DISA faces down procurement challenges

DOD photo by Thomas L. Burton

An official for the defense support agency says procurement processes need to keep up with emerging technologies and new security standards.

The Defense Information Systems Agency should improve its procurement process to better incorporate emerging technologies and new cybersecurity standards into the agency's offerings, an official serving at the combat support agency said on Thursday.

Lt. Commander Megan Silvester, product owner of DISA's account tracking and automation tool, said the agency has faced challenges while attempting to harmonize cybersecurity and user experience for its customers as part of its strategic plan for fiscal years 2022 through 2024.

"Building a ship isn't the same as developing software, and in many cases, IT evolves at a faster pace than the acquisition process," Silvester said on Thursday at a virtual event hosted by AppDynamics. "This creates a real challenge for our customers." 

Silvester, who oversees DISA tools designed to add automation support to ordering and delivery, also suggested DOD should look to improve procurement processes to ensure DISA's cloud products "support the mission and not detract from it." 

DISA updated its previous three-year strategy in 2020 to prioritize the role of cloud and enterprise services in delivering IT combat support to the Department of Defense, and has since emphasized cloud adoption and developing a roadmap to implement emerging technologies in state architectures in its latest plans. 

The agency has also been working to improve its incorporation of data into acquisition practices and product development. DISA released a new Data Strategy Implementation Plan this summer that included efforts to enhance data integration and the state of network capabilities. 

Silvester said that DISA can enhance its procurement and development processes for its IT products with "continuous stakeholder and customer engagement" throughout the entire product lifecycle and by "ensuring the products that we design actually do what our customers need them to do." 

She added: "User interface has to be designed and tested in collaboration with customers: No one likes to use products that are hard to use, especially when you're deployed. We really have to create a delightful user interface and experience for the warfighter."