How the Energy Department Tackles Cyberthreats

By Phil Goldstein, Editor, FedTech and StateTech

April 11, 2019

The energy and utilities industries remain ripe targets for cyberattacks, particularly the industrial control systems within power plants and other energy facilities. Indeed, in March 2018, the Department of Homeland Security reported that it, along with the FBI, had determined that “Russian government cyber actors” had launched “a multi-stage intrusion campaign” that targeted the networks of small commercial facilities in the energy and other critical infrastructure sectors.

While the Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratories are working on next-generation cybersecurity systems to fool hackers, the agency is not taking its eye off the ball when it comes to the broader IT security picture for the energy sector

Last year, the department stood up its Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response, or CESER, to lead and coordinate the agency’s response to attacks and disruptions in the energy sector. President Donald Trump included $96 million in the fiscal 2019 budget request to launch the office. 

“We all see the magnitude and sophistication of the threats facing our energy infrastructure. Our nation’s electricity, fuel and delivery systems have become more complex and even more interdependent,” Adrienne Lotto, deputy assistant secretary for infrastructure security and energy restoration, said last month at an Association for Federal Information Resources Management Cybersecurity Summit in Washington, D.C., according to Nextgov. “As a result, the threat against the sector has become even more frequent and more sophisticated.” 

CESER leads efforts to combat all threats to the energy industry, mitigate the risks and impacts of cyberattacks and other disruptions, and help restore services if and when utilities are attacked. “We address all hazards: cyber, man-made and natural,” Lotto said.

MORE FROM FEDTECH: Find out why creative federal cybersecurity workers will have more job security. 

Energy Department Focuses on Sharing Threat Information

CESER's Cybersecurity for Energy Delivery Systems Division focuses on the research and development of innovative technologies, tools and techniques to reduce risks to the critical energy infrastructure from cyberattacks and other emerging threats

“Continuing to increase the security, reliability, and resiliency of our electricity delivery system will help ensure the success of grid modernization and transformation of the Nation’s energy systems,” the organization says on its website

The division supports the research, development and demonstration of advanced cybersecurity solutions, as well as the acceleration of information sharing to enhance situational awareness.

By 2020, CESER wants the energy sector to be able to design, install, operate and maintain “resilient energy delivery systems” that can “survive a cyber incident while sustaining critical functions.” 

To do so, CESER’s cybersecurity program supports activities in three key areas: strengthening energy sector cybersecurity preparedness; coordinating cyber incident response and recovery; and accelerating research, development and demonstration of “game-changing and resilient energy delivery systems.”

At the AFFIRM event, Lotto said CESER is “developing techniques to enhance the speed and effectiveness of threat and vulnerability information sharing that’s both bi-directional and machine to machine,” Nextgov reports. 

CESER is seeing threats to both energy sector IT as well as operational technology, Lotto said, adding that it’s important for “both the federal government and private sector to work towards closing the understanding of that gap.” 

Additionally, Lotto said at the AFFIRM summit that CESER is developing a tool called CyOTE, or Cybersecurity for the Operational Technology Environment, “which works to increase situational awareness through an industry-led approach that will share and analyze OT data,” Nextgov reports. The tool will be enhanced via insights and intelligence from the intelligence community and the Department of Energy’s national labs, she said.

Click here for the original article.

Strong public-private partnerships are imperative, former officials said.

By Brandi Vincent, Staff Correspondent, Nextgov

March 22, 2019

To better defend America’s critical infrastructure, there needs to be a paradigm shift toward establishing stronger public-private partnerships, federal leaders said Thursday.

“We’ve heard for a very long time this notion of ‘whole of government,’ or a ‘whole of government response,’” retired Lt. Gen. Reynold Hoover told attendees of the Association for Federal Information Resources Management’s Cybersecurity Summit in Washington. “But I would argue that it’s not ‘whole of government’ anymore because a catastrophic event on our critical infrastructure is going to require a ‘whole of nation’ response. And that cuts across the local community, state community, the counties involved, the federal government and all the agencies and departments.”

Hoover said working across all sectors and as special assistant for homeland security to President George W. Bush during such a transformative era for technology forced him to realize that it’s time to think differently about how to plan, exercise and carry out the defense of America’s critical infrastructure.

“When we think about the cyber threat, it is from a determined adversary. So whatever your business is, you can’t do it alone,” Hoover said. “We cannot spend our way into cyber defense, we can’t build a castle wall and expect to defend in depth anymore, we have to do it in partnership.”

He said organizations like AFFIRM are important because they have the ability to bring public and private sectors together to “think about those challenges.”

Others panelists also agreed that enhancing information sharing across all sectors is vital to ensure that appropriate securities are in place as the nation adopts 5G and the internet of things continues to proliferate.

