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Ryan Agee: NSA ‘Can and Should’ Do More Unclassified Work

The National Security Agency is shifting more and more of its core business and functions to commercial platforms as part of the agency’s larger modernization effort, officials say.

Ryan Agee, technical director for NSA’s capabilities directorate, said the agency is currently running a data fusion and analytics environment called the IC GovCloud, which was homegrown and developed on-premise by NSA but is now managed in collaboration with multiple partners and available to the entire intelligence community.

“We are just starting a transformation of moving those products and services that make up the IC GovCloud to new environments,” through NSA’s two-part hybrid compute initiative, or HCI, Agee said during the Second Annual IC Acquisition and Technology Innovation Summit hosted by GovCon Wire Events.

Under one of the two elements of the HCI, NSA is leveraging HP Enterprise’s Hardware-as-a-Service offering to help the agency get out of the data center business. “Industry knows how to do that,” Agee said. “Industry knows how to optimize the heck out of data centers now, and we’re going to put many of our core solutions of the IC GovCloud into that Hardware-as-a-Service environment.”

Under the second arm of the HCI, Amazon Web Services will use its high-side commercial services to support NSA’s cloud mission. NSA recently re-awarded AWS with a $10 billion cloud contract after a reassessment of proposals. 

“Over the next couple years,” Agee explained, “we will be transitioning that entire IC GovCloud fabric to the mix of those two environments, leveraging the best industry has to offer there.”

Another area in which NSA is pushing modernization is within its human capital management system, which Agee says is very outdated.

“We have decades old technology and processes in that space that are hindering our ability to be flexible from a workforce perspective,” he said. Agee mentioned NSA is leveraging Oracle’s Software-as-a-Service offering to “revamp, re-energize and re-engineer tech and processes end-to-end in a modern ecosystem.”

Going forward, Agee said NSA is taking its lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic to continue championing unclassified work — on both technical and policy levels — as the workforce evolves and telework becomes even more prominent across the intelligence community.

“I believe NSA can and should do more work at the unclassified levels,” Agee asserted, “and we are. We have environments now at the unclassified level for collaboration. We have environments at the unclassified level for doing software development — managed, secure environments — but we have them, and we’re using them like never before.”

Agee shared that the unclassified work effort is “a big area of emphasis” for him in his role within the capabilities directorate, and he envisions massive benefits for NSA in the future with the focused effort.

To learn more about how industry is working to better support government agencies, join our sister platform, the Potomac Officers Club, for its 2022 CMMC Forum on May 18. Federal and industry officials will convene to discuss compliance, recent updates and the future of the CMMC program as it continues to mature.

Stacy Bostjanick, director of CMMC policy for the Department of Defense, will serve as keynote speaker for the forum. Register here!

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