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Brig. Gen. John Olson, Ronald Sega & Stuart Wagner Talk Open Architecture, Digital Strides During Panel Discussion at GovCon Wire’s DOD Digital Modernization Forum

GovCon Wire Events on Thursday hosted the Department of Defense: Digital Modernization Forum where distinguished defense agency and private sector leaders talked about technology procurement efforts, infrastructural priorities, modernization strategies and cultural shifts affecting how Defense Department agencies, military service branches and their industry partners achieve digital transformation strides to bolster national security.

Dr. Lisa Costa, chief technology and innovation officer for the U.S. Space Force, kicked off the virtual event with a keynote address, during which she provided attendees with her insights on breaking down classification barriers, harnessing the agency’s “born digital” roots and building USSF’s guardian force into an adaptable, resilient class of leaders as the space domain continues its rapid, global democratization.

After Dr. Costa’s speech, Johnathon Caldwell, vice president of business innovation, transformation and enterprise excellence for Lockheed’s space segment, led a panel discussion on what it means to be a truly digital program and asked panelists to share their thoughts on leveraging partnerships with purpose and ensuring adaptable systems through open architecture at the design level. 

If you missed Thursday’s event, visit the GovCon Wire Events page where you can view the DOD: Digital Modernization Forum and other webinars on-demand now.

Dr. Ronald Sega, chief technology officer for the Army Futures Command, began the panel conversation by describing the role of digital programs within his organization and how to drive accelerated development within the future battlespace with flexible systems engineering.

“From a system standpoint, you look at the interface definitions many, many times and look at how you can incorporate new things – new technologies, new systems, new subsystems – into it in somewhat of a modular way and interface quickly with the ongoing system so that you can spin inside of the larger cycles that are present from increasing capability,” Dr. Sega described.

While beneficial from a cost and operational continuity perspective, this modular interoperability concept for disparate systems can also hamper the innovation process because of the slow translation process and the potential vulnerabilities it can create.

“We can’t have a multi-domain or an all-domain construct without having some of these interactions be thought of at the very, very beginning,” said Dr. Sega. He added that forming partnerships with allies, services and industry early on in the design phase, rather than as an afterthought, will help define critical interfaces to create more optimized and connected systems.

Brig. Gen. John Olson then took the platform to discuss what digital programming means to him in his role as mobilization assistant to the chief of space operations for the U.S. Space Force and Space Force lead for JADC2 and ABMS.

USSF’s digital force, Olson said, is comprised of four elements: the digital engineering ecosystem, the digital workforce, digital headquarters and digital operations. Olson described the critical digital headquarters component as encompassing everything from the requirement cycle to planning, programming, budgeting and execution.

He said of digital headquarters, “It’s fundamentally important that we build in the agility to flex to the rapid pace of evolution in our programs to deal with changing geopolitical and world events and external drivers that require changes. I think that is going to be fundamentally important to being an agile service in addition to being a lean one.”

Throughout the panel conversation, Olson proceeded to highlight the importance of strong industry partnerships that can help defense agencies, “sense, make sense and act.”

Of these partnerships, Olson explained, “The key of that is data because you can’t make data-driven decisions without quality data.”

With perspective spanning both industry and government agencies, Stuart Wagner, chief digital transformation officer for the office of the chief information officer for the Department of the Air Force, said that the concept of digital modernization tends to be overly focused on new purchases and systems over building on existing capabilities.

“To me, software doesn’t become stale,” Wagner said. “Perhaps the user experience becomes stale, or perhaps the need for new capability exists, but it’s not like a car, it doesn’t depreciate, and it continues to run unless there’s dramatic change in our hardware.”

For Wagner, digital transformation is ultimately about developing or producing capabilities to enable the warfighter through data analysis and informed decision making.

“Increasingly in the Department of the Air Force, my intent is to collect as much data as possible and have organizations that are fueling capability, instrument their systems and provide that data to ultimately enable analytics,” Wagner shared.

To hear the full panelist discussion on digital transformation within the U.S. Space Force, Air Force and Army, visit the GovCon Wire Events page, where you can watch the DOD: Digital Modernization Forum and other events on-demand.

Join GovCon Wire Events for the platform’s Space Acquisition Forum on Jan. 19 to hear Lockheed Martin Space’s Johnathon Caldwell and other elite federal and industry executives discuss urgent issues including acquisition reform strategies, data sharing initiatives and technology focus areas within the space domain as the nation strives for technological dominance and space superiority.

Lt. Gen. Michael Guetlein, commander of the U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command, and Brig. Gen. Steve Whitney, military deputy for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration, will deliver keynote speeches on pressing topics such as the integration of space architectures, the synchronization of space capabilities across service branches and the opportunities for commercial partnerships to drive critical modernization initiatives.

Visit the GovCon Wire Events page to register for the Space Acquisition Forum on Jan. 19 and to learn more about other upcoming GovCon sector events.

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