New York Power Authority’s Chief Information Security Officer and Vice President of Critical Secure Services Kenneth Carnes said his team has been actively working to build fiercer communication channels with individual agencies and key players in the financial and other sectors.

“I think that that preparedness is something that has to be done now,” Carnes said. He added that there are certain conversations they all have sooner, not later, “to make sure it postulates into the environment to give you that proactive threat defense” when a dangerous disruption comes.

Retired Maj. Gen. Joseph Brendler, who also served as the U.S. Cyber Command’s Chief of Staff, said partnerships between federal agencies are continuing to improve. “And I think there’s room for innovative ideas around public-private partnerships and roles and responsibilities on both sides,” Brendler said.

The panelists agreed that fortifying communication channels and unifying the public and private sectors to enhance infrastructure security is more important now than ever.

“We have not seen a time when I think we have been under such a geopolitical threat that we are facing right now. We are being challenged in every domain: air, ground, sea, cyber, every domain from a very determined adversary,” Hoover said. “And when we think about our critical infrastructure owners and operators, they are faced against a very determined adversary, whether its Russia, China, North Korea or Iran. So they need our help.”

Click here for the original article.

Inside the Energy Dept.’s New $96M Infrastructure-Security Office

By Brandi Vincent, Staff Correspondent, Nextgov

March 22, 2019

The new Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response aims to deflect cyber, manmade and natural security hazards.

The priorities and efforts of the Energy Department’s nascent Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response, or CESER, were laid out by its first acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Adrienne Lotto on Thursday.

“We all see the magnitude and sophistication of the threats facing our energy infrastructure. Our nation’s electricity, fuel and delivery systems have become more complex and even more interdependent,” Lotto told attendees of the Association for Federal Information Resources Management’s Cybersecurity Summit in Washington. “As a result, the threat against the sector has become even more frequent and more sophisticated.”

In response, she said Energy Secretary Rick Perry created the new office in February 2018 to elevate the threats to the public and private sectors and allocate resources and a workforce to address those threats head-on. The president included $96 million in the fiscal 2019 budget request to stand up the office.

Lotto said CESER leads the department’s efforts to secure the nation’s energy infrastructure against all hazards, reduce both the risks and impacts of cyber and other disruptive events, and assist in restoration when disruptions do happen—because they inevitably will.

“We address all hazards: cyber, manmade and natural,” she said.

Lotto also went into detail around the office’s early efforts. She said it is developing techniques to enhance the speed and effectiveness of threat and vulnerability information sharing that’s both bi-directional and machine to machine. She said the office has noticed that they’re seeing the threats “not only on the [information technology] side of the house but on the [operational technology] side, as well.”

She said it’s important for “both the federal government and private sector to work towards closing the understanding of that gap.”

Lotto also said that the office is working on a tool called CyOTE, or Cybersecurity for the Operational Technology (OT) Environment, which works to increase situational awareness through an industry-led approach that will share and analyze OT data.  

“That data will be enhanced by insight from the intelligence community and our [Energy] National Labs,” she said.

The office is also participating in exercises with other agencies and industry partners to enhance the security of the nation’s energy systems, and the ability to quickly bounce back after an attack or disruption. Lotto said it recently participated in an exercise with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and other key partners on New York’s Plum Island. The office had the opportunity to shut down the island’s grid, and have operators practice “black starting the system,” which is a complex process to re-start a power grid.

“It was really enlightening and the team learned a lot,” she said.

The office is also working with states in both planning and coordination, to ensure they are improving their cybersecurity preparedness framework. Lotto said coordination across all of America’s governments and the private sector is ultimately crucial for success.

“It’s all hands on deck to solve a really big problem,” she said.

Click here for the original article.

What students think of government cyber jobs

By Chase Gunter, staff writer, FCW

March 22, 2019

Getting cybersecurity and tech talent into government has been a top management priority spanning administrations, but there remain fundamental challenges in selling government as an employer.

The U.S. Cyber Challenge, launched by former Federal CIO Karen Evans in 2010, holds camps and competitions around the country and helps students burnish their resumes and introduces them to recruiters.

USCCC leaders and participants said at a March 21 event that the government faces marketing and process challenges when it comes to attracting young cyber talent.

Doug Logan, USCC's chief technologist, said that for all the focus on government's inability to compete with private-sector pay, the exact dollar figure, while important, isn't disqualifying.

"The first reason why everyone tells me they don't want to work for the federal government is they think it's boring," he said. "The second reason why they say they don't want to work for the federal government is because they can't find job descriptions that match their entry-level capabilities because [agencies] all want people with a whole bunch of experience. The third reason is because the whole process of applying and actually getting hired in the federal government is horrible and painful and takes forever."

Workforce

What students think of government cyber jobs

  • By Chase Gunter

  • Mar 22, 2019

Getting cybersecurity and tech talent into government has been a top management priority spanning administrations, but there remain fundamental challenges in selling government as an employer.

