The Defense Information Systems Agency’s (DISA’s) present and future industry partners joined the agency for Forecast to Industry on November 5 at the BWI Airport Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Linthicum, Maryland.
The event provided industry representatives with in-depth information about the agency’s upcoming acquisition and procurement plans, and also offered a forum to collaborate with DISA in defense of the nation. The theme for this year’s event, “Trusted Partnerships,” paralleled DISA Director Navy Vice Admiral Nancy Norton’s strategic vision for DISA: To be the trusted provider to connect and protect the warfighter in cyberspace.
Norton stressed to industry partners the importance of an integrated relationship during her opening remarks.
“As the old saying goes, there is strength in numbers,” she said, reflecting on a recent speech by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. “When nations pool resources and share responsibility, their burdens become lighter. It also gives the U.S. a better chance to advance its interests and maintain a balance of power that will keep enemies from thinking twice about aggression. The stability that comes from alliances and partnerships can also generate much-needed economic growth.”
Norton then presented a scenario fitting for the event.
“What if we replace ‘nations’ with ‘DISA and industry partners?’ Let me read that again: When DISA and industry partners pool resources and share responsibility, their burdens become lighter … and ... the stability that comes from those partnerships can generate much-needed economic growth.”
She described DISA’s role in defending national interests and acknowledged it takes a team effort to maximize the effect.
“Our theme, ‘Trusted Partnerships,’ embodies the way we work closely with industry – to develop solutions for the DOD. Only by working together can we expand our capabilities and support to those protecting our great nation.”
The admiral continued her opening remarks by highlighting how the agency executes the defense secretary’s lines of effort. She talked about how the agency is increasing lethality for the warfighter, strengthening partnerships, and reforming the department.
“As a combat support agency for the department, DISA is uniquely positioned to take on major tasks and initiatives to connect and protect the warfighter in cyberspace,” she said. “Be our partner … we can achieve great things together.”
Norton highlighted a handful of initiatives the agency is working on, and her remarks were followed by detailed briefings from subject matter experts later in the day. She closed her remarks to the approximately 2,000 in-person and online attendees by reminding industry partners the agency is open to collaboration, and she welcomed them to the conversation.
“Creating trusted partnerships supports DISA’s vision to be the trusted provider to connect and protect the warfighter in cyberspace,” she said. “I want you to share that vision and our values – to ensure success in defense of our nation. We look forward to hearing from you and gaining a better understanding of how you can support us with our future requirements. Thank you again for being here today and continuing to partner with DISA.”
Department of Defense Chief Information Officer (CIO) Dana Deasy followed Norton’s opening remarks, and also emphasized the importance of DoD’s synchronized partnership with industry.
“The annual Forecast to Industry event is incredibly important for the Defense Department,” Deasy said. “Ongoing dialogue with our industry partners is needed in order for us to continue to maintain superiority.”
Deasy explained how DISA’s portfolio is expanding to meet 21st Century challenges, highlighting two mobile apps used in support of Hurricane Florence emergency management and recovery efforts. At the Army’s request, DISA expedited security review and release of the “Ready North Carolina” app within the DoD Mobility Unclassified Capability (DMUC) app store. DISA and the South Carolina National Guard also worked together to create an app used by guardsmen to determine if their homes were in an evacuation zone. The app provided ease of mind to the emergency workers because they knew their families could access updated information and were able to find a safe place for evacuation, Deasy explained.
“Both of these apps allowed aid workers to focus on supporting community rescue efforts. I think it goes without saying that DISA brings a wealth of capabilities in times of national crisis.”
Deasy continued his remarks to industry by reiterating the defense secretary’s three lines of effort and said every mission in DISA’s portfolio ties back to those objectives. He also said the agency is inherently tied to industry in this undertaking.
“The challenges we face at DoD will continue to evolve, but when I look across the room today, I know the department does not face these challenges alone,” Deasy said. “As I have said before today, our industry partners are key to the long-term success at DOD. In order to compete, deter, and win, we need your help,” he said. “What I like to tell industry is to bring us solutions in the lens of our priorities. How will your solution benefit the greater National Defense Strategy? … That is what we are all working toward together.”
DISA’s Executive Deputy Director Tony Montemarano then gave attendees a DISA overview presentation.
“DISA supports an ecosystem from Kabul to Seoul, South Korea,” he said. “We provide enterprise services, unified capabilities, and mobility options to support DOD operations anywhere, anytime.”
He presented DISA’s leadership hierarchy, and talked about how the agency provides niche services that support combatant commands and the warfighter, including joint interoperability testing, electromagnetic spectrum management, communications support for the White House and national leadership, desktop support at the Pentagon, and contracting.
Montemarano, who is also DISA’s senior procurement executive, stressed the agency is vigilant when it comes to Other Transaction Authorities and contracting. He asked industry partners not to be discouraged or frustrated by the time it takes to execute a contract, and explained the time invested is beneficial to all involved. He said not only are procurements double-checked, they’re triple-checked.
“Our focus is on fairness when it comes to contracts,” Montemarano said. “If you’re going to go after a contract, go after it aggressively. We are working hard to be fair and working hard to be open and transparent.”
DISA Operations Center Director David Bennett took to the podium to discuss his center’s needs, stressing industry partners must understand his mission and work within that scope when proposing a solution for DISA and the DOD.
“Many times what works in industry doesn’t apply in this space,” he said. “I will listen to your pitch and see how it applies within our space. I ask that when you prepare your presentations, you ask yourselves the same question.”
Presentations continued throughout the afternoon. Presenters discussed the procurement and acquisition plans related to business innovation, cyber, mobility, networking, the Joint Service Provider, and small business programs. The event concluded with a “meet the seniors” panel.