Page 26 - FCW, November/December 2020
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Dana Deasy took over as the Defense Department’s CIO in May 2018. But he didn’t wait until he was officially confirmed in December 2019 to start overseeing pivotal initiatives — including expanding 5G experimentation on military bases and launching DOD’s first centralized organization dedicated to artificial intelligence, the Joint AI Center. It’s been a busy two-and-a-half years for a newcomer to federal IT.
Deasy’s nearly four-decade career has almost entirely been spent in the private sector. Before joining DOD, he was global CIO at JPMorgan Chase and CIO at BP and General Motors North America. The DOD role is his first government job.
“I’ve always been able to go into an IT leadership...job in my career and kind of know the traditional things you’re going to be asked to lead,” Deasy told FCW. “Here, I arrived and we’re talking about spectrum, satellites, nuclear command and control, and it’s very eye-opening in the early days. This definitely does not feel like private- sector IT.”
Strategize, organize and deliver
DOD has a reputation for lagging behind the technical capabilities that most of us take for granted in our personal lives. Leaders can mobilize troops and materiel across the world, but personnel often struggle to seamlessly message one another
and have to change email addresses frequently during their defense careers. CIOs in government typically have tenures of five years or less, so Deasy had a clear aim for his time in the job, which he borrowed from his private- sector experience: strategize, organize
and deliver.
“Year one for me was all about
conceiving vision, articulating it and making sure it would resonate all the way out to a combatant command, to a warfighter sitting out wherever they are in the world, to people in the Pentagon, people in Congress, to the people on my own department frankly,” he said. “And then from there, it evolved quickly.”
He said a central challenge was getting people to understand the connection between the Digital Modernization Strategy, released in 2019, and the National Defense Strategy, released in 2018 by then- Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
“Year two was,” he added, about asking “how do you change your organizational structure? Do you have the right people? What’s going to have to change in the way of processes you run and how you face off to military CIOs [and] combat command CIOs to actually deliver this agenda?”
He said 2020 was designed to be the year of delivery, even though the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to derail DOD’s modernization plans. “We’re not spending any more time
talking about a strategy, convincing people to write strategy, organizing for it,” Deasy added. “This is the year of execution. This is the year where people have to say, ‘I can see how cloud is making a difference. I can see how AI is making a difference.’”
The JEDI question
Although he has been involved in several massive initiatives, Deasy’s legacy and tenure are almost inextricably linked with the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract. Barely two months after he took office, the solicitation for the potentially $10 billion procurement was released. Years of protests, lawsuits, inspector general investigations and allegations of White House bias followed.
Deasy seemed perplexed by the enduring media attention but predicted that no one will remember JEDI in the coming years because it will fade into the background of DOD’s technical tapestry.
“There is an unfortunate and yet continued fixation on JEDI the contract,” he said. “The simple fact you brought up the question would suggest that the media — and a lot of people beyond the media — just find this to be such a fascinating thing, which is really quite interesting to me.” He added that because he has delivered large, complex, transformational technology, he understands that “the cloud is a
26 November/December 2020 FCW.COM

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