DISA to restructure with eye toward more agility, Cyber Command

The Defense Information Systems Agency will begin to shake up its organizational chart in significant ways beginning on Oct. 1. But officials, so far, are reluc...

The Defense Information Systems Agency leaders are preparing for a significant restructuring — one that they hope will make the IT agency more agile, more able to cope with its increasing responsibilities in a time of declining budgets and more connected to its Defense IT counterparts at U.S. Cyber Command.

Officials, for now, are keeping quiet about most of the details of the reorganization, but many of the adaptations that do take place will begin to appear around Oct. 1, when DISA expects to declare “initial operational capability” for the restructured organization.

Lt. Gen. Ronnie Hawkins, DISA’s director, said the restructuring would make DISA more responsive to rapid changes in technology and to its mission responsibilities.

“We need to make sure we can make product out the door with the expectation that it’s sound, it’s tied to what our industry partners are working on,” he said. “We’ve briefed this to our senior staff at the beginning of July, we briefed it to the entire organization a few weeks ago, and we’re in the process of setting it all in motion as a result of the changing times that are going on right now.”

Hawkins, speaking to a vendor audience at the agency’s annual forecast to industry day last week, said the reorganization will embrace a “DevOps” model, a methodology that purports to make technology organizations more agile by integrating the day to day work of their development and operations divisions.

“Development and the business center are going to be on what we call the ‘left hand’ side of the organization, and the operations, implementation and sustainment will be on the ‘right hand’ side,” he said. “That doesn’t mean the left hand isn’t going to be talking to the right hand, but it does mean that’s the structure we’re putting in place, and that’s how we’re going to be doing business.”

Tighter relationship with Cybercom

Longtime DISA executive Tony Montemarano, who has previously served as the agency’s director for strategic planning and as its acquisition executive, is leading the reorganization effort.

Hawkins said major elements of the change will fall into place within the next couple of months, but not all of the restructuring will happen overnight.

“Any organization that has gone through this dramatic a change knows that this takes time,” he said. “Come Oct. 1, we will not be 100 percent toward where it is we need to be, but as we have spoken to individuals in DoD and other organizations that are helping us map this out, we believe we’re on the right track. We know we’re going to have some bumps in the road. Is it going to be perfect? No. But are we going about this the right way and at the right speed? The answer to that is yes.”

The restructuring is also intended to build connective tissue between DISA and U.S. Cyber Command.

Adm. Mike Rogers, CYBERCOM’s commander, has previously said that he’d like to see DISA take a greater role in defending all of the military’s networks. Last week, he disclosed in an interview with DoD’s internal news service that he expects the Pentagon to create a new entity called Joint Force Headquarters-DoD Information Networks (JTF-DoDIN), which would establish a more formal linkage between DISA and CYBERCOM.

Maj. Gen. Alan Lynn, DISA’s vice director, declined to elaborate on details of how the joint force headquarters would operate, because no formal decision to create it has been made yet. But he said both DISA and Cyber Command see the need for a structure that creates a single, seamless view of all of the military’s networks, without taking over the management of those networks.

“I think the services are doing a great job protecting their networks,” he told reporters. “What we want is better capabilities and visibilities on all the data feeds they have. They can all see the attack vectors that are coming at them individually, but where we’d have an impact is if we could see the total picture of the attacks, so that we could do the large data analytics. So that if we have an attack on one of the services, we’d know what that was and we could spread the word. Let’s say we have an attack on the Army. We could spread the word to the other services. ‘You guys haven’t seen this yet, let’s figure out a plan so that we can better defend.'”

More speed to acquisitions

DISA also is teeing up some changes in its procurement operations. Agency acquisition officials say they’re focused on finding ways to speed up their procurement process, accept more risk in certain areas and reduce their overall number of contract vehicles.

“We are looking to see where we have opportunities to combine contracts where it makes sense,” said David Bennett, DISA’s chief information officer. “The reality is we’ve developed contracts over time based on specific needs, and as we’re going through the change within the agency, we’re trying to figure out where we have contracts that are essentially looking at the same types of skill sets and opportunities. We want to combine those so that we can cut down the amount of time and effort associated with putting contracts out by focusing on a smaller number of contracts.”

Douglas Packard, the agency’s acting procurement director, said DISA’s plans to consolidate contracts are part and parcel of efforts across the government to move more toward strategic sourcing and reduce contract duplication. But he said his agency does not have any particular number of contracts it’s targeting at the outset. Each contract DISA consolidates, he said, will be based on an individual business case analysis.

“As these opportunities come up during the restructure of the organization, it’s the perfect opportunity to look across our entire portfolio, one to N, I think for the first time ever,” he said. “The DISA approach is to ask what is ‘like buying.’ Once you have the portfolio together and you analyze it, there are business cases that need to be made as to whether we need to consolidate a contract or not every single time we do this. It’s not a matter of number counting, that’s not what we’re going to do. The program officers and program executives, myself, Gen. Lynn, the agency director, our comptroller, we’re all providing the inputs that make the business case. But we’re going to [consolidate contracts]. Make no doubt we’re going to do that.”


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