WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2014 – Defense Department Chief Information Officer Teri Takai today urged high school students participating in the 2014 Information Technology Job Shadow Day at the Pentagon to consider a future working for the department.
About 40 students from three Virginia schools – the Edison Academy, Chantilly High School and Robert E. Lee High School – took part.
In welcoming them to the eighth annual event, Takai told the students the Defense Department offers myriad of opportunities for young IT professionals.
“The job here — the variety and number of technologies that you would work on here — is pretty staggering,” she said.
The department has the typical systems that any businesses would have — finance, personnel and logistics, for example — but it also has systems and processes that are available nowhere else, Takai said. She showed the students a video of Army Rangers operating in Afghanistan, who move, shoot and communicate via the latest information technology. She showed Navy SEALs performing their missions and Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps aircraft operating worldwide.
“The bulk of our job is really in supplying the networks and communication, as well as the computer systems that run everything that DOD does,” she said, noting that one commander told her that if he must go into combat, the first thing he ensures he has is communications.
The military is changing, Takai said, getting away from large-scale interventions and moving toward small groups working with local allies and the forces of partner nations.
“These small groups require a level of communication that is really unprecedented,” she told the students. “It’s not only ‘Can I talk or text or send information?’ but it’s ‘Can I get video?'”
Takai spoke with the students about IT support that allows DOD to fly and use unmanned aerial systems. “How do you effectively manage that?” she asked. Other questions include how the department manages the information gathered by these remotely piloted vehicles, how the information is interpreted, and how the department protects privacy, she added.
These are options that these students – who never knew a world without laptops, social media or iPhones – will face in their adult lives, the CIO noted.
Takai stressed opportunities the Defense Department offers in cybersecurity. Recent attacks on retailers intended to steal customer information are just a small example of the attacks aimed at DOD every day, she said. She added that DOD works closely with interagency partners and the private sector to protect networks and information, and the nation as a whole, from cyber threats.
The department needs to grow its IT capabilities, Takai said. “We need you here,” she told the students. “One thing I will tell you that is particularly unique in DOD are the individuals you see. There is no more job satisfaction, there isn’t a better customer to serve, than the men and women who are really working to make sure that all of us are safe.”