The U.S. Cyber Challenge, launched by former Federal CIO Karen Evans in 2010, holds camps and competitions around the country and helps students burnish their resumes and introduces them to recruiters.

USCCC leaders and participants said at a March 21 event that the government faces marketing and process challenges when it comes to attracting young cyber talent.

Doug Logan, USCC's chief technologist, said that for all the focus on government's inability to compete with private-sector pay, the exact dollar figure, while important, isn't disqualifying.

"The first reason why everyone tells me they don't want to work for the federal government is they think it's boring," he said. "The second reason why they say they don't want to work for the federal government is because they can't find job descriptions that match their entry-level capabilities because [agencies] all want people with a whole bunch of experience. The third reason is because the whole process of applying and actually getting hired in the federal government is horrible and painful and takes forever."

Andrew Meserote, whose team won the Nevada-based camp's capture the flag competition last summer, plans to join the Department of Defense civilian cybersecurity workforce, pending a security clearance. He said the "the recruitment process [for government] is definitely slower than private industry." The slow hiring process means "there's still the chance that even if you get your clearance, the job's not there anymore."

Nicholas Bruno, whose team won the USCC's competition in Delaware back in 2016, currently does cyber and programming for a private company, but he said that he'd be open to part-time position -- or a stint in government -- if moving back and forth between government and industry was more viable.

What he said was most appealing about the prospect of working in government included the training government jobs could provide, the work he wanted to do and the prospect of obtaining a security clearance as a badge for proving trustworthiness.

USCC National Director Glenn Hernandez said not enough emphasis is put on marketing federal cybersecurity employment to job candidates.

"OPM doesn't advertise these positions because they leave it to agencies to push their own things, and there's not that type of recognition that these types of folks that are coming into the workforce need to have a different culture in order to attract them," Hernandez said.

Once new hires are on board, it's important to challenge them with interesting work.

"If they're staring at a screen for eight to 10 hours a day, you just lost them. Within months," he said.

The administration is piloting ways of getting folks already in government to fill those vacant positions. Jason Gray, CIO of the Department of Education, said the early interest among current federal employees on learning cybersecurity skills via the Cyber Reskilling Academy is a good starting point.

Gray, who is also the chairman of the CIO Council's IT Workforce Committee, said the "real goal" of pilot was to see if the model of cybersecurity training was something that would generate interest.

The reskilling effort is " really focused on enhancing the employee, and in many cases, the employees will probably get the education and bring it back to their organization and further the cyber efforts," he said. "It's really a win-win, regardless of whether they transition out of the work that they're in right now."

Click here for the original article.

Grooming the next generation of tech talent requires honest mentoring, according to government tech leaders.

By Brandi Vincent, Staff Correspondent, Nextgov

February 28, 2019

Mentorship is crucial to success so pay it forward, a panel of government tech leaders said Thursday.

“Mentoring is not a buzzword. It’s a very real thing. We all need help along the way to bring our best selves out,” Commerce Department Deputy Chief Information Officer Terryne Murphy said as part of a panel at the Association of Federal Information Resources Management’s “Trailblazing Women of Government IT” event in Washington.

Murphy reflected on the coaching that she’s received and the significant impacts that her own mentors have made in contributing to her success—and sometimes that means uncomfortable moments for both the mentor and the mentee.

“It should be a little scary, not overwhelmingly so, but it should be personally challenging—that’s what you should be looking for,” Murphy said, adding that friends are the ones who are meant to make people feel good.

“But your mentor is there to bring your best out of you and that’s supposed to be uncomfortable a little bit. It’s really supposed to be,” Murphy said.

The panel also agreed that it is critical for people to diversify their mentorship.

“I’ve had people ask me, as a woman, if it would it be more beneficial to have a woman as a mentor versus a man,” said Melinda Rogers, deputy chief information officer at the Justice Department. “Well I’ve had mentors and mentored people from both genders and I think it really comes down to the person and the chemistry.”

Pamela McCauley, who serves as program director in the Computer Information Science and Engineering Directorate at the National Science Foundation, also said that it’s imperative for people to learn from others who look different from them.

“I think this is really important, because a lot of times as women, we feel like we need a woman mentor and if you’re black, you need a black mentor,” McCauley said. “But you can have one mentor that can help you understand one area and another who can help you understand something else.”

The panel unanimously agreed that, because of how formative mentorship has been for their own careers, they feel compelled to pay it forward.

“I absolutely have to do it,” Murphy said. “I have to do it because it’s been so helpful to me.”

“Like Terryn, I have been the beneficiary of tremendous mentors, and I still stay in touch with them,” Rogers said. “So to the point of should you pay it forward, you absolutely should. You’re obligated to pay it forward.”

