DOD is Making its Workforce Digitally Savvy

DOD is Making its Workforce Digitally Savvy


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DOD overcomes fear of innovation in the digital space and starts to embrace emerging technologies and tools in AI and DevSecOps.

Facilitating open communication to allow digital innovation is a new strategy for Defense Department IT leaders aiming to unlock sustainable new ideas in a digital IT environment.

One key to this comes down to the people. One of the biggest roadblocks to digital innovation at the agency is communication.

“So, we opened up those channels of communication,” said Lt. Col. Kristin Saling, deputy director of people analytics within the Army's Office of the Assistant Secretary during a GovLoop event. “Having an up, down and lateral communication throughout the organization has been critical. It has also led to advancement, especially during quarantine.” 

More specifically, people, platforms, processes and culture are the four elements necessary for sustainable innovation, Saling said. 

Senior IT leaders often engage in innovative discussions and conversations on Twitter and LinkedIn, but seeing these leaders as pieces of a whole can give the Army a head start on recognizing thought leadership trends. 

“This is how all of these things fit together, we’re not just going to purchase a tool and not build the ecosystem around it, we can’t just throw something innovative to a bunch of people and expect them to figure out how to use it,” Saling said. “To get maximum value out of it, we should bring in some training and business processes — bring in the whole nine yards.” 

In the past, digital innovation has been a challenge because the future of warfare increasingly relies on data and software tools. Therefore the Army is taking strides to upskill warfighters to be digitally savvier. 

“It’s been incredibly inspiring to see leaders like the 18th Airborne Corps Commander, 82nd Airborne Division Commander, 101st Division, they are all establishing innovation cells and are all becoming data-driven and AI-driven organizations,” Saling said. “I see these forward-thinking leaders looking at how they can integrate new technologies and new expertise into their formations. Change their business processes around them and change the way they work together.” 

AI and machine learning are together also playing a vital role in DevSecOps for other agencies across DOD and the Department of Homeland Security. 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is focused on establishing governance and data standards for robotic process automation.

Paula Wagner, Chief of the Systems Delivery Division in the Office of Information Technology at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), said the agency is focused on establishing governance and data standards for robotic process automation (RPA) efforts. 

“We started testing out what bots look like in our organization, we’re working on our strategy with unattended bots and how to manage them,” said USCIS Chief of Systems Delivery Division Paula Wagner at an ATARC event. “We’re also working to set up our citizen development so that people across the organization can build their own bots with whatever process they were looking to automate.”  

The U.S. Transportation Command is looking at how machine learning can catch abnormal behavior on networks, noted Christopher Crist, chief of cyber operations and development command, control, communications and cyber systems.

For both Crist and Wagner, a culture of open communication is critical to sustaining innovative steps in AI and machine learning. 

“Anyone hoping to implement a DevSecOps culture in an organization, having that education piece is very important,” Crist said. “Having someone continually there to educate and be involved. Get people to understand why it’s important and help them connect what they’re currently to where they can go.”