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CHIPS Articles: DON IT 2017 Conferences: Question, Learn, Network, Innovate

DON IT 2017 Conferences: Question, Learn, Network, Innovate
By Sharon Anderson, CHIPS senior editor - April-June 2017
Where do Department of the Navy Information Management and Information Technology professionals learn about the DON’s latest IM/IT/cyberspace policies and projects — at a DON IT Conference, of course. Department of the Navy IT Conferences are the approved premier and authoritative events for all DON information technology users to learn about department policies regarding the acceptable use and security of DON IT assets.

Convenient Locations, Dynamic Program, Knowledgeable Speakers

DON IT Conferences are held annually in fleet concentration areas on each coast and are hosted by the DON Chief Information Officer. Registration is required but attendance is free!

Participants at the DON IT 2017 conferences heard from subject matter experts on a wide range of topics, including: cybersecurity from risk management, compliance, and business points of view; audit readiness, including internal use software and the risk management framework financial management overlay; privacy; cloud computing; the Navy’s three-year plan for mobile computing; enterprise licensing; naval networks; data center optimization; and new fiscal year 2017 defense business system certification requirements. A Navy/Marine Corps Electromagnetic Spectrum Summit was held in conjunction with each conference.

Among the new presentations this year is a Data and Analytics Consortium and workshop which kicked off at the DON IT West Coast Conference in February at the San Diego Convention Center. Experts discussed the latest initiatives across the DON and options to better organize data analytics efforts and promote data, information and services sharing.

Also new this year is a DON “Innovation Update” that demonstrated how DON personnel can help nurture innovative concepts through the phases of prototyping to fielding. The update also highlighted innovation projects for FY17.

DON IT Conferences are collocated with an Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) conference which expands opportunities for participants to network and learn about the latest commercial technologies.

One of the centerpieces of the conferences is a Town Hall with DON CIO Rob Foster that features the presentation of the annual DON IM/IT Excellence Awards.

DON IT East Coast Conference

At the East Coast Conference Town Hall, Foster was joined by Rear Adm. Danelle Barrett, Navy Cyber Security Division Director/Deputy DON CIO, and Kenneth W. Bible, Deputy Director, C4/ Deputy CIO, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. They discussed IM/IT initiatives at the DON’s forefront: expanding and accelerating mobility options, cloud migration, implementation of the Risk Management Framework and the need for a coordinated data strategy to unleash the power of data analytics.

Admiral Barrett explained that she considered one of the DON’s most pressing needs to be training and recruiting data scientists and standardizing data architectures for data optimization to better empower the department’s intelligence tools and warfighters.

For the Marine Corps’ objective to support Marines from the fighting hole at the edge — back to the flag pole, Bible said the Corps’ three main thrusts are pushing forward with the Marine Corps Enterprise Network (MCEN), which will require the divesture of obsolete IT to invest in new technologies, and a better business model for cloud migration and services and IT storage

Foster said the department needs to figure out the dimensions of big data first and he pointed to the new Data and Analytics Consortium as a positive step to help establish standards, data tags and a data environment that will lead to better policy development and powerful data analytics to enhance senior leadership decision-making.

The DON IT East Coast Conference, which attracted more than 1,200 government, military and industry participants, was held in downtown Norfolk, Virginia, May 16 to 18. Foster said the aim is to reestablish this event in the Navy and Marine concentration area of Tidewater Virginia to facilitate the greatest participation by the fleet and shore-based communities on the East Coast.

In addition to the ability to interact with DON leadership, participants can attend sessions that support continuous learning, such as earning 1 CEU CompTIA A+ for attending the “DON IT Strategic Sourcing Overview” or “Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft” sessions, for example.

No doubt every conference attendee has a favorite session, but one of the sessions I found most fascinating was the “DON Cloud Acceleration: A Senior Leadership Perspective” in which moderator, Dan DelGrosso, from the Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems, led a panel, consisting of DON CIO Rob Foster; DDCIO-Marine Corps Ken Bible; Skip Hiser, director, Communications & Information Systems, U.S. Fleet Forces Command; and Victor Gavin, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Information Operations and Space; through a series of questions.

It was interesting to note that panelists agreed that the challenge to moving to the cloud is not a technical problem but rather more of a cultural and security issue. In addition, the DON acquisition community is developing a strategy for how best to purchase cloud services.

“The DoD and DON are very good at buying ships, tanks and missiles, but with cloud you are buying a service not a product and that is much more difficult to price,” Gavin said. “What is needed is a new business model for cloud.”

There is also the challenge of cybersecurity with the software as a service platform, Gavin explained, but he argued that cybersecurity is not a DON or DoD problem — “it’s a global problem that everyone is struggling with.”

In response to areas where there is some reluctance to move to cloud computing, Foster explained he prefers a “DON pull approach rather than push to the cloud” where policy, best practices and lessons learned assist program offices and application owners migrate to a cloud environment.

This article provides just a tiny smattering of the information you missed by not attending a DON IT Conference. DON IT East Coast Conference presentations are teaching tools and are available by request from government civilian and military personnel and support contractors. Go to the "Contact Us" link located on the DON CIO website Information tab to request a presentation.

At the conclusion of the Town Hall, Foster said, “I hope to see and hear from you at one of these events, and urge you to participate, learn, and share your ideas for moving the DON IT community forward... The opportunity to collaborate and learn from your DON teammates and leadership is priceless.”

Join Us
Each DON IT conference program is carefully developed to share knowledge and obtain feedback from DON Sailors, Marines, and civilian personnel. Right now the DON CIO is collecting feedback from East Coast Conference attendees. If you attended the conference and would like to provide your comments on the conference, please send your feedback in an email to with “DON IT East Feedback” in the subject line. For additional information and to register for the 2018 East and West Coast conferences when registration is open, visit We look forward to seeing you in 2018!

Visit the CHIPS website for more information about DON IT Conferences and DON IM/IT/cyberspace initiatives:

DON CIO Rob Foster speaking at the DON IT East Coast Conference Town Hall May 17. Photo courtesy of AFCEA Hampton Roads Chapter.
Deputy Director, C4/ Deputy CIO, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps Ken Bible and Navy Cyber Security Division Director/Deputy DON CIO Rear Adm. Danelle Barrett joined DON CIO Rob Foster at the DON IT East Coast Conference Town Hall May 17. Photo courtesy of AFCEA Hampton Roads Chapter.
President of the Hampton Roads AFCEA Chapter Palmer Sims, Principal Deputy Chief Information Officer Dr. Kelly E. Fletcher, DON CIO Robert Foster, and Deputy Under Secretary of the Navy (Management) Scott Lutterloh. Photo courtesy of AFCEA Hampton Roads Chapter.
DON Office of Small Business Programs Director Emily Harmon led a “Small Business Presentation” at the DON IT East Coast Conference May 16. Photo courtesy of AFCEA Hampton Roads Chapter.
Commander Naval Information Forces, Rear Adm. Matthew J. Kohler was the luncheon speaker at the first Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) Hampton Roads Maritime Information Technology Summit held in conjunction with the DON IT East Coast training Conference, May 17. Photo courtesy of AFCEA Hampton Roads Chapter.
The U.S. Fleet Forces Ceremonial Band, established in 1945, provided rousing entertainment for the DON IT East Coast Conference Town Hall kickoff. The band performs more than 600 engagements annually in its mission to provide musical support for ships, shore activities, Navy Recruiting, foreign dignitaries, and community relations events. The “Finest in the Fleet” entertains audiences totaling in the millions every year. Photo courtesy of AFCEA Hampton Roads Chapter.
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