Portland, OR –
“Technology is the catalyst for innovation,” said DIA Chief Information Officer Doug Cossa on Dec. 12, opening the 2023 DoDIIS Worldwide Conference to a crowd of 3,000 attendees in Portland, Oregon.
The Department of Defense Intelligence Information System Worldwide Conference is the Intelligence Community’s largest information technology conference. For years, the DoDIIS Worldwide Conference has been a unique venue for industry, academia and the federal government to discuss the most pressing IT challenges and solutions.
In his opening remarks, Cossa brought innovation home by discussing how the first mouse, first Wikipedia page, Microsoft Windows and the inkjet printer had each originated in the Pacific Northwest. “All of these innovations developed during times of confusion, chaos and conflict,” he said.
Why look at chaos? Chaotic systems allow for urgency and different thinking. “Traffic is a perfect example of a chaotic system,” he said as he described his 100-mile round-trip commute from Leesburg, Virginia to DIA Headquarters. Cossa also explained how capabilities used in modern GPS, radar and WiFi were developed during World War II.
In chaotic times, he continued, the Defense Intelligence Agency developed the Desktop Environment, also known as DTE, a capability shared with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency with over 70,000 users. Cossa explained how the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communication System, or JWICS, arose from the chaos of the Gulf War in the early 1990s. Today, one million users across multiple domains depend on this system for top-secret information.
“Technology is the foundation of how we survive,” explained Cossa, “Technology defines the IT workforce experience.”
Cossa recounted when the agency did not have the capability needed for employees who were deaf to call outside of a sensitive compartmentalized information facility, or SCIF, for translator services to assist with tasks such as scheduling doctor appointments or calling a school or relative. Instead, employees had to go to their cars and use personal phones to reach an external interpreter service.
“Chaos forced us to examine how our systems work or don’t work. It forces us to think of new ways we can operate more effectively and efficiently,” explained Cossa.
DIA Director Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier focused on DIA’s pivots in times of chaos. He mentioned that the agency’s shift to strategic competition prompted the creation of the Deputy Director for Global Integration. The agency also redefined its analytical space with the stand-up of the China Mission Group.
Speaking to the role of IT, the director noted that DIA’s cutting-edge technology, including its Machine-assisted Analytic Rapid-repository System, helps maintain global intelligence advantage in an ever-evolving environment.
“Everything that we’re doing in the network space is key to our foundation and our successes,” said Berrier. “With the expansion of MARS, with a revitalized JWICS, taking advantage of big data and tools enables us to do much more in this space.”