And for those who don’t feel that they have the time or energy to invest in people who ask them for mentorship, due to managing many competing priorities, she recommended connecting perspective mentees to others in their network who may have more to give.

“I take this extremely seriously because I would not be here without my mentors,” McCauley said. The other women on the panel nodded in unison.

NASA’s Chief Information Officer Renee Wynn said a key to her success was seeking out strong models and obtaining a supportive community. She added a “heartfelt ditto” to all that her fellow panelists said about mentorship.

After the panel, Murphy told Nextgov that she hopes that the discussion “helps everyone just go back and think about the choices that they,’ve made and the ones that are before them.” She said mentoring is important because it helps people to not only inform others’ perspectives but also see something that they personally may have missed themselves.

“Just this interaction could significantly impact the trajectory of someone’s career,” she said. “So if we did anything to help perpetuate a positive trajectory today, that’s awesome.”

Click here for the original article.

The budding Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security and Emergency Response aims to deflect cyber, manmade and natural security hazards.

By Brandi Vincent, Staff Correspondent, Nextgov

March 21, 2019

The priorities and efforts of the Energy Department’s nascent Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response, or CESER, were laid out by its first acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Adrienne Lotto Thursday.

“We all see the magnitude and sophistication of the threats facing our energy infrastructure. Our nation’s electricity, fuel and delivery systems have become more complex and even more interdependent,” Lotto told attendees of the Association for Federal Information Resources Management’s Cybersecurity Summit in Washington. “As a result, the threat against the sector has become even more frequent and more sophisticated.”

In response, she said Energy Secretary Rick Perry created the new office in February 2018 to elevate the threats to the public and private sectors and allocate resources and a workforce to address those threats head-on. The president included $96 million in the fiscal 2019 budget request to stand up the office.

Lotto said CESER leads the department’s efforts to secure the nation’s energy infrastructure against all hazards, reduce both the risks and impacts of cyber and other disruptive events, and assist in restoration when disruptions do happen—because they inevitably will.

“We address all hazards: cyber, manmade and natural,” she said.

Lotto also went into detail around the office’s early efforts. She said it is developing techniques to enhance the speed and effectiveness of threat and vulnerability information sharing that’s both bi-directional and machine to machine. She said the office has noticed that they’re seeing the threats “not only on the [information technology] side of the house but on the [operational technology] side, as well.”

She said it’s important for “both the federal government and private sector to work towards closing the understanding of that gap.”

Lotto also said that the office is working on a tool called CyOTE, or Cybersecurity for the Operational Technology (OT) Environment, which works to increase situational awareness through an industry-led approach that will share and analyze OT data.  

“That data will be enhanced by insight from the intelligence community and our [Energy] National Labs,” she said.

The office is also participating in exercises with other agencies and industry partners to enhance the security of the nation’s energy systems, and the ability to quickly bounce back after an attack or disruption. Lotto said it recently participated in an exercise with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and other key partners on New York’s Plum Island. The office had the opportunity to shut down the island’s grid, and have operators practice “black starting the system,” which is a complex process to re-start a power grid.

“It was really enlightening and the team learned a lot,” she said.

The office is also working with states in both planning and coordination, to ensure they are improving their cybersecurity preparedness framework. Lotto said coordination across all of America’s governments and the private sector is ultimately crucial for success.

“It’s all hands on deck to solve a really big problem,” she said.

Click here for the original article.

Cyber Recruitment: It's not (always) about the money

It's probably no surprise government has trouble attracting young cyber talent, but changes to marketing and hiring processes could help fill the cyber talent pipeline, according to Doug Logan, chief technologist of the U.S. Cyber Challenge. Launched in 2010, USCC holds camps and competitions around the country, helps students burnish their resumes and introduces them to recruiters.

For all the focus on government's inability to compete with private-sector pay, the exact dollar figure, while important, isn't disqualifying, he said.

"The first reason why everyone tells me they don't want to work for the federal government is they think it's boring," he said. "The second reason …  is because they can't find job descriptions that match their entry-level capabilities because [agencies] all want people with a whole bunch of experience. The third reason is because the whole process of applying and actually getting hired in the federal government is horrible and painful and takes forever."

Andrew Meserote, whose team won the Nevada-based USCC camp's capture the flag competition last summer, plans to join the Department of Defense civilian cybersecurity workforce, pending a security clearance. He said the "the recruitment process [for government] is definitely slower than private industry." The slow hiring process means "there's still the chance that even if you get your clearance, the job's not there anymore."

Nicholas Bruno, whose team won the competition in Delaware back in 2016, currently does cyber and programming for a private company, but he said that he'd be open to part-time position -- or a stint in government -- if moving back and forth between government and industry was more viable.

The most appealing aspects about working in government he cited include the training government jobs could provide, the work he wanted to do and the prospect of obtaining a security clearance as a badge for proving trustworthiness.

