The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) is continuing to grow a mobile, agile, and global workforce that can operate from anywhere, and part of that work is ramping up the enabling factors that will make that mobile workforce efficient, according to a top official from the agency.

“Our mobile workforce is growing. And it’s growing both from an unclassified standpoint and a classified standpoint,” DISA Director Lt. Gen Robert Skinner, said during a Dec. 1 SailPoint and GovExec virtual summit.

The question now is how you get after the enablers to make that mobile workforce more efficient, more effective, and more optimized, he said. Skinner explained that one key enabler the agency and the Defense Department (DoD) at large must work on is building up a risk management framework.

Over the years the DoD has treated the risk management framework as a risk-averse framework because the goal was to completely avoid anything bad from happening. But, according to Skinner, the historical process has been so convoluted, and “it takes a significant amount of time and effort for someone to get through the process.”

“Industry, in particular, is helping us understand where those bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and bureaucracy exists to truly make sure that we’re a risk-managed environment versus a risk-averse,” Skinner said.

But building up that risk management framework also requires training and education because to be a risk-managed agency, the organization must be able to understand what risks exist.

“Understanding what the risk is to your mission, as well as to missions of others is very important because as the authorizing officials you determine whether this system or this network can connect and be part of the larger ecosystem,” Skinner said.

DISA Programs in the Works

The Thunderdome zero trust program and the Defense Enclave Services initiative are key to DISA’s future work as the agency tries to transition from being a hardware agency into a software organization, Skinner explained.

“The [Defense Enclave Services] – which is a contract that’s going to bring about a holistic DoD network – that’s where we are going to start. And based on those potentials and capabilities, we can offer that to the broader parts of the department,” Skinner said.

DISA, as a combat support agency, will provide secret and non-classified internet protocol router network capabilities to all DoD organizations to provide the same level of service, the same help desk, and the same IT service management process to become more effective and efficient.

The Thunderdome project, expected to be completed in January, centers on how “we reimagine how we do network routing and network security for the future,” Skinner explained.

“We are trying to understand how we leverage software-defined wide-area networking. How do we leverage secure access, secure edge, and these other new technologies that have come to bear over the last few years? How do we look at this from a future standpoint so that we can get after zero trust?” Skinner said.

The Thunderdome project, he added, is a new security model for better “security and better protection of our data as we move forward.”

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.