Potomac Officers Club Hosts CIO Forum 2020; Wash100 Award Winner Juliane Gallina Gives Opening Keynote Address

Jeff Brody
Juliane Gallina

On Thursday, Jan. 23rd, Potomac Officers Club (POC) hosted the first annual CIO Forum 2020 to discuss the daunting task chief information officers (CIO) have to stay ahead of the curve in an ever changing and fast business landscape heavily influenced by digital innovation and information technology.

Juliane Gallina, CIO of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and 2020 Wash100 Award winner, served as one of the keynote speakers for the forum. During her keynote address, Gallina covered the importance of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud and secure mobility to the CIA’s future. She also advocated for the agency to improve its communication with industry. 

Gallina began her speech by joking that her role as the CIO of the CIA is a lot simpler than most people would believe. She made a direct comparison to light bulbs and said there are three main functions of a CIO. 

She described the first function as “keeping the lights on,” which involves paying the “electric bill” and ensuring the lights are on and working. The more complex aspects of her position could be described as “buying new light bulbs” and “planning for the next mode of light bulb.” 

In order to ensure the lights stay on for the agency, Gallina elaborated that the CIA needs to be prepared for the next quantum shift in technology. Light bulbs could be supplanted someday by a new technological advancement. 

As a result, Gallina’s role is to focus on the field and ensure that the CIA is investing in the future through artificial intelligence/machine learning, cybersecurity, cloud and secure mobility. She was clear that cloud acquisitions were an active procurement for the CIA. While scarce on the details, Gallina did reveal that cloud will be “an important building block for our future.” 

Gallina revealed that the CIA’s intent was to make AI and machine learning ubiquitous within every possible function of the agency. She’s hopeful for a complete spectrum of functions and the agency is looking outward for real solutions to accelerate its digital modernization.

In an attempt to get out of the comfort zone, Gallina explained that the IT Enterprise is attempting to shift its mindset and plans to turn over every major contract, including those that are long standing. She described the current level-of-effort contracts like “trying to dig the Grand Canyon a teaspoon at a time.” It’s not an efficient process to deliver massive change and innovate. 

Gallina also strongly advocated for mutual cooperation between federal agencies and industry to drive innovation and create major change to the CIA culture and future success. Her argument was that people will be the most important driving force for change and innovation over anything else. 

“‘Men mean more than guns,’ according to John Paul Jones of the U.S. Navy. If we adapt that philosophy for today’s use, that means to me that people will always be more important than your technology strategy and any investment plan,” said Gallina. 

“As a CIO, I could talk for hours about the topics I’ve mentioned, but what’s more important to us is the people at the CIA and our industry counterparts working together to ensure that we can ‘keep the lights on’ for all of us,” Gallina concluded.  

In addition to her keynote address, Gallina also received her first Wash100 Award from Jim Garrettson, CEO and founder of Executive Mosaic, during the forum. She received the award for her efforts to drive the CIA’s information technology, cloud adoption and reach out across the industry to improve the agency’s success. Her commitment to those missions will continue to mean exciting and innovative advancements for the agency and the GovCon sector throughout 2020. 

The Wash100 award, now in its seventh year, recognizes the most influential executives in the GovCon industry who demonstrate superior leadership, innovation, reliability, achievement and vision. You can find the full list of 2020 Wash100 Award recipients right here.

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