Thank you so much for joining us today and throughout this month. I’m very excited to be with you and to be able to offer you an IT workshop full of new and positive ideas you can use. As Chief Information Officer for the entire Department, I have the honor of kicking things off in support of an enterprise that reaches over 100,000 customers. To work together with you is an awesome responsibility and one I consider a great honor.
It’s a privilege to be a public servant and to also have a great team that has access to the powerful tools and resources in support of our global mission. I hope you’ll agree that having that privilege and power also means we have great responsibility. Throughout this workshop topics will focus on our interlocking responsibilities for cybersecurity, customer centricity, and the delivery of mission applications by way of cloud services across the enterprise in a secure manner.
October was designated National Cybersecurity Awareness Month almost two decades ago. This helps us remember the importance of cybersecurity in all aspects of our work, not only in October, but day-in day-out now as part of our professional and personal responsibilities.
Cybersecurity continues to grow as a national security priority, with President Biden issuing an Executive Order (14028 “Improving Our Nations Cybersecurity”) on it this past May. Our cybersecurity sessions are aimed at bringing you up to speed and helping you protect yourself.
In addition to our focus on cybersecurity, we have added customer-focused and cloud strategy components to our workshop— as you hear me say to our IRM workforce – we must deliver keeping in mind the customer experience and embrace that change in our approach to mission delivery.
We intentionally designed this workshop to appeal to both IT professionals and our end user community — for our customers -for whom we support. That’s because these days everyone is an IT practitioner; and our goal is for each of you to develop your IT skills as part of your overall professional development.
You’ll notice we have many exciting sessions of general interest, including on emerging technologies and making technology work for democracy. We also have sessions that will help update you on our strategy to further strengthen the protection across our network, devices, applications, data, and user identity – which in summary is referred to as Zero Trust: in addition to other sessions around Cloud Security
As many of you know, Secretary Blinken has placed cybersecurity and technology front-and-center in our diplomatic work as a department -when in July he spoke at the Global Emerging Technology Summit and addressed malicious cyber activity. Then in August, the Administration and private sector IT leaders announced ambitious initiatives to bolster the nation’s cybersecurity.
The bottom line for us is that diplomatic technology is no longer an isolated aspect of diplomacy – it is a fundamental part of diplomacy. We are all diplomatic technologists now and we need a paradigm shift to capture that.
As your CIO, I am focused on bringing State Department’s IT prowess into the next level of cyber defense, customer focus, and cloud. I am asking each of you to be a champion of IT. That means taking pride in IT tools, skills, and a positive customer service relationship.
For my part, what I can assure you, is that I am working in partnership across the many bureaus, technology leaders across the Department, as well as the inter-agency community to build on our great successes to drive speed to delivery in secure and customer-focused manner.
So for regular end users or customers out there watching this, if you take one thing from this, know that every day I am pushing for enhanced customer service for you; for more seamless IT solutions; and for greater mobility – so you can do the work of diplomacy with full confidence that the technology you have at your disposal will propel you forward, whether you are in the office or really anywhere on the global grid (which reminds me of the great work our CTO has been doing to promote and advance low-bandwidth satellite services that will provide future connectivity for the most remote sites that struggle with connectivity).
I also hope that end users out there will let me brag a little bit about the great work that many of our Department IT professionals have been carrying out. Our cadre of over 2,000 IT professionals in the Department spans the globe and includes Civil Service, Foreign Service, contractors, Locally Employed Staff, and third-country nationals.
They have helped to successfully guide us through what historians will someday note was probably the single largest migration of the federal workforce, or really any workforce, in the history of human civilization. I’m talking about the near seamless migration to the cloud, and to remote work, during a pandemic that threatened to halt the critical work of diplomacy.
I also want to congratulate the over 100,000 State Department users who bravely accepted the growing pains of adopting very new technology habits in the face of the pandemic and rose above the role conflicts to create somewhat of a new normal for the Department.
I can tell you that throughout this historic period, we as well as other Departments and agencies have endured relentless cyber-attacks from malicious actors and—together—we must remain vigilant and focused. It’s been a whole-of-Department effort and all of us should be proud that through technological progress and professional growth, we continue to serve the American people and advance U.S. interests abroad.
