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DIA CIO Doug Cossa Gives Keynote Address at ‘Defense and Intelligence: IT Modernization’ Forum

On Wednesday, GovCon Wire Events hosted its Defense and Intelligence: IT Modernization Forum, which gathered elite defense, intelligence and commercial sector leaders to divulge the technological priorities, key strategies and innovative initiatives driving the Defense Intelligence Agency’s digital transformation goals as rapid information technology advancements continue to accelerate globally.

Doug Cossa, chief information officer of the Defense Intelligence Agency, offered insights into how the agency is developing its workforce, transitioning legacy infrastructure to hybrid multi-cloud environments, and understanding interfaces to advance mission-critical modernization objectives.

Lew Messing, vice president of programs within SAIC’s national security and space sector, served as the moderator for the event and introduced Doug Cossa. The latter began his keynote speech by delving into the key factors that influence his strategic approach in his role at the DIA as he works to better posture the agency to meet the mission demands of the future.

If you missed Wednesday’s virtual event, visit the GovCon Wire Events page to watch the complete Defense and Intelligence: IT Modernization Forum and other GovCon sector webinars on-demand.

The first key area driving Cossa’s approach as CIO, he shared, is derived from his deep expertise and experience in engineering and can be summed up in one sentence: “Everything fails at an interface.”

Cossa explained that because IT is a “system of systems,” the key to organizational success is not only understanding the requirements behind these interfaces but understanding why they fail and then working to simplify those interfaces based on an organization’s core mission.

He added that thriving organizations are ones that also understand their customers. “They’ve really simplified their offerings and don’t dilute their focus,” Cossa said regarding successful agencies. “They entirely focus their efforts on what their customers want and what keeps them coming back.”

However, citing a report by the Government Accountability Office, Cossa said that 95 percent of IT programs in the federal government are past cost and past schedule, which ultimately causes them to fail. 

Highlighting the importance of understanding the reason behind these failures, Cossa said, “Those programs that succeeded or failed were based on their ability to not only connect and interface with their customers, but translate what they care about and what they need into actions.”

Another strategy Cossa implements is what he describes as “building on the bright spots,” which supports the concept that IT is an evolutionary process that builds and improves upon the foundation of existing capabilities as new technologies and innovations emerge over time.

Cossa said, “My concept is to look at the bright spots of what’s actually working within the community, within the organization and things that I can leverage and grow as opposed to starting something brand new.”

To hear Doug Cossa’s full keynote address, including how the DIA is working to modernize its Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System that houses top-secret and sensitive agency information, visit the GovCon Wire Events page where you can watch the Defense and Intelligence: IT Modernization Forum on-demand now.

On Dec. 7, GovCon Wire Events will host its Defense Acquisition Priorities Forum, during which distinguished federal and industry defense experts will gather to examine the current strategies, challenges and priorities influencing acquisitions in the defense sector today.

Keynote speaker Christopher O’Donnell, acting assistant secretary of defense for acquisition for the Department of Defense, will deliver an insightful address on what’s next for defense agencies as they work to match the speed of innovation and better secure the nation.

Visit GovCon Wire Events to register for the Defense Acquisition Priorities Forum on Dec. 7.

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