The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) Lt. Gen. Robert Skinner pointed private sector IT firms to numerous areas on his technology wish list during his opening keynote address on April 26 at AFCEA International’s TechNet Cyber event in Baltimore and asked the industry to help DISA work through those problems.

“Every great innovation started when somebody said, ‘wouldn’t it be cool if…’” Skinner said in recounting the private sector’s help over the years in providing the Federal government with better technologies at scale.

Among the general’s “cool” wish-list for the industry to help DISA:

  • The ability to accomplish cloud deployments within hours that enable real-time, ongoing missions. Skinner cited just such an accomplishment to assist in last year’s evacuation of Americans and Afghani citizens from Kabul, calling it a “huge win from our perspective” to do that with command and control in place within 72 hours, versus what might otherwise take weeks or months to put in place.
  • Putting in place a true single sign-on capability for users for joint and coalition environments, “no matter where they are logging in from, no matter what the device.” Skinner said, “we do not have that today … a lot of things we are doing from an application standpoint, you still have to sign into a network.” He asked for the industry’s help in “bringing all of that together.”
  • Bringing DevSecOps to the legacy environment. Skinner said, “it’s pretty cool when you have modern technology, but how to bring it to the legacy environment … we have thousands of applications that are not modern, and that’s the challenge.” He added, “it’s hard, we can use your help there.”
  • Bringing multi-level applications to the mobile environment. “We need one device that can access multiple levels, and we have to be more agile and mobile moving forward,” Skinner said.  He also explained that companies come to DISA with solutions to the problem, but then those tend to snag on the issue of scalability. He said DISA oversees operations with hundreds of millions of IP addresses, four million users, and 15,000 networks, and advised, “keep that in mind as we talk about how we can scale your capability.”
  • Optimizing current capabilities, including how to validate that systems are operating normally. “We have to jump to the future, but we have to optimize the capabilities that we have,” Skinner said, adding, “then we have to simplify systems for operators … help us do that.”
  • Harmonizing cybersecurity and user experience, with Skinner telling the industry that “your help is important in that.”
  • Providing “consistent pricing” to DISA for software licensing, “so that we are not pitting one DoD organization against another” on pricing, he said. “Help us get to best value when it comes to licensing,” Skinner said, adding, “that doesn’t mean you can’t make money, but let’s have consistency … that’s where I really need your help.”
  • Helping DISA to optimize and empower industry and workforce “to get their ideas in the right place” and not be hindered by “institutional silliness.” Skinner asked to hear about “examples of policies that are inhibiting you … please let us know so we can get after them and get our best foot forward.”


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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.