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CHIPS Articles: Modernize, Innovate and Defend Enabled by DON Data and Workforce

Modernize, Innovate and Defend Enabled by DON Data and Workforce
By Aaron Weis - July-September 2020
In my last message I discussed how the DON rapidly met the challenge of supporting a record number of teleworkers due to COVID-19. Mass telework was unexplored territory; the full complement of the DON workforce had never teleworked at the same time for an extended period of time. As CIO, I had to shift focus to ensure the infrastructure upgrades and collaboration tools were in place to allow Department personnel to productively telework.

COVID-19 telework was a complete game-changer in modernizing DON infrastructure from a timing perspective. We were planning to move to a complete cloud infrastructure, but out of necessity the move was accelerated. We’ve heard that necessity is the mother of invention. Well, as a CIO I have found that crises are the impetus for modernization and innovation. An example from my past experience is the 2008 Great Recession.

The 2008 financial crisis was an existential threat to businesses as their revenues dropped by 30% in one year. This resulted in belt-tightening which led to the rise of the virtual machine, IT footprint reduction, and the initial drive to cloud. It was in 2008, as CIO that I first migrated to Microsoft’s predecessor of O365 (then called “BPOS”).

As a CIO, you hate to see these kinds of crises occur, and it’s only in retrospect that you consider how they were beneficial in driving IT modernization. While we watch the forces of the Pandemic occur, many of the same stressors are being applied to the markets and workforces around the country and world. Again, the strain on existing systems and processes will cause the DON to move faster than we had originally planned. In the words of RADM Creighton in N2N6, “We are doing in weeks or months what would have taken years before.”

The DON Information Superiority Vision (ISV) was published in mid-February, just before COVID-19 became an urgent medical crisis in the United States. The strategic objectives of the ISV are to Modernize the DON infrastructure, Innovate and deploy new capabilities, and Defend DON information, leveraging our Data and Workforce as strategic assets. Little did we know that our vision would be put to the test just one month after publication. While enhancing the user experience during COVID-19 telework has been a priority throughout the spring, other work to advance the ISV continued.

Starting with the current issue of CHIPS magazine, we are providing updates in each of these areas to keep you informed of progress toward achieving our vision. In this issue we learn how the deployment of CVR collaboration tools and the introduction of Microsoft 365 during the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated efforts to modernize our IT infrastructure and digital platforms. These new digital ways of working enabled personnel to take advantage of capabilities not normally available within the DoD environment. These tools introduced a new set of standards and expectations for how we communicate and interact across the DON.

We will also read how our need to modernize means we have to innovate and embrace emerging technologies. The Navy is hosting a number of exciting experiments that will deploy and test how 5G communications can be leveraged across a variety of mission scenarios and environments. The lessons we identify during these trials are instrumental in developing the policies and operating procedures that will ensure we are at the leading-edge of communications well into the future.

Embracing new technologies and digital work practices demands new ways of thinking and doing. The one constant that exists is the need to defend our data and personal information. We have both a collective and personal responsibility to achieve this. Every one of us must become cyber sentries, ever vigilant to the threat posed by malicious actors wanting to steal our data using Phishing attacks. We must follow the guidance we are given to mitigate these threats and create a cyber-secure workplace, whether in the office or working remotely.

While technology is important, our people are what will ensure mission success. Our people bring considerable institutional knowledge, continuity of operations and stability to the DON’s mission. Both the DoD and DON have programs that invest in our cyber workforce. The Cyber Scholarship Retention Program, available to both Sailors, Marines and civilians, and the Marine Corps’ Information Civilian Workforce Concept, are both described in this issue.

This issue of CHIPS provides a trove of articles about how we are achieving the vision of Information Superiority throughout the DON. I welcome you to add to the story. If you have an initiative that is advancing the ISV — that is helping to Modernize the infrastructure, deploying Innovative technologies, or Defending our information and systems; an example of how we are using Data for decision-making, or a story focused on the achievements and contributions of our valued DON cybersecurity/IT workforce, we would love to share your story in CHIPS Magazine.

Aaron Weis, DON Special Assistant for Information Management & CIO
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CHIPS is an official U.S. Navy website sponsored by the Department of the Navy (DON) Chief Information Officer, the Department of Defense Enterprise Software Initiative (ESI) and the DON's ESI Software Product Manager Team at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific.

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