USCC National Director Glenn Hernandez said not enough emphasis is put on marketing federal cybersecurity employment to job candidates.

"OPM doesn't advertise these positions because they leave it to agencies to push their own things, and there's not that type of recognition that these types of folks that are coming into the workforce need to have a different culture in order to attract them," Hernandez said.

Once new hires are on board, it's important to challenge them with interesting work.

"If they're staring at a screen for eight to 10 hours a day, you just lost them. Within months," he said.

The administration is piloting ways of getting those already in government to fill those vacant positions. Department of Education CIO Jason Gray said the early interest among current federal employees on learning cybersecurity skills via the Cyber Reskilling Academy is a good starting point.

Gray, who also chairs the CIO Council's IT Workforce Committee, said the pilot’s "real goal" was to see if the model of cybersecurity training was something that would generate interest.

The reskilling effort is "really focused on enhancing the employee, and in many cases, the employees will probably get the education and bring it back to their organization and further the cyber efforts," he said. "It's really a win-win, regardless of whether they transition out of the work that they're in right now."

This article was first posted to FCW, a sibling site to GCN.

By Chase Gunter

March 25, 2019

Letter from The President

AFFIRM AT 40…
2019 promises to be an exciting new year. AFFIRM’s mission remains strong with the focus on scholarships and education programs. AFFIRM provides these robust programs through the continued support and sponsorship of our sustaining partners and volunteers.  We would like to extend a sincere thank you for a successful 2018 and to continue the momentum in 2019.

As AFFIRM enters its 40th year, we hope you will join us to support the government’s use of information technology as a catalyst for transformation.

  • AFFIRM’s accomplishment are many: Our scholarship efforts make a difference in the lives of students pursuing technology education and careers. 

  • Thanks to our industry partners and our strong programs, AFFIRM has been able to donate nearly $500,000 to organizations supporting and educating technology students.

  • Our all-volunteer board represents the best and brightest from both industry, government and academia.  Contributing time and expertise, these leaders are the critical element to our success. 

  • Educational programs served over 2,000 government managers, with a draw of nearly 40% attendance from government.  Certified Professional Development Units (PDUs) from PMI add further value to participants.

    Through our combined efforts, we bring the commitment to drive home our mission. We invite your contribution to the government community in the following ways:

  • Become an industry sustaining partner and sponsoring partner for the high-value programs throughout the year.  Sponsorships are available throughout the year and early-bird special opportunities until March 30th, 2019.

  • Volunteer for a committee to support AFFIRM’s goals to grow our scholarship contributions.

  • The ability to review, discuss, and make an impact on IT policy by understanding “what makes government work”. This is done through the luncheon series, after hours programs, and other events throughout the year

www.affirm.org

Program, Events, Membership and Sponsorship information


www.affirm.org/reservations/

Don’t forget to sign up for the monthly luncheons and information for upcoming events at

For Individual Contributions please go to
www.affirm.org;gofundme

Don’t miss the exciting program lineup for 2019 Programs;
 

·       After Hours Events – Scheduled throughout the year

·       Speaker Series – Monthly Luncheons (mid-month)

·       US Cyber Challenge Summit – March 21, 2019

·       CFO/CIO Summit 2019 – May 7, 2019

·       Annual Leadership Awards – May 23, 2019

·       IT Career and Shadow Day – April,2019

·       AFFIRM Annual Golf Tournament – October 21, 2019

AS IT ENTERS ITS 40TH YEAR, AFFIRM SELECTS RMK PRODUCTIONS AS ASSOCIATION MANAGEMEnT COMPANY

Washington, DC, December 15, 2018 — The Association for Federal Information Resources Management (AFFIRM) has selected RMK Productions as its association management company.  This move continues the association’s drive to maintain its 40 years of service as an educationally-based association supporting the government sector.

“RMK Productions brings the right mix of experience, dedication, and knowledge of the public sector to AFFIRM,” said Adrian Gardner, President of AFFIRM.  “As the long-term association management company for organizations like Women in Technology and the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, RMK has the right team to support AFFIRM’s year-round series of training events.  This allows our all-volunteer board and committees to stay focused on our mission of improving information management in the Federal government.”

Reggie M. Kouba, founder and principal of RMK Productions, noted, “We are proud to work with the talented AFFIRM board as AFFIRM’s full service association management company.  As a team, we have earned our reputation for careful planning and execution, financial accountability, highest-quality client services, and long term relationships, and we are pleased to be selected to bring our brand of support to AFFIRM.”

About RMK Productions

RMK is a full-service, woman-owned, association management and event planning company with over 12 years’ experience serving the needs of associations, corporations, foundations, and non-profit organizations.  Learn more at https://rmkproductions.com/.

