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DoD CIO Award Honors Excellence in Cyber, IT

By Lisa Ferdinando DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2015 — Protecting the warfighter, securing government networks and identifying millions of dollars in savings were among the accomplishments of this year's winners of the Defense Department award in cyber and information technology.

The recipients of the 2015 Department of Defense Chief Information Officer Award for Cyber and IT Excellence reflect a range of government, including the Joint Staff, the intelligence community, and traditional military services, according to DoD Chief Information Officer Terry Halvorsen.

"Every year I look at these and think we cannot do any better, and every year we just get surprised by how good the award winners are and tough the competition is," Halvorsen said at the awards ceremony at the Pentagon today.

The event's keynote speaker, the auditor general of the Air Force, Daniel McMillin, noted the department’s cyber and information technology operations involve important efforts such as critical satellite communications, navigations and timing programs, spectrum, and telecommunications.

"That is an extremely large and a very, very complex portfolio that relies on everybody pulling together to be successful. The portfolio is becoming more critical to the warfighters' success every single day," McMillin said.

There were four individual winners and six team winners.

Team winners include the Data Center Consolidation and Recapitalization Team at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which is credited with efficiencies that are expected to result in an annual cost savings of more than $40 million.

Sharing Information, Helping War Efforts

Matthew A. Sion, who is based in Germany with the 1st Air and Space Communications Operations Squadron, won first place in the individual category. Sion is recognized for contributing to the modernization and sustainability of the European Command’s Partner Integration Enterprise portfolio of command and control systems.

Other accomplishments include a NATO standardized desktop image and the first United States, bilateral, and Special Operations Forces exploitation in the European theater.

"Within our project, the ability to shave that time down, building that intelligence information within a shared environment is immensely important and it has saved an immeasurable amount of time, especially when it comes to our counter-[Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] operations," Sion said.

The concept, he explained, was "'Let's build together and share together,' rather than build independently and share what we want."

Securing Systems

Air Force 1st Lt. Justin Smith is a member of a winning group: the Air Force Information Network Mission Assurance Center Development Team at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. The award recognizes the efforts of the members in standing up a 24/7 operations center, specifically focused on prioritizing large-scale maintenance across the Air Force enterprise that included 850,000 systems, and streamlining processes for efficiencies, Smith said.

"Every month, they're responsible for ensuring that software is being patched to prevent an adversary from exploiting the vulnerabilities on these systems," he said.

Individual Award, Team Effort

Air Force Capt. James D. Nicholson, the director of operations at the 707th Communications Squadron at Fort Meade, Maryland, tied for second place in the individual category.

Even though it was an individual award, there was a team effort behind it, Nicholson said.

"I share it with the men and women of the 707th Communications Squadron for all the hard work that they do day in and day out to get the mission done," he said.

Nicholson is credited with expertly directing 245 cyber, nuclear, space, and civil engineering professionals executing the wing’s global cryptologic mission. His efforts contributed to the wing’s first accreditation of the Secure Internet Protocol Router Network in eight years, according to the citation. Nicholson’s superior leadership protected critical U.S. data by directing an incident response team in expelling adversaries from the White House network, the citation said.

The team, which was working at the White House, received thanks from President Barack Obama for a job well done, Nicholson said.

Nicolson said he was humbled to receive the award, and was especially glad his family was in attendance.

"The efforts that we do every day with the DoD sometimes go unnoticed in the cyber realm, so to get recognized at this level is an extreme honor and a blessing," he said.

The winners of the 2015 Defense Department Chief Information Officer Annual Awards:

Individual Category, First Place

Matthew A. Sion, 1st Air and Space Communications Operations Squadron

Chief, Systems Support, European Partner Integration Enterprise

U.S. Air Forces Europe, Ramstein, Germany

Sion’s outstanding service to United States Air Forces in Europe directly contributed to the vital modernization and sustainability of the European Command’s Partner Integration Enterprise portfolio of command and control systems that ensured the safety and security of the United States for the foreseeable future. His steadfast dedication and invaluable experience was a driving force supporting 49 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle bilateral operations, maintaining 1,020 hours, time-on-target, creation of 2,760 intelligence products, 1,800 targets collected and over 1,560 hours of full motion video providing critical decision making information for two combatant commands in the fight against anti-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Syria and Iraq operations. His efforts resulted in the successful first North Atlantic Treaty Organization standardized desktop image and the first United States, bilateral, and Special Operations Forces exploitation in the European theater.

