As the coronavirus pandemic disrupts everything from church services to basic training, the latest cohort of students in the Chief Information Officer Leadership Development Program at the National Defense University still held its graduation ceremony — online.
It's both a first and a last for the course, as the program is being discontinued after a 30-year run.
"The NDU is a second-to-none institution when it comes to those of us who are interested in the national security of our great nation," Dana Deasy, the Defense Department's chief information officer, said in his remarks to the graduates today. "Each and every one of you should be proud that you have completed the CIO Leadership Development Program at NDU."
This year, 15 students, including civilians from across the federal government as well as military personnel from two partner nations graduated from the course. The graduation ceremony and the last weeks of their course were conducted online as a result of social-distancing requirements related to stemming the spread of COVID-19.
Deasy said it's fitting that information technology prevented COVID-19 from being able to disrupt the advancement of students through the remainder of the CIO leadership course or to their graduation. The same is being seen elsewhere in the nation, he added, as technology has enabled a resilience that would not have been possible just 40 years ago.
"I cannot help but wonder what a pandemic of this scale would look like if the year was 1980," Deasy said. "Nearly everything would have been grounded to a halt if everyone were at home. [Yet] tens of millions of jobs across all major industry sectors are still being performed today because we have the tech-enabled connectivity to continue to work and create value."
That same kind of technology advancement has also increased capability in support of the nation's defense, Deasy said.
"Information technology has also risen to the occasion to enable the nation to perform critical missions in many areas, including national security," he said. "Despite COVID-19, the department remains ready and able to execute critical missions. Every day I see how access to information and our technological capabilities is an enduring source of U.S. military strength and critical to survival on the future battlefield."
The students graduating today will be at the forefront of leading continued advancement in information technology in the coming years, Deasy said.
"Everyone here today is serving their country in some capacity," he added, "and I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your past and future service, where you will continue to provide your dedication to the mission."
Dr. Cassandra C. Lewis, the acting chancellor of the College of Information and Cyberspace, which hosts the CIO Leadership Development Program at NDU, said the program has had great effect on the Defense Department and the federal workforce.
"For three decades, the CIO LDP has been our nation's flagship program for rising senior leaders and managers working to achieve national and international security goals through the use of information and information technology," Lewis said. "This prestigious program has served countless standout leaders, both within the federal government as well as our partners and allies."
More than 1,500 students have graduated from the 14-week program since it began in 1990. The program is targeted at senior-level managers and leaders responsible for promoting and attaining national and international security goals through the strategic use of information and information technology. The program provides participants with the chief information officer certificate, a diploma, and course work applicable toward a master of science degree in government information leadership.
"Over 14 short weeks, [students] have completed six courses, they met with ... leaders inside the Beltway, [and] participated in a pretty rigorous and engaging domestic field study experience all to gain first-hand knowledge about how public and private senior leaders are advancing CIO competencies and leading in this complex environment," Lewis said.
This graduation was the last scheduled iteration of the CIO LDP, and the College of Information and Cyberspace is also slated for elimination within the next two years as part of a transformation effort at the NDU.
The College of Information and Cyberspace, or CIC, was established in 1964 as the Department of Defense Computer Institute, or DoDCI. In 1988 the school transitioned to the Information Resources Management College, also called the "iCollege." In 2016, it became CIC. Early on, Navy Adm. Grace Hopper was an instructor at the school.
"One thing that has remained consistent throughout all of those evolutions [is the] steadfast, fierce determination of our faculty and staff, and their commitment to bring innovation into the classroom [and] to advance through their thought leadership, information, cybersecurity, emerging technology and cyberspace," Lewis said. "They've also been steadfast in their commitment to prepare senior military and government leaders to lead and meet the challenges that we know they are bound to face in this ever-evolving world."
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