DISA director and senior leaders share agency priorities at AFCEA DC luncheon

By Austin Suggs / Office of Strategic Communication and Public Affairs
January 26, 2024
On Jan. 25, Defense Information Systems Agency Director and Joint Force Headquarters-Department of Defense Information Network Commander Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert J. Skinner spoke at an AFCEA DC luncheon along with three DISA senior leaders. Together, they shared the agency’s priorities for 2024 and answered questions from industry.

Picture taken at AFCEA DC event .  Sitting from left to right: Francis Rose (moderator), Tinisha McMillan, Steve Wallace and Frank Hudson. (DISA photo by Sam Juan)
From left to right: Francis Rose (moderator), Tinisha McMillan, Steve Wallace and Frank Hudson.  
(DISA photo by Sam Juan)

 In the director’s opening keynote, he highlighted two vital qualities industry partners and their solutions must possess to work successfully with the agency: simplicity and scalability.

“Whether you’re a small business or large business, whether you’re a small company who’s an innovator and who’s trying to get business with the department, you’ve got to be able to scale. Secondly, you’ve got to be simple,” said Skinner.
The director also shared how the agency is pursuing greater diversity in its vendors. In 2023, DISA awarded 29% of its business to small businesses, a record for the agency. Furthermore, the agency had an approximately $90 million increase in women-owned small business contracts.

Following the keynote, acting Global Services Director Tinisha McMillan, Chief Technology Officer Steve Wallace, and Operations, Plans and Exercises Director Frank Hudson took the stage for a panel discussion. Among several topics, DISA’s reorganization and approach to artificial intelligence stood out.

On the former, McMillan emphasized how the reorganization will enable DISA to provide superior, standardized customer service.

We’re supporting over 500,000 customers, we’re in 10 countries, and that’s growing as we’re bringing 4th Estate customers on board,” said McMillan. “And to me, the interactions that you’re having with DISA should be the same whether you’re one of the most senior people in the White House or the secretary of defense, or if you are a GS-5. Within any of the spaces that we’re represented, there should be consistency from a customer service perspective.
No topic received more interest from the audience than AI. Wallace fielded several questions on the emerging technology, including how he decides when to make a solution internally versus buying it and what type of AI solutions are on DISA’s radar. He expressed a strong preference against government off-the-shelf products instead opting to collaborate with industry. He believes within these collaborations a “one team, one fight” mentality is crucial to success.

Regarding upcoming AI systems at the agency, Wallace focused on the development of concierge AI solutions. He forecasts the agency will have a prototype in use for concierge AI within the first half of the year capable of querying controlled unclassified information documents.

Over the course of the keynote and the panel discussion, Skinner’s remark, “we are still the most innovative country in the world. We have the most innovative force,” was on clear display.

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