About AFFIRM

The Association for Federal Information Resources Management (AFFIRM) is a non-profit, volunteer, educational organization whose overall purpose is to improve the management of information, and related systems and resources, within the Federal government. Founded in 1979, and based in the Washington, DC area, AFFIRM's members include information resource management professionals from the Federal, academic, and industry sectors.  AFFIRM is a PMI R.E.P and delivers certified PDUs to support the project manager career field in government and industry.  Stay in touch at www.affirm.org and @affirmtweets.

Tuskegee University ROTC Hall of Fame Inducts 13 including AFFIRM President Adrian Gardner During Annual Ceremony

Tuskegee University (original article from Tuskegee.edu)

ROTC Hall of Fame Inducts 13 During Annual Ceremony

More than 350 years of combined military service, nine Legion of Merit Awards and four Bronze Stars — just a few of the characteristics that define the 2018 class of inductees into Tuskegee University’s ROTC Hall of Fame. The class includes one major general, seven colonels, two lieutenant colonels, two Navy captains, and one federal Senior Executive Service officer.

Established in 2016, Tuskegee’s ROTC Hall of Fame honors individuals who have exemplified the attributes of leadership, integrity, moral courage and self-discipline commonly associated with military service.

“The ROTC Hall of Fame highlights the professionalism and dedication demonstrated through our inductees’ service to our nation,” said Col. Anthony C. Aiken Sr. (Army, ret.), who helped establish the hall of fame and now chairs its annual induction ceremony. “They have served our nation with dignity, duty and honor, and we are proud to celebrate their careers in this significant way.”

Tuskegee graduates and former students who are or have been commissioned into the U.S. armed forces, participated in the university’s ROTC programs, or earned a commission upon graduating and pursued military service as a career are eligible for induction — provided they meet other rank or meritorious service requirements.

This year’s inductees (biographies below) — combined with the 53 inductees comprising the 2016 inaugural class of honorees, and the 19 class of 2017 inductees — bring the Hall of Fame’s membership to 85 retired and killed in action servicemen and servicewomen.

“We are proud of those Tuskegee alumni who have leveraged their degrees to educate, lead and serve our country,” said Tuskegee President Lily D. McNair. “Our university’s impact on the nation’s peace and security is demonstrated in each of this year’s hall of fame inductees, and by the thousands of Tuskegee graduates who have served bravely in defense of our freedoms.”

The Junior Infantry Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, commonly known as ROTC, was established in February 1919 at what was then Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. At the time, all male students 14 years of age or older who were in “good physical condition” were required to enroll in the unit, which included only Army programming. During World War II, the Army Air Corps contracted with then-Tuskegee Institute to conduct primary pilot training for African-Americans — with Moton Field serving as the only site for training black aviators.

In 1946, when the Air Force ROTC was established, Tuskegee was among the original 78 colleges and universities to host Air Force programming. In 2013, the university added Navy ROTC to train qualified young men and women for service as commissioned officers in the Navy and Marine Corps.

Col. Patricia A.F. Clay ’76 (Army, retired)
After earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Tuskegee, Clay was commissioned in 1976 and served in the U.S. Army until her retirement in 2003. During her military career, she earned the Legion of Merit Award, Meritorious Service Award (with three oak leaf clusters), the Army Commendation Medal (with four oak leaf clusters), Army Achievement Medal (with three oak leaf clusters), and the Navy Superior Unit Commendation Medal.

Capt. Hattie Elam ’61 (Navy, retired)
After earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Tuskegee, Elam was commissioned in 1961 and served in the U.S. Navy until her retirement in 1991. During her military career, she earned the Meritorious Service Medal (with two oak leaf clusters), the Navy Achievement Medal (with two oak leaf clusters), the Defense Service Medal (with two oak leaf clusters), and the Navy Marine Corps Overseas Ribbon.

SES Adrian R. Gardner ’86
After earning a bachelor’s degree in biological science and ecology from Tuskegee, Gardner was commissioned through the ROTC program in 1986. During his continuing military career, he has earned the U.S. Air Force Training Ribbon, the Overseas Short Tour Ribbon, and the USAF Outstanding Unit Award.

Col. James C. Jackson ’54 (Army, retired)
After earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Tuskegee, Jackson was commissioned in 1954 and served in the U.S. Army until his retirement in 1978. During his military career, he earned the Legion of Merit Award (with one oak leaf cluster), Bronze Star (with one oak leaf cluster), Air Medal (with three awards), Vietnam Service Medal, and the Republic of Vietnam Commendation Medal.

