Executive Mosaic is honored to introduce Lauren Knausenberger, chief information officer of the U.S. Air Force, as a recipient of the 2021 Wash100 Award, which marks the first time she has received the most coveted and prestigious award in all of government contracting (GovCon).
Knausenberger has been recognized as one of the most significant executives to the GovCon and federal sector for her leadership and innovation to advance the service branch’s information technology (IT) modernization efforts and overall digital transformation of the USAF’s technical capabilities.
Knausenberger assumed her current role as the service’s CIO in Aug. 2020 with oversight of the branch’s information technology portfolio that includes IT investment strategy, cloud computing, networks, IT innovation initiatives, information resources management, cybersecurity and information assurance.
“Lauren’s a digital superhero, and her powers of innovation and digital transformation are unmatched,” said Lt. Gen. Christopher Weggeman, deputy commander of Air Combat Command. “She’s a people- and talent-focused leader.”
Knausenberger said she intends to stick to her reputation as a change agent with a focus on driving innovation and transformation. She added that she plans to prioritize to build up the digital workforce through the Digital University, eliminate manual processes and improve user experience.
“To our airmen: As we drive toward that digital future, we’re going to do our best to make it all about you,” she said. “You joined the Air Force to make a difference and to bring the best of what you can contribute to this incredible mission — and everything we deliver will be focused on empowering you to best serve that mission, because you’re the ones that are out there fighting.”
Knausenberger announced that the Air Force is introducing a new program meant to consolidate all information technology tools under a single platform. Knausenberger said the 21st Century IT Store program seeks to improve airmen’s access to computers.
“If you’re onboarding in a new base, your laptop won’t be there when you get there. You’ll have a really long wait. It should be more like an Apple Store experience. If I want a laptop, I can go to a storefront, digital or physical, all set up with the gear that I need,” she said of the program.
The Air Force expects the 21st Century IT Store program to help reduce redundancy in acquisitions by combining various apps and programs into one catalog of services. The move is part of the service’s IT modernization efforts to help transform the Air Force into a fighting force that can expedite data processing in theater.
“We are making thousands of kill-chains faster and automating that as much as possible,” said Knausenberger. “We want humans making the important decisions but all of the data working to our advantage behind the scenes.”
She said the service’s Kessel Run software development team has been going through some growing pains associated with its rapid growth but continues to ask questions on how to provide more value and improve security.
Amid the challenges, she said the team continues to ask “how can I be more secure than I was yesterday, how can I deliver more value, and just try to stay question on those end users.”
Before Knausenberger became the Air Force’s CIO, she served as the service’s chief transformation officer and provided updates on cybersecurity efforts. In March 2020, she said the service is increasing its use of ethical hackers to simulate cyber attacks on its IT networks and a $75 million blanket purchase agreement the service signed with cybersecurity firm Dark Wolf the previous month is an example of that.
Under the BPA, airmen and other Air Force personnel can ask Dark Wolf to perform penetration testing on their networks.
“For the past three years now we have really been embracing the hacker community,” Knausenberger said of the Air Force’s bug bounty programs. “I do expect our demand will continue for some time.”
Knausenberger served as a keynote speaker at GovConWire’s Air Force: IT Plans and Priorities Forum held in Jan. 2021. She discussed the service’s IT modernization efforts and how the industry could help advance the digital Air Force initiative.
Knausenberger joined the Air Force in 2017 as chief transformation officer and director of cyberspace innovation. Prior to the Air Force, she founded and served as president of consulting firm Accellint and worked at CACI International as division manager-program director for large IT programs and intelligence community finance.
Executive Mosaic congratulates Lauren Knausenberger for her 2021 Wash100 Award.
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