Page 28 - FCW, November/December 2020
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November/December 2020 FCW.COM
component, but it is definitely not the overarching key component.”
DOD, which had a $733 billion budget in 2020, does everything on a massive scale, Deasy said, and buying a warfighting cloud capability is no exception. “And so when you go to say what we need to do an enterprise cloud, just the simple fact that once you declare that that’s going to be an integral part of your strategy, it’s large any way you look at it. The acquisition is large, the standing up of it is large and complex.”
However, he said, “cloud is not the most interesting thing at the department.”
It’s true that cloud technology is not interesting until one starts to think about all the things warfighters can do with it, such as send data between weapons systems and operators on the battlefield or use an AI-fueled data aggregation platform to determine what equipment is needed by frontline workers.
Indeed, Deasy stressed that the main goal of digital modernization is to help DOD invest in, develop and field technology to personnel and warfighters as quickly as possible. Five years from now, “how many people are going to remember JEDI? I would argue very few,” he said. Instead, people will be asking: “Are we delivering real-time information to the warfighter that is secure, reliable, not compromised or degraded? It’s going to make a significant difference on the
battlefield of decisions we take. It will even help us to deter conflict because of how we implemented this.”
Achieving those goals is about more than technology. “The thing I don’t think gets enough attention is the work we’ve done in creating really strong linkages and partnerships across the DOD,” including with the National Security Agency, U.S. Cyber Command and Joint Staff on issues such as Joint All Domain Command and Control.
Part of that alignment starts at the budget level. Congress broadened authorities for DOD’s CIO in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act to include five-year budget reviews and certification for DOD’s components when it comes to IT investments.
“You can’t deliver digital modernization without...really strong linkages to the [military] services and to places like the [undersecretary of defense for research and engineering] when you’re talking about things like AI,” Deasy said.
He argued that a program’s success or failure hinges on the strength of those relationships. “Look at why programs succeed or why programs fail,” he said. “I can guarantee you one of the things at the heart of it [was]: Was there a shared vision? Could people find themselves in the strategy and understand the role that they played and their responsibilities in it? Was there a common way of measuring success, and did everybody understand the dependencies they had and where
they needed to lean on others to be successful?”
Deasy said one of the biggest transformations inside the CIO office has been creating a “program of work where the linkages between other parts of the department are incredibly hardwired together,” along with a “culture where people can see why they are making a huge difference.”
The next step is making sure all that work is visible. “That has been no different in my entire career,” he said. “If you’re working on something and people don’ it benefits them or how it’s going to help them, people go quiet, people go passive aggressive. But if you can make that work [visible], then you have that shared-accountability culture. And for me, that’s what I really look for.”
The impact of COVID-19
Deasy described digital modernization as an enduring effort that builds on itself. But the strategy was only eight months old when COVID-19 forced shutdowns in March, so it was fragile.
“When you have a massive program, a multiyear program like digital modernization, the ‘what keeps me up at night’ concern is how do you keep the energy level high, how do you keep people focused on it and keep forward momentum going on it,” Deasy said.
For an organization that is often mired in bureaucracies that can turn simple tasks into a Byzantine process, the need to protect the workforce

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