WASHINGTON — The new director of the Defense Information Systems Agency said Friday in his first public appearance that he’s a proponent of IT as a service.
The statement from Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert Skinner signals that the new leader of the Pentagon’s combat IT support agency plans to maintain the department’s push to outsource IT services to vendors to increase efficiency and savings.
“I’m a big proponent of commercial IT as a service,” Skinner said at the AFCEA Rocky Mountain Cyberspace Symposium. “We have to be careful as we kind of move forward with this. ... I think we really need to get after this in a more holistic look and a faster pace.”
The Air Force, Army and Navy each have ongoing enterprise IT as a service projects underway, with some IT officials looking to expand. Last year, a deputy program manager at the Army enterprise IT office said there’s “probably nothing that we’re not looking at as ‘as a service.’”
Skinner, who took over DISA at the beginning of the month, echoed the sentiment, saying that the military should be “really getting after where we can leverage commercial technologies.”
“Why would the government develop something when there is something that’s already out there from a commercial standpoint? Or why would we take something that’s commercial and ... bastardize it to the point of it is a one-off or it’s very unique, just for the government?,” Skinner said. “Very few times do I think that we should be we should be doing that.”
He also critiqued the military IT community’s lack of mobility, citing it as a major area where the industry can help. The work from home of the last year, he said, demonstrated that the department needed to ensure senior leaders and service members are “able to effectively communicate, effectively command and control no matter where they are at.”
“There’s a lot of the haves and the have nots right now in relation to the ability to do 100% of your mission, no matter where you’re at,” Skinner said. “If I think from industry’s standpoint, you can continue to help on that.”
The three star is taking over as the department approaches the one-year anniversary of its Commercial Virtual Remote Environment, a cloud-based platform that gave DoD components the ability to collaborate on unclassified work throughout the pandemic. DISA, then under now-retired Vice Adm. Nancy Norton, played a crucial role in rolling out that platform.
Skinner also wants the joint force IT professionals to “take care of the irritants,” which he described as manual IT processes that can be replaced with robotic process automation, a tool that would allow soldiers to focus on higher-level challenges instead of tedious and time consuming IT tasks.
“How do we leverage the robotic process automation — bringing that into the fold with the combatant commands — to, I’ll say, take care of the irritants, so that the focus can really be on the command and control, the forces, getting after strategic competition in their area of responsibility,” Skinner said.
Andrew Eversden covers all things defense technology for C4ISRNET. He previously reported on federal IT and cybersecurity for Federal Times and Fifth Domain, and worked as a congressional reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune. He was also a Washington intern for the Durango Herald. Andrew is a graduate of American University.