customers rise to this challenge with solutions scaled to meet all levels of climate and disaster risk and adaptation.”

Ambrose is particularly interested in assisting government customers with strategic planning for disaster responses and preparation not just at the federal level, but also states and localities.

“How are we prepared for these disasters? More hurricanes. Stronger hurricanes. Flooding,” he said. “The most opportunity we should go forward with is…in that effort.”

Ambrose’s primary responsibilities include helping the company understand climate change and its impacts, examining the available science and technology and applying those to climate questions, and working with customers to address issues related to climate change, resilience, and adaptation.

“His experience will guide SAIC’s efforts to support government customers as they advance solutions to deal with the impacts of climate on land, air, sea, wildlife, and civilizations around the world,” the company said in the news release. “He’ll also promote solutions for measuring and addressing climate challenges, leveraging SAIC solutions and capabilities in data science, modeling, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and analytics.”

In addition to working for NOAA, Ambrose’s career includes stints with the Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, and NASA, where he spent 10 years as a program manager executive for disasters, homeland security, and water resources.

Before joining SAIC, he was a senior advisor and program manager at General Dynamics Information Technology (3150 Fairview Park Drive, Falls Church).

With about 26,000 employees, SAIC primarily contracts with the Army, Navy, and agencies in the Department of Defense, but it’s also served NASA, the Department of Homeland Security, and other federal partners.

In March, the company’s annual filing showed $7 billion in revenue for the past fiscal year — 98% of it involving the federal government.

SAIC’s decision to hire a chief climate scientist comes amid a renewed focus in the U.S. on addressing climate change and other environmental issues.

As one of his first executive actions, President Joe Biden set a goal to eliminate carbon pollution from the power sector by 2035. He also wants the country to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half from 2005 levels and make all electricity renewable by 2035.

“You can tell by the administration and the focus on climate change, it’s just everyday…coming out from that so quickly, that we have to respond to that,” Ambrose said.

On a local level, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors pledged yesterday (Tuesday) to achieve carbon neutrality for all government operations by 2040, following up on a recommendation issued by the county’s Joint Environmental Task Force last year.

However, with county government facilities accounting for a relatively small amount of emissions, the private sector also needs to do its part to combat climate change, and Ambrose says SAIC is well-equipped to contribute.

He says his work will bring the company “to the forefront” of this issue, building off of ongoing efforts with different government agencies, from the Federal Aviation Administration to military bases.

“The team I have is growing rapidly,” Ambrose said. “I consider all of SAIC my team because I’m horizontal across all aspects of it.”

Ambrose says his first year on the job is more focused on planning, including developing a five-year plan with milestones for the company. He’s also working on some events to engage employees and the general community, starting with a public forum that will include a panel of speakers from NASA, NOAA, and universities.

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