Individual Category, Second Place (tie)

Air Force Capt. Amber R. Oar

Program Manager Air Force IT Business Analytics Office

AFLCMC Business Enterprise Systems Directorate

Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama

Oar’s exceptional service to the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Business and Enterprise Systems Directorate directly set the Air Force on course to achieve the goal set by Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. Oar’s relentless pursuit to identify the Enterprise IT led to many discoveries of critical data sources and identified gaps in capabilities.  Her fact-based analysis provided senior leadership with information critical to change how the Air Force manages its IT hardware, software, and services, from cradle to grave. Additionally, the wholesale improvement in senior leadership visibility of IT spending will lead to an array of cost saving strategies, and increased commoditization of IT hardware, software, and services. Based on her careful analysis and strategy recommendations, the Air Force is poised to save over $30 million. Her analysis to date and continued discovery of efficiencies will lead the Air Force to achieving a minimum of 20 percent savings on IT procurement.

Individual Category, Second Place (tie)

Air Force Capt. James D. Nicholson

Director, Operations

707th Communications Squadron

Fort Meade, Maryland

Nicholson expertly directed 245 cyber, nuclear, space, and civil engineering professionals executing the wing’s global cryptologic mission. His outstanding efforts contributed to the wing’s first accreditation of the Secure Internet Protocol Router Network in eight years. He led his team to success by eradicating 1.2 million network vulnerabilities while simultaneously implementing 244 cyber-security controls earning the wing its first "Excellent" rating by the Cyber Command Inspector General. Additionally, he cleverly masterminded a $400,000 network redesign providing the wing critical network redundancy capabilities. Furthermore, through careful coordination Nicholson led the installation of $145,000 of information technology equipment resulting in the standup of the wing’s first Air Defense Signals Analysis Team Facility. Nicholson’s superior leadership protected critical U.S. data by directing an incident response team in expelling adversaries from the White House network, earning praise from President Barack Obama.

Individual Category, Third Place Winner

Clint E. Maddox

Specialist, Information Technology and Infrastructure Support Lead

Marine Corps Installation Command, Operations & Energy, Facilities Systems

Kansas City, Missouri

Maddox’s exemplary leadership and expertise guided the design and establishment of a $7 million accredited hosting enclave to allow centralized system management for critical Marine Corps installation information systems. He led task-organized teams of engineers, architects, and system administrators to design a hosting platform to enable consolidated information systems management across all Marine Corps bases, posts, and stations, centralizing hosted systems from over 500 disparate environments. Seeing the need for a dedicated application, system test and development environment, he worked to establish a solution that provides secure analysis in a protected zone. His vision and perseverance greatly contributed to this technology implementation and his efforts have bolstered the Enterprise capabilities, resulting in a more flexible and reliable hosting platform.

Team Category, Winner

Air Force Information Network (AFIN) Mission Assurance Center (AMAC) Development Team

690th Network Support Squadron, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas

The Air Force Information Network Mission Assurance Center Development Team successfully revamped AFIN Operations processes that saved 83,000 manpower hours annually across three organizations. This effort spanned over one year resulting in a 24/7 organization that hardened more than 978 million vulnerabilities enterprise-wide securing 850,000 systems. This team also managed the implementation of the Virtual Enterprise Service Desk application which redefined the Air Force’s IT service support architecture saving over $9 million in manpower costs. The tireless efforts of the Air Force Information Network Mission Assurance Center Development Team have provided an extraordinary mission assurance capability that will have lasting impact for the Air Force in the years to come.

