It was not your typical sunny San Diego weather during the Department of the Navy IT Conference, Feb. 13-15, but attendees didn’t mind the rain and chilly temperatures because they were snug inside the San Diego Convention Center thoroughly engaged in the highly informative discussions taking place. Briefed by DON officials and subject matter experts, participants gained a better understanding of department information technology initiatives and priorities, such as IT modernization, the Navy’s cloud first policy, cybersecurity requirements, and the transition to the Risk Management Framework, plus much more.
DON IT Conferences are held in fleet concentration areas on the East and West Coasts each year to minimize travel by participants. Those with East Coast duty stations should plan to attend the East Coast DON IT Conference, which has been approved and scheduled for June 3-5 in Norfolk, Virginia. Additional information regarding the East Coast conference will be issued shortly on the DON CIO website.
In addition to the briefs mentioned above, there are learning sessions about Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft, knowledge management, DON Enterprise Software Licensing, the Navy Marine Corps Intranet and mobility news, and others. Briefs are presented in an interactive format to maximize attendee participation and encourage critical thinking. Feedback and suggestions are welcomed. There is also ample time for attendees to network and learn from each other. In the corridor outside the session rooms, tables were filled by attendees in lively conversation during session breaks.
The most popular event at DON IT Conferences is the CIO Town Hall in which the DON Chief Information Officer and Navy and Marine Corps Deputy CIOs discuss their priorities, challenges and opportunities. The first order of business is the presentation of DON IM/IT Excellence awards. Under Secretary of the Navy, Thomas B. Modly, who also serves as DON CIO, and the DON Chief Management Officer, was joined by Vice Adm. Matthew Kohler, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare and DON Deputy CIO (Navy), and Brig. Gen. Lorna Mahlock, Director, Command, Control, Communications and Computers (C4) and DON Deputy CIO (Marine Corps) to recognize winners. (See the list of recipients below.)
Following the awards presentation, Capt. Damen Hofheinz, Director, Office of the CIO, facilitated a CIO panel discussion with audience participation.
Mr. Modly kicked off the discussion with a broad review of IT and cybersecurity needs and challenges across the department. He said that he and Secretary of the Navy (Richard V. Spencer) recognize that information management is as important as other key department assets: people, property and money. He explained that SECNAV is working with Congress to create an Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Information Management office to look across the naval enterprise and coordinate priorities, such as developing a DON digital strategy, and accelerating efforts in artificial intelligence, machine learning, data management and analytics, quantum computing, business systems reform and others, for strategic advantage.
The inspiration to elevate the importance of IT to the highest level came from an anecdote about the president of JPMorgan Chase Bank, Jamie Dimon, Mr. Modly explained. Dimon was briefed about the company’s efforts to outsource its information technology and corporate networks in his first weeks on the job. Dimon not only canceled a $5-billion IT contract, but challenged personnel to own information as a proprietary, business-defining function. This strategic perspective has guided IT investment and prioritization for JPMorgan Chase ever since. Mr. Modly said many other industries have accepted that information management is a core strategic function upon which they are entirely dependent.
The new ASN will also have the required authorities and reporting responsibilities of a CIO, including policymaking and developing an IT investment and acquisition strategy, Mr. Modly explained. He said he worked out details of the CIO role in several discussions with the DoD CIO Mr. Dana Deasy.
The Under Secretary also discussed his chief undertakings as the CMO, including business process reform. One of his tasks is a key enterprise strategy from OSD to get down to two general ledgers in the DON, from nine, in the next two to three years.
While that reform will be difficult because of its complexity, Mr. Modly said there are rudimentary things the DON can do to help speed auditability and accountability within the department’s systems.
“For example, here in San Diego, we found a warehouse containing $26 million worth of parts for E-2C and FA-18 aircraft that nobody knew was there and the aviation fleet was waiting for. Since the parts were located, there has been $19 million in procurement requests put against that inventory,” Modly said.
Poor cybersecurity is a sticking point for Mr. Modly.
Beyond IT vulnerabilities, he said there are core things the workforce can do, like basic cyber hygiene and people being careful with the department’s IT assets.
“In a previous organization where I worked, after everyone had left for the day, the CIO would check cable connections to monitors and computers to make sure if they were secure; if they were not, he would take them,” Modly said.