Maj. Gen. Frederic Leigh (Army, retired), honorary inductee
Commissioned in 1963 as a member of the U.S. Army, Leigh later served the Tuskegee University ROTC cadre from 1966 to 1969, and retired in 1994. During his military career, he earned the Army Distinguished Service Medal; the Defense Superior Service Medal (with two oak leaf clusters); the Legion of Merit Award (with three oak leaf clusters); the Army Commendation Medal (with one oak leaf cluster); the Combat Infantry, Parachutist, Air Assault badges; and the Ranger tab.

Capt. Shirley Lewis-Brown ’68 (Navy, retired)
After earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Tuskegee, Lewis-Brown was commissioned in 1968 and served in the U.S. Navy until her retirement in 1996 During her military career, she earned the Legion of Merit Award, the Navy Commendation Medal (with one gold star), the Humanitarian Service Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal.

Col. Aubrey J. McAlpine ’63 (USAF, retired)
After earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Tuskegee, McAlpine was commissioned in 1963 and served in the U.S. Air Force until his retirement in 1986. During his military career, he earned the Defense Meritorius Service Medal, Legion of Merit Award, the Air Force Commendation Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal.

Col. Donna L. Pilson ’93 (USAF, retired)
After earning a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Tuskegee, Pilson was commissioned in 1993 and served in the U.S. Air Force until her retirement in Sept. 2018. During her military career, she earned the Legion of Merit Award, the Defense Meritorius Service Award, the Meritorius Service Award (with two devices), the Air Force Commendation Award (with one device), and the Army Commendation Award.

Col. Aaron L. Richardson Jr. ’75 (Amry, retired)
After earning a bachelor’s degree in architectural science from Tuskegee, Richardson was commissioned in 1975 and served in the U.S. Army until his retirement in 2005. During his military career, he earned the Legion of Merit Award, Bronze Star, Meritorious Medal (with two oak leaf clusters), Army Commendation Medal (with two oak leaf clusters), and the Army Achievement Medal (with two oak leaf clusters).

Col. William R. Saunders ’77 (USAF, retired)
After earning a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Tuskegee, Saunders was commissioned in 1977 and served in the U.S. Air Force until his retirement in 1977. During his military career, he earned the Legion of Merit and Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal (with five devices), the Air Medal (with one device), and the National Defense Service Medal (with one device).

Col. Casmere H. Taylor ’86 (Army, retired)
After earning a bachelor’s degree in health physics/radiologic technology from Tuskegee, Taylor was commissioned in 1986 and served in the U.S. Army until his retirement in June 2018. During his military career, he earned the Legion of Merit Award (with three oak leaf clusters), the Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal (with five oak leave clusters), and the Army Commendation Medal (with V device).

Lt. Col. James A. Tinsley Jr. ’58 (USAF, retired), honorary inductee
After earning a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Tuskegee, Tinsley was commissioned in 1958 and served in the U.S. Air Force until his retirement in 1988. During his military career, he earned the Meritorious Service Medal and the Air Force Commendation Medal.

Lt. Col. Robert L. Tinsley ’55 (USAF, retired), honorary inductee
After earning a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Tuskegee, Tinsley was commissioned in 1955 and served in the U.S. Air Force until his retirement in 1975. During his military career, he earned the Bronze Star (with two oak leaf clusters), Meritorious Service Medal (with one oak leaf cluster), Air Force Commendation Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Honor Medal (First Class), and the Vietnam Service Medal (with six battle stars).

© 2018, Tuskegee University

How to Win Funds and Modernize Technology

Federal Computer Week

By Derek B. Johnson
September 13, 2018

Congress will soon decide whether to add more dollars to the Technology Modernization Fund next year, but the board in charge of making awards has learned plenty of lessons in its first year of operations.

At a Sept. 13 luncheon hosted by AFFIRM, members of the board reflected on their first year of operations and agencies alterations to their proposals to modernization. They also discussed how the board's dealings with federal agencies and Congress on the first set of awards has impacted future rounds of consideration.

Alan Thomas, a TMF board member and commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service at the General Services Administration, said one of the biggest lessons he tried to impart to agencies after the first round of proposals came in was "don't wait to tell us the good stuff."

"Right away, get to the impact of your project, what's the outcome?" Thomas said. "It's always amazing to me how people will write two to three pages down … and at the last paragraph they've got the sentence buried in there, the 'Aha!' Don't make the board search hard for that stuff, put it right up front."

The board announced the first round of awards in June, doling out $45 million to the Departments of Agriculture, Energy and Housing and Urban Development. Each project -- a customer experience portal, email cloud migration and mainframe application migration respectively -- was picked in part to serve as a model for other government agencies.

Elizabeth Cain, executive director of the TMF board, said that with a limited amount of money, the board considers not just whether a project will improve mission delivery or contain the right details for paying back award funds, but also whether the agency has demonstrated that it can't fund the project through other means.

"We definitely want to make sure when people come [with pitch proposals] that this is the best solution for funding their project," Cain said. "We want to know what other avenues they've investigated."

