DISA seeks to flatten leadership structure with reorganization


Written by Jackson Barnett

The Defense Information Systems Agency is reorganizing its structure to create a flatter agency, responding to feedback with which it was too heavy to work.

The agency has doubled the number of centers overseeing a range of branches from two to four. Each center has its own areas of intervention and offices that work to achieve these sets of missions.

Speaking at the AFCEA International Cyber ​​TechNet conference, DISA director Lt. Gen. Robert Skinner said the change is aimed at reducing what executives see as a complicated organizational structure that has blocked innovation and industrial partnerships.

“The organizational design of DISA is too complex for better value,” he said of the old structure of DISA, which divided DISA into two major centers, one focused on business and one other on operations.

The official titles of the four new centers are: Digital Capabilities and Security Center, Hosting and Computing Center, Operations and Infrastructure Center, and Business Integration and Innovation Center . Each has a multitude of offices grouped together within the centers which will focus on specific areas of their missions.

The reorganization also adds new positions, including those of Chief Data Officer and Chief Technology Officer. The new roles and broader changes were created to foster the development and implementation of innovative technologies within DISA.

“It’s a deliberate effort to drive after this,” Barnhurst said.

The reorganization includes top-down reviews of all DISA programs. Skinner calls audits a “spa day” because he sees it as a way to clean the organization of duplication or waste.

The changes were the result of comments received by the agency that it was not sufficiently empowering its employees and not consistently implementing its priorities. In response, DISA leaders tried to flatten the structure of the organization, separating centers and empowering leaders to work on more specific sets of issues. Christopher Barnhurst, DISA’s senior civilian, led efforts to analyze and reshape the management of DISA.

The change comes as DISA sees the turnover of its senior management. About five of the agency’s top executives have retired in recent years, giving DISA opportunities for change, Skinner said. Other leaders have been moved within the agency, such as Sharron Woods, who has moved from managing the Cloud Computing Program Office to managing the Hosting and Compute Center, which will focus on all things computing to include data storage on site.

Another priority driving structural change is to be able to provide reliable command and control within the new Joint Command and Control Framework for All Areas (JADC2). The new framework is DOD’s approach to combining data from sensors across the battlefield, giving commanders more in-depth information on air, land, sea, space and cyberspace operations. The change will require new technologies and a range of new policies on how the military handles information. To help make those changes happen, Skinner recognized that DISA had to change, he said.

“As a combat support agency, we cannot fail in the ability to provide command and control to our senior leadership,” he said.

Identity management tools that can verify users on a network are a centerpiece of the technology. Steven Wallace, at the head of DISA’s new CTO, will be in charge of Credentials and Access Management (ICAM).

“We won’t be successful in the future if we don’t have the right identity management,” Skinner said. Other senior commanders at the head of JADC2 shared similar feelings about the importance of ICAM to the cadre.


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