Now that we have been tested by this pandemic and we have passed the first exam; we can build on our successes and become the technological envy of the diplomatic world.
My IT vision for our Department is that U.S. diplomats will be regarded as tech savvy diplomats. I want the State Department to join the ranks of organizations and government entities as having a reputation for applying technology effectively to change people’s lives. More importantly, I want us to be known as the premier agency using technology to empower people, and to advance democracy and human rights abroad.
Before we sink our teeth into the great workshop sessions, please let me tell you a little bit about what we are doing from an IRM bureau perspective; specifically, to build on our successes and reach our goals.
We are moving full speed ahead with the IRM OPS and Foreign Ops reorganization.
I have made three new appointments to our senior leadership team, including a new Principal Deputy CIO and two new Deputy CIOs – personally taking the time to interview each prior to appointment. We have also onboarded the Enterprise Chief Information Security Officer who has a responsibility to drive cross-cutting cyber policy, cyber strategy, cyber discipline for the entire Department – The appointment of these individuals as well as the rest of the IRM senior leadership team will focus intently on creating a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable workforce.
Together we are eliminating duplicate functions across our operations and foreign operations teams, while recognizing the talent and skillset each employee contributes. Where needed, we will leverage industry insight, new service delivery models, customer-facing technologies and infrastructure services to expand our capacity to support critical foreign affairs functions.
On customer-centricity – I’m very excited to announce that we are working on creating a new directorate called Business Solutions Delivery (BSD). Its mission is to engage our customers proactively and support global delivery of products across the Department. This new directorate centralizes forward-facing mission services, human-centered design, and rapid cloud-based solutions. The Business Solutions Delivery directorate will place emphasis on the customer, speed to delivery, and small-scale development to meet the mission and requirements on behalf of and in support of bureaus across the Department. I am driving a launch date for BSD early in this new fiscal year.
On cybersecurity – As with the rest of government, we are embracing the tenants laid out in the Executive Order on Cyber Security and strategically implementing technology and programmatic changes necessary to combat cyber threats… and more importantly here at the Department…protect and enable Diplomacy.
These are tough but inspiring times to manage cybersecurity for any enterprise, but even more so when the enterprise and workforce is represented in over 280 locations around the global. We will remain as vigilant and persistent as those that wish to disrupt our Diplomatic mission.
With mutual engagement, we can—and will—strike a balance between freedom and security, developing technology around our diplomats’ real-world needs while enabling them to protect sensitive information.
We will continue to move away from reliance on static security technologies and move toward a security posture that is agile and serves our customers and our cyber security interest by continuous verification of identities, devices, and services. And we are applying this same even-handed approach to our supply chain management throughout the product lifecycle.
On workforce – I cannot stress enough how important our people are. You are the ones who make our diplomacy succeed. That is why we are focused on a current IT Strategic Human Capital Plan. We need to take a long-term approach to building a diverse IT workforce so we can maintain our diplomatic technology edge. We need to think of our IT professionals as one global team – one that represents the maximum talent and diversity of the U.S. people and inspires continued public service in exciting and important places.
On IT governance – We must take a long-term approach to our products and services. We must make procurement and integration decisions based on what is cost-effective for the long-term for the Department, while also meeting critical security requirements.
The work of the IT Executive Council continues; led by the PDCIO and under my authority, as a collaborative and deliberative body represented by IRM senior leaders as well as bureau IT representatives. The Enterprise CISO will be launching the CISO Council (consisting of bureau IT security leaders across the department – and lastly – the launch a department-wide CIO Council that will serve as a decision-body for key enterprise strategies for adoption as well as IT investment decision-making body. This Council will consist of representatives as designated by each Under Secretary and key offices.
In closing, I want to remind you that if you ever feel unsure about where to turn for IT information or support, you really only need to remember one starting place that leads to all others. That is Tech@State.
You can access Tech@State from the Department’s OpenNet home page, or any OpenNet search engine, on either Go Virtual or Go Browser. Once you are there, you can pivot to any IT resource in the Department.
I hope that you will enjoy this annual workshop (and hopefully next year we are back in person) – stay for a while – list to the sessions and continue to sharpen and sustain your IT skills and engagement with us.
Thank you to each of you for the role you play in and every day – through the partnership, teamwork, and resilience!