In tight fiscal times, federal agencies need to embrace changing technology, focus on attracting and retaining the next generation of workers and striking a balance between information sharing and security. To reach these goals, organizations need to foster a culture of trust and speed, a senior Defense Department official said.
David Wennergren, assistant deputy chief management officer for the Department of Defense, cited Stephen Covey’s book Speed Of Trust in his keynote speech at the Government Information and Analytics Summit in Washington D.C., this week.
He noted broken trust within an organization or its customers can be rebuilt by setting service level agreements and other guidelines with agency staff and contractors.
A sense of urgency is also important, Wennergren said, adding that successful organizations have a sense of momentum and speed that drives mission focus and work efficiency rather than a frenetic work pace. He said attracting the right talent is also key.
“If you’re not thinking about how to attract or retain the workforce of the future, you’re already way behind,” Wennergren said.
Organizations stand to gain from the millennial and other younger generations’ technological savvy. He encouraged leaders and managers to also allow workplace creativity and flexibility.
Secure information sharing is another important and complex issue for federal agencies, he said. There is often a tension between local islands of network use and the enterprise, Wennergren said. He describes these issues as a “polarity” about information sharing between the different professional communities in an organization. Instead of viewing the situation as one about information security, he prefers to call it a “secure relationship.”
The challenge is that many government agencies polarize themselves because they see many technology issues as a single problem, rather than a conflict between different mission needs within the organization, he said.
Because the data in government computer networks represents an organization’s intellectual capitol, security is a vital consideration. But sharing information is just as vital to an agency’s mission.
Risk averse information security professionals’ standard reaction is to “lock it down baby!” Wennergren said, resulting in “self-inflicted denial of service.” However, managing the balance between security and sharing, if done well, creates huge business opportunities for an organization-something very necessary in a tight budget environment.
Reaching a consensus can take time. At DoD, it took years of internal discussion and argument.
Sharing information across boundaries involves the possibility of unanticipated users and outcomes, which calls for a different approach to information security, Wennergren said. While network security steps such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems and gateways are all important, they are just first steps that organizations need to take.
Data sharing and identity management solutions available now or in the near future will allow users more flexibility to work anywhere and on various computers and devices, Wennergren said. These technologies, combined with the need for information sharing are things that the DoD will have to accept, as will other government agencies, he said.