Team Category, Winner

Data Center Consolidation and Recapitalization Team

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Data Center Consolidation and Recapitalization Team’s outstanding efforts delivered capabilities to analysts across the National System for GEOINT. It reduced NGA’s forward personnel and material footprint by between 50 and 75 percent and is estimated to realize an annual cost savings of over $40 million in facility, personnel, communications, and operating costs. The team also anticipated changes a year in advance and led the planning for transitioning IT services out of Afghanistan. This very successful transition was accomplished with no interruption or degradation to IT services to the warfighter. The team’s outstanding collaboration with deployed, combatant command, and NGA stakeholders assured a smooth, operationally focused transition that will save lives and avoid tens of millions of dollars in costs annually. Additionally, the team implemented cloud technologies to allow NGA to leverage future intelligence community ITE and JIE OCONUS capabilities creating efficiencies for future GEOINT support out to the tactical edge.

Team Category, Winner

The Army National Guard Enterprise IT Service Management Team

The Army National Guard Enterprise Service Management Team implemented new capabilities and functionality, added enhanced technology, and introduced matured processes that increased efficiencies and capabilities, while providing the states and Enterprise a significant cost savings with the same level of personnel. With the team’s solutions and services, the states have avoided funding hardware, license, maintenance, and support costs by migrating from six different tools used across individual states. State personnel now have capabilities allowing them to capture and document IT service management incidents and requests, and execute those actions within their states. At the enterprise level, with the implementation of these new technologies, the enterprise team was able to reduce licensing costs by over $7.4 million over the next 5 years. The team now supports 21 states, over 66,000 users across seven time zones with the new and enhanced enterprise team’s solutions and services. As a result of their success, there is a waiting list of states demanding access to the Enterprise ITSM solutions and supported states are requesting additional services.

Team Category, Winner

Information Assurance Support Environment Program Management Team

Defense Information Systems Agency

The Defense Information Systems Agency Information Assurance Support Environment (IASE) Program Management Team successfully sustained IASE while receiving a 10 percent budget cut and clean sheeting a new contract award introducing an additional 40 percent savings. The IASE is one of the most widely used cybersecurity trusted sources serving over four million DoD, federal and foreign coalition partners, state, local authorities, academia, and commercial industry partners, with over 107 million hits to the portal per year. The program management team initiated efficiencies and cost savings enabling the IASE portal to save more than $5 million through fiscal year 2020.

Team Category, Winner

Project Ghostfire Team

National Geospatial Intelligence Agency

Project Ghostfire's outstanding engineering, collaboration, and integration efforts resulted in enhanced streaming and targeting capabilities delivered to analysts across the National System for Geospatial-Intelligence. The project reduced the time it takes to receive NTM and commercial imagery from hours-minutes to seconds. Project Ghostfire enabled intelligence community, armed services, and combatant command analysts to rapidly respond to mission critical exploitation and targeting requirements. The team's collaboration with external mission partners ensured the project delivered a common, industry standard set of enterprise services that enable NGA and their partners to drive IT efficiencies and reduced expenditures on enterprise infrastructure. The implementation of NGA's Enhanced Streaming Services, afforded the NSG a game-changing improvement in GEOINT information delivery and dissemination. The ability to rapidly search, discover and visualize data has an invaluable mission impact in an environment where seconds matter. These outstanding accomplishments reflect great credit upon the Project Ghostfire Team, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the intelligence community.

Team Category, Winner

Tactical Infrastructure Enterprise Services Coalition Warfare Program Team

Joint Staff J6

The Tactical Infrastructure Enterprise Services Coalition Warfare Program Team successfully developed and integrated a National Information Exchange Model-based request/response web service and developed Information Exchange Package Documentation (IEPDs) for position report, observed position report, air tracks, and situational awareness. The team posted the IEPDs on the military operations repository for reuse by NATO partners, the first time information of this type has been exchanged automatically among NATO participants. The team also conducted Public Key Infrastructure and web service security testing, and utilized a common data labeling schema to develop and integrate automated information redaction capability. This allowed information sharing access control among the 29 NATO nations and 41 NATO Partnership for Peace nations. This effort enabled NATO to identify and consider best of breed approaches as potential Federated Mission Networking and Mission Partner Environment enterprise solutions.