A senior Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) official said today that the coronavirus pandemic may turn out to have one silver lining – it has helped the agency and the Defense Department (DoD) to be more innovative and flexible with their use of technology to accommodate dislocations including telework requirements.

“The pandemic forced us into using technology,” said Tony Montemarano, Special Assistant to DISA Director Vice Adm. Nancy Norton, when asked about any positive impact from the COVID-19 pandemic for DISA and DoD.

Speaking at today’s AFCEA International TechNet Cyber 2020 virtual event, Montemarano said the pandemic has “really stretched us to be more innovative and flexible. So in that sense, it is a positive.”

“We are far more versatile today than we have been in the past,” he added.

During the pandemic, DoD put the technology in place to accommodate telework for hundreds of thousands of personnel, and recently extended to June 2021 some of its civilian telework policies.

Vice Adm. Norton agreed with the gist of Montemarano’s sentiment, saying that DISA views the telework requirements brought on at DoD by the pandemic as a “paradigm shift.” The security implications of those requirements, among other factors, are one of the considerations pushing DISA toward adoption of zero trust security concepts, she explained in separate remark at today’s event.

Describing the evolution of mission in his 29 years at DISA, Montemarano pointed to the evolution of the cybersecurity portion of that mission. “When I arrived at the Defense Communications Agency … the mission was to bring communications solutions together to facilitate interoperability in support of the warfighter … job one was interoperability,” he said.

In more recent years, he said, “the cyber threat has been emerging … and today it is an enormous part of our mission … to not only connect, but to protect.”

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