This morning, the Defense Intelligence Agency’s chief information officer, Doug Cossa, and 22nd director, Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, opened the 2021 Department of Defense Intelligence Information System Worldwide Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.
For 20 years, the DoDIIS Worldwide Conference has served as the largest Intelligence Community IT conference. This one-stop immersive event allows guests to hear from Government leaders, foreign partners, academia and industry, and discuss technical solutions to support the warfighter and the Nation. This week’s event marks the first in-person conference since 2019. Cossa and Berrier’s joint remarks kicked off three days of speakers and breakout sessions, offering a taste of what attendees could expect in the days ahead.
Two other DIA leaders, Deputy Director for Global Integration Greg Ryckman and Deputy Director for Commonwealth Integration Maj. Gen. Michelle McGuinness, also delivered remarks this morning, providing attendees with a broad perspective of the conference theme: Foresight 2020: Building a New Digital Ecosystem.
Cossa opened the conference with a question: “What is the right foundation to get us to the solutions we need for the future?”
The answer, for Cossa, was what he termed a “simple menu” of five priorities that guide the DIA Chief Information Office’s mission: workforce experience, Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System modernization, DoDIIS modernization, IT integration with international partners, and multi-cloud and development, security and operations governance.
Cossa hinted that the lessons of the past, invaluable to building this foundation, will ultimately guide DIA’s efforts to integrate with its partners and respond to the threats and challenges of strategic competition.
“We know what the future looks like because we’ve seen how it’s worked in the past,” said Cossa. “The past is the prologue.”
As Cossa discussed the need for DIA to modernize, integrate and look forward within a competition context, he noted that Berrier maintains a strong appreciation for technology and the need for integration — a theme reflected in Berrier’s own keynote address.
“It’s about the speed of collaboration, it’s about better tools and training, and modernizing everything that we do in this space to be able to do it better,” said Berrier, encouraging the audience to partner with DIA in modernization efforts.
The urgency of modernization stems from threats defined in past National Defense Strategies, and was recently emphasized in President Joe Biden’s 2021 Interim National Security Strategic Guidance. These threats, namely China and Russia, have brought the United States to what Berrier termed a “slow boil crisis.”
“How can you help us deliver intelligence to the Department of Defense in a way that is faster, stronger and better?” asked Berrier, after emphasizing the important role of industry in responding to strategic competition.
Industry’s answer to this question will help determine DIA’s ability to achieve the top line of effort articulated in its new 2021 strategy: intelligence advantage.
Berrier encouraged conference attendees to consider their own role in helping DIA achieve and maintain intelligence advantage through efforts such as JWICS modernization and the Agency’s Machine-assisted Analytic Rapid-repository System.
“You have all been recruited to be on DIA’s strategic competition team,” said Berrier, as he ended his remarks.
That strategic competition team was described in greater detail when DIA Deputy Director for Global Integration Greg Ryckman took the stage to explain DIA’s recent reorganization and pivot toward strategic competition.
Early in Berrier’s tenure as director of DIA, he questioned the ability of DIA to address and respond to the demands of strategic competition. That query, and the resulting 90 days of conversation, debates and analysis, produced the Deputy Director for Global Integration, an office that Ryckman now leads.
The DDGI focuses on three things — integration, partnership and competition — with the overall goal of using DIA’s current system to establish a decisive and comprehensive response to strategic competition.
“Collectively, we have an incredible amount of placement and access, an incredible amount of authority, and an incredible amount of capability,” said Ryckman. “[But] if we don’t crowdsource competition, we are not going to be able to compete with our adversaries.”
Part of crowdsourcing for competition involves building and maintaining foreign partnerships, a theme touched on by McGuinness in her keynote remarks.
“While the crisis is currently below the threshold of war … it is one that depends that we operationalize our partnerships and change the paradigm for how we create shared awareness,” said McGuinness.
As the threat environment continues to shape the digital ecosystem, McGuinness observed that DIA is already responding to this shift. However, she emphasized that enabling and integrating partnerships — including those within industry — continues to be a strategic imperative and must be an initial planning consideration.
“Leveraging the policies, capabilities, authorities, technical competencies and innovation of our most trusted partners is key to creating and maintaining asymmetric strategic advantage,” said McGuinness.
As with previous speakers, McGuinness encouraged the audience to understand where the IT community can help DIA achieve an interoperability-first mindset — namely, by helping DIA to build systems that meet certain integration requirements.
In addition, the opening day also included prepared remarks from Stacey Dixon, principal deputy director of national intelligence, and Maj. Gen. Daniel Simpson, assistant deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Dixon’s remarks explored how the United States could best defend the Nation from threats posed by strategic competitors, whereas Simpson’s remarks focused on the threat of a rising China.
As this morning’s opening speeches clearly indicated, strategic competition will be an underlying theme of the conversations this week at the DoDIIS Worldwide Conference — all within the context of partner integration, modernization and innovative technology.
Be sure to tune in to DIA’s Facebook on Tuesday and Wednesday to hear the rest of the plenary sessions and follow DIA on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for all news related to defense intelligence and the 2021 DoDIIS Worldwide Conference.