DISA Factors COVID Into Refreshed Strategic Plan

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The Defense Information Systems Agency’s Strategic Plan update adjusts for the consequences of COVID-19, DISA’s director said.

The Defense Information Systems Agency—the Pentagon’s IT arm—refreshed its strategic plan and will release the update in the coming weeks, according to DISA’s director. 

DISA Director Vice Adm. Nancy Norton said the strategy refresh takes into account changes to the operating environment—most notably the COVID-19 pandemic—but maintains the same overall direction during a webinar hosted by AFCEA Thursday. 

DISA released its strategic plan for 2019 to 2022 based on the National Defense Strategy on July 10, 2019. The 2020 update will be signed out this month and likely released publicly before AFCEA’s TechNet Cyber 2020 symposium, which starts December 1, Norton said. The Thursday webinar was part of a series leading up to the symposium. 

“It’s not a big difference but it is very definitely accounting for all of the changes that have happened around us in the last year,” Norton said. “Of course, the biggest one is COVID-19 and the mass telework environment that we’re in.” 

Some of the projects related to strategies for 2020 and 2021 were sped up because of the pandemic while DISA has had to change course on other programs to account for the global health crisis, Norton added. 

One capability tied to the strategy’s goal to “adopt, buy, and create solutions” that has proven helpful during the pandemic is DISA’s cloud-based internet isolation program, known as CBII. The program eliminates web-based threats from internet downloads by moving the browsing process from a user’s desktop to the cloud, Norton said. 

“Implementing the CBII helped DISA enable the Defense Health Agency’s telehealth program when they needed it the most, supporting operations during this pandemic,” Norton said. “It also allowed our Air Force missileers on long-duty rotations to set up to meet new quarantine requirements to have much-needed access during their downtime.”

Another DISA official speaking during the webinar, Chief Financial Officer Christopher Barnhurst, explained CBII has allowed DISA to avoid around $300 million in costs to the Defense Department related to bandwidth requirements for internet access points. 

Before CBII, upgrades or increases in the capacity cost DOD and DISA money. That’s no longer an issue with the cloud solution, Barnhurst said. 

“It also has the very real benefit of a higher level of security for the department on DOD’s networks,” Barnhurst said. 

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