Personnel susceptible to phishing scams is another concern.
“The former CIO at JPMorgan would send emails to personnel advising them to be aware of phishing attempts. If you fell victim, after the third time — he was ruthless — you were fired. This is hard to do in government, but maybe it shouldn’t be,” Modly said. “What people have to realize is that at the end of that line, at the end of that network, is the lives of Sailors and Marines.”
Vice Adm. Kohler concurred.
There is no Sailor or civilian in the Navy that doesn’t understand the importance of the Navy’s networks and the spectrum of rivalries defined in CNO’s Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority [Version] 2.0, Kohler said. “We train to a higher end because underlying these threats is information warfare.”
Brig. Gen. Mahlock said the pace of the threat shows that we are in the war right now. “Are you prepared, is your network ready — because it’s game-on,” the general said.
Network hacking isn’t just a Defense Department problem, Mr. Modly said the pace of cyber-attacks across industries and businesses is a matter of national security concern. A whole of government response is needed to deter attacks, he said.
“We can play an important part in this discussion… There should be a cost to those who steal our intellectual property. It is a conversation we should have as a country, and we are in that phase right now. We can spin ourselves into bankruptcy trying to prevent every threat, so we must think creatively,” Modly said.
All the panelists agreed that modernizing the department’s workforce is fundamental.
The aim is that naval personnel will be proficient in working with advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, human-machine teaming, and unmanned systems.
General Mahlock said this is her No. 1 priority, in addition to the Commandant’s direction to modernize command and control capabilities for Marines.
“The workforce must be fit for purpose; we must create a culture where we can leverage their experience and accelerate training,” Mahlock said.
To this end, military training and education is about to change rapidly with the Under Secretary’s announcement of new education initiatives this month.
While the DON has been rightfully focused on increasing readiness in the last few years, education has not been part of the readiness equation at a high enough level, Mr. Modly explained.
To reform naval education and training, SECNAV directed the Under Secretary to lead a clean-sheet review of naval learning last year.
The result is the Education for Seapower (E4S) study, a thorough review by outside experts which led to an overhaul of fleet education, ensuring a competitive advantage in the decades ahead.
Changes include the establishment of the Naval University System (NUS) which will combine the United States Naval Academy, Naval War College, Marine Corps University, Naval Postgraduate School, the academic curricula of the Naval Reserve Officers' Training Corps and service Officer Candidate Schools, federal executive fellowships, and all flag and general officer education into one united university system.
Another underpinning of the NUS will be the establishment of a Naval Community College. The NCC will provide accredited associates' degrees for enlisted Marines and Sailors in academic disciplines that advance lethality, partnership and reform. (You can read SECNAV's memorandum here and the E4S study report here.)
“This will help us create a much more agile fleet,” Modly said.
In conclusion, Mr. Modly thanked service members, civilians and industry partners for their efforts.
“I know it’s not easy to do what you do. If I could take a poll, I would ask, how can the DON be a better customer? How can vendors better support our needs?
Editor’s Note: Conference presentations are now available by request to government civilian, military personnel, and DoD support contractors. You can submit your request by using the "Contact Us" link located on the DON CIO website.
2019 DON IM/IT Excellence Award Winners
DON Cyberspace / Information Technology Person of the Year Award
- Laura Sedor, NAVSUP IG
DON Cyberspace / Information Technology Person of the Year Award
Laura Sedor, NAVSUP IG
DON Cyberspace / Information Technology Rising Star of the Year Award
- IT1 Andre Pham, Hopper Information Services Center
FOIA Program Excellence Individual Award
- Chuck Van Cleave, FOIA Officer, NAVFAC NW
FOIA Program Excellence Team Award
- Government Information Sharing Unit NCIS
ISSM/ISSO of the Year Award
- Daniel Haley, NSWC
Privacy Program Excellence Award
- Deborah Canaoi, Privacy Program Coordinator, HQ Marine Corps
IM/IT Excellence Team Awards
- Compile to Combat in 24 Hours, SPAWAR
- Inventory at Risk Alerts (IRAS) Tool Team, NAVSUP
- Strategic Systems Programs (SSP) Systems Integration Team, NUWC Newport