Maria Roat, another board member and CIO for the Small Business Administration, said the board has "sent some proposals back because we felt the agencies could self-fund what they were requesting."

While the TMF has broad bipartisan support in Congress, funding for next year has been thrown into jeopardy as lawmakers complained that the board and the Office of Management and Budget were not providing enough transparency around how projects are selected and how the board operates. In public and in private, board members have expressed confidence that OMB and Federal CIO Suzette Kent are actively addressing those concerns.

"In terms of Suzette's [communications] on the Hill, she's gone up and told them just about anything they want to know about the fund, how it's operating, what we're doing, what we're focused on," said Thomas. "In my estimation, we've done all we could in that area without launching every board member out to talk to every individual member [of Congress]."

Thomas also said that the board "did not take into account whether or not we were going to get another tranche of money" next year and that members are solely focused on doling out the remaining $55 million still on hand to the most deserving agencies.

Spokespersons for the House and Senate Appropriations Committees told FCW that lawmakers are still negotiating a final agreement on the General Government Appropriations bill that houses the TMF. A staffer on the Senate side said it will likely take at least a few more days to reach an agreement. 

The board has also faced pushback from agencies on what they perceive as overly restrictive rules around repayment. Members of Congress have stressed that the repayment plan is critical to the long-term success of TMF, with Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) saying that the money "is not a slush fund" and that agencies must use savings to help seed future modernization efforts.

At a Sept. 13 roundtable on technology modernization hosted by FCW, one senior IT leader in a cabinet-level agency said his chief financial officer was strongly opposed to the use of TMF funds because of the aggressive payback schedule. The worry is that if savings from IT modernization fail to materialize, the money to pay back the central fund will have to come from program budgets. Many other CIOs at the event (which was on-the-record but not for attribution) cited this as a key flaw in the current TMF structure.

That dynamic could explain why the board has not seen as many agencies submitting proposals as initially expected.

"I think when TMF fund awards were announced, we all expected a barrage of proposals coming in, and we've gotten a lot of proposals, but I've been surprised at how many agencies did not apply," said Mark Kneidinger, a member of the board and deputy director for the National Risk Management Center at the Department of Homeland Security.

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TMF Board Focused on New Projects While Congress Weighs Funding

Fedscoop
By Carteen Cordell
September 13, 2018

Even though the House and Senate haven’t decided whether they’ll provide more money for the government’s Technology Modernization Fund in fiscal 2019, Alan Thomas said he and the TMF Board are still busy looking for its next projects.

“There’s a pipeline of existing projects that we’re looking at. You’ll be hearing about some decisions soon,” the Federal Acquisition Service commissioner said at an AFFIRM event Thursday discussing the fund. “We did not take into account whether we were going to get another tranche of money.”

The fiscal 2019 budget for TMF, which offers financing for agency IT modernization projects on a revolving basis, has been a question mark since August, when the Senate voted not to include the fund in its appropriations bill, citing a lack of information from agencies on why more funding is needed.

Because the House version of the bill included $150 million in funding, both appropriations committees sought to craft a negotiated bill in conference Thursday, leaving the possibility that TMF could still receive at least some appropriations when fiscal 2019 begins Oct. 1.

Thomas, a member of the TMF Board that determines which agency projects receive funding, said that because agencies are expected to pay back any funds received within five years of award, the board will continue to evaluate proposals, congressional funding or not.

“One of the key things we’re looking at for projects is the ability to pay back,” he said. “We haven’t had a single discussion about, ‘Hey, what about the next tranche of money?’ We’re solely focused on a pipeline of projects and the merit of those projects.”

Headed by a seven-member board that includes Federal CIO Suzette Kent, the TMF was established with $100 million initial funding passed in March as part of a fiscal 2018 omnibus package. In June, the fund awarded $45 million to the departments of Agriculture, Energy and Housing and Urban Development for modernization projects.

The initial installments of those awards began dispersing in the past month-and-a-half, said Elizabeth Cain, executive director of the TMF Program Management Office. Agencies have one year to make their first repayment installation, or six months after the completion of their project.

That means even without congressional appropriations, the fund should be able to sustain itself as agencies begin to pay it back.

But given the fund’s integral role in the administration’s IT modernization efforts, working with Congress will be essential to the long-term success of the TMF.

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said last month that officials didn’t provide enough information about the program’s positive results and return on investment to justify more funding.

“I wasn’t going to allocate $210 million to something that we don’t know that it’s working,” he said.

Thomas said that while Kent continued to work with Congress as the TMF Board’s representative, the modernization projects underway need time to develop before showing such results.

“It’s just a tad premature to talk about ROI, because we just funded three projects that are about half the fund,” he said. “I think those kinds of metrics, like ROI, you see over the next 12 months. Let’s see how those projects perform.”

Click here for the original article.