WASHINGTON — Mass telework brought on by the coronavirus pandemic has made 2020 a busy year for the Defense Information Systems Agency.

Throughout the year, the Pentagon’s top IT organization has had a hand in the department’s Commercial Virtual Remote Environment, which provides collaboration tools for more than 1 million users. DISA has also helped set up IT capabilities for the Navy’s two hospital ships as they docked in New York City and Los Angeles to assist with the COVID-19 response.

As a result, it has also been a busy year for Debra Daniels, DISA’s vice procurement services executive and deputy director of the Defense Information Technology Contracting Organization. Daniels started at DISA in March, right as workers were being sent home. She joined from the Small Business Administration after about 30 years with the Army and now helps oversee a $17 billion portfolio at DISA.

C4ISRNET interviewed Daniels about her new position, the unexpected tool she uses to communicate and meeting small business goals. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What is it like to take over a massive IT portfolio during a pandemic?

It makes you think differently and do things differently. It definitely increases communication as DISA provides IT and cybersecurity support. One of the most basic things that I use to make sure to communicate and get on board is the telephone. It works well on picking up and introducing yourself to not only the workforce but the mission partners themselves, stakeholders, small business, in order to do the job. It just makes you reach out more.

But I’m going to tell you: DISA has all of the tools in place that allow us to stay in and keep connected so far. DISA never shut down during the pandemic. We just moved from a federal workspace to our own home workspaces and kept going. And what I can say about the contracting force is they never lost momentum, they never lost focus on the priorities at all in doing that.

How have your first six months gone?

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