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Retiring DISA director: ‘We’ve done some amazing things’

“When you really get to see the breadth of what DISA does for the nation - not just in DOD, but across the nation - it’s awe-inspiring,” said Army Lt. Gen. Alan Lynn, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) director and Joint Force Headquarters-Department of Defense Information Network (JFHQ-DODIN) commander who will retire from active duty with more than 38 years of service on Feb. 2.

Lynn has served as the DISA director and JFHQ-DODIN commander since July 2015. He also served as the DISA vice director from September 2013 to July 2015, and the DISA chief of staff from July 2007 to October 2008.

“I think [from when I first served at DISA to now] we have a much sharper focus on the customer,” he said. “The agency wasn’t designed back then to support customers as well as it is now.”

The agency’s current structure better supports customers because there is one person who is responsible for each area – business and development, operations, and resource management – and because of the implementation of the mission partner engagement model, said Lynn.

“DISA is leaning forward and has put a mission engagement person in every mission partner organization,” he said. “We’ve stepped up to the plate in such a way that our reputation is much higher than it was back then, and better than it was even just a few years ago.” 

Lynn highlighted three projects he was especially proud of: development of the DISA civilian workforce, evolution of DOD’s mobility capabilities, and the standup of JFHQ-DODIN.  

“My hope going out of this is that I’ve left DISA better than I found it and I’ve enabled the workforce to be better at whatever they had a desire to do. Did I give them the opportunity to achieve the heights that they wanted to?”

The agency’s Civilian Workforce Agility, Mobility, and Development Program, created in 2016, encourages employees to explore different career opportunities within the agency through voluntary lateral reassignment. 

“People are the base to anything we do. If you don’t get the people part right, it’s hard to get anything else right,” said Lynn, who also reminded the workforce, “The only one that can limit you is you and your belief in yourself.”   

“From the technical side, we’ve done some amazing things,” he said. “From my perspective, I think we’ve changed the world. Our little corner of it.”

The general spoke about the agency’s recent advances in mobility, which include piloting a top-secret voice capability, expanding classified capabilities from smartphones to tablets, and significantly reducing service rates for more than 100,000 monthly users.

“It won’t be long before mobile devices we have built are routinely used on the tactical side,” he said. 

As the commander of JFHQ-DODIN, Lynn brought the organization, which was stood up in January 2015, to full operational capability this month. 

“The members of Joint Force Headquarters – DODIN are the warfighters using the cybersecurity apparatus DISA has built to actually maneuver and change the way we’re responding to the threat,” said Lynn.

He likened JFHQ-DODIN to surveyors responsible for defining areas of responsibility in cyberspace, and holding the appropriate parties accountable for defense in their space. 

“We’re changing the landscape of how we do business and making sure we can protect ourselves better,” said Lynn. “If the bad guys come into our terrain, now we know who’s supposed to be fighting them off.”

Lynn said the future holds a lot of potential for both DISA and JFHQ-DODIN. He expects DISA to run all enterprise-level information technology (IT) services and cloud computing for the department, and all joint IT to the desktop. He also foresees DISA creating a new identity management solution to replace common access cards, and JFHQ-DODIN securing networks “better than anyone in the world.”
In retirement, he plans to take a couple of months off to go “somewhere with a beach” and to go sailing. 

“I’m looking forward to spending time with my family and trying this thing I’ve heard about called ‘sleep,’” he joked. “Then start working on what I’m going to do next. 

Lynn said it wouldn’t be adequate to say he would “miss the people” in retirement.  

“It’s a different group of people, military and civilian, that you get to interact with here that you’ll never find again,” he said, recognizing the sacrifices of both military and civilian personnel.  “You’re working with people that are truly special and unique because they have all the talent in the world, but they’ve put that talent towards an idea bigger than themselves, toward service to the nation.” 

“When you step out of the nation’s cloth,” Lynn said, referring to his uniform, “you’ll not really be in that group anymore, but you can always remember back when you were.”

“Commitment to an ideal - not a person, not a thing - that’s what makes our nation what we are. That’s what makes us the greatest nation in the world.” 

Lynn will transfer directorship of DISA and command of the Joint Force Headquarters – DOD Information Network (JFHQ-DODIN) to Navy Rear Adm. Nancy Norton during a Feb. 1 ceremony at the agency’s headquarters on Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. 


Posted Jan. 29, 2018