The events of 9/11 changed how we think about leadership, disruption, and the ability of organizations to survive and be resilient in the face of change and even disaster. On the episode, three seasoned leaders from the federal government share their experiences and lessons learned.

Dr. David A. Bray currently serves as the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), an independent agency of the United States (U.S.) government. As CIO, he supports the eight current goals of the FCC in the areas of broadband, competition, the spectrum, the media, public safety and homeland security, as well as efforts to modernize the Commission.

Karen S. Evans is serving as the National Director for the US Cyber Challenge (USCC). The USCC is the nationwide talent search and skills development program focused specifically on the cyber workforce. She is also an independent consultant in the areas of leadership, management and the strategic use of information technology.

Tony Summerlin is the Senior Strategic Advisor at Federal Communications Commission (FCC). He served as the senior advisor to the CIO of the United States Government for 7 years. Tony is three time winner of the Federal 100 Award for significant contributions made by a private sector employee assisting in the achievement of the President’s Management Agenda.

Transcript

Michael Krigsman:

Welcome to Episode 192 of CXOTalk. I’m Michael Krigsman, and CXOTalk brings together the most innovative people in the world who are focused on digital disruption, digital transformation, and the impact of technology on organizations and on society. Today’s show is really a special one. We’re talking about the impact of the events of September 11, 2001 on our notions of disruption, our notions of organizational resiliency and leadership. And, we actually have three guests today. And let’s start off and I’ll ask them to introduce themselves in turn. David Bray is the CIO for the Federal Communications Commission. David, how are you?

David Bray:

I’m great! How are you, Michael?

Michael Krigsman:

I am excellent! So David, tell us what you do.

David Bray:

Sure. So, right now I’m the Senior Executive and Chief Information Officer at the Federal Communications Commission. Fifteen years ago, I had signed up for a little-known program called the Bioterrorism Preparedness Response program at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, and was actually supposed to brief the CIA and FBI on September 11, 2001, on what we would do if a bioterrorism event was to happen. So, obviously a lot of memories there. I will be interested in talking about both about what happened and what was supposed to happen after all of that.

Michael Krigsman:

Fantastic! And then, at FCC Headquarters, we have Karen Evans and Tony Summerlin. Tony, please. Welcome to CXOTalk, this is your first time. Give us a brief introduction about yourself.

Tony Summerlin:

I’m Tony Summerlin, I work for Dr. Bray here at the FCC. I’ve been here as long as David has, three years, but I’ve worked in and out of government for 30 years, luckily not all of it, just a small part of it. And, I’m leading the modernization efforts on David’s behalf here at the FCC.

Michael Krigsman:

And Tony, rumor has it that across the government, when people think about IT and the CIO role, that they look to you. That’s the rumor I heard.

Tony Summerlin:

Well Karen can probably say a lot to that, since I supported her in the White House for seven years, but I’m the disposable object that gets moved along to get things done. So I make a lot of contacts, friends, and the other people on a regular basis. (Laughter) When you try to disrupt people, they get very upset, so, I would say it’s probably 50:50 whether someone thinks I’m a positive or not influence, and I like to think I am. But we make a lot of change.

Michael Krigsman:

Well, we’ll definitely talk more about that. And, Karen Evans is the Head of U.S. Cyberchallenge, and really had the first role of U.S. Government CIO, though at that time, it didn’t have the CIO title. So, Karen Evans, welcome! How are you?

Karen Evans:

Oh, I’m great. Thanks for having me back, and I would think based on our title “Disruption and Resiliency”, that that is Tony’s nickname. He is a disruptor and he’s very resilient, so he is the embodiment of what we’re talking about today.

Michael Krigsman:

Alright, so then, let’s begin. Tony, let’s go back to September 11, 2001, and where were you, and what happened and what was the impact on your business and your organization at that time?

Tony Summerlin:

Well, I was actually sitting on a racehorse, exercising a racehorse at the racetrack, and I came back and saw what happened, and rushed back to the office. The world definitely changed. We were in the middle, with Mark Forman, of designing the e-Gov initiatives, which Karen was a huge part of, and trying to change government from the e-Gove perspective, and making government more efficient. And certainly in the face of what happened on 9/11, it added a whole new level of difficulty because people’s focus had changed necessarily away from government and technology, to the security of the American people.

Michael Krigsman:

And

Michael Krigsman:

Welcome to Episode 192 of CXOTalk. I’m Michael Krigsman, and CXOTalk brings together the most innovative people in the world who are focused on digital disruption, digital transformation, and the impact of technology on organizations and on society. Today’s show is really a special one. We’re talking about the impact of the events of September 11, 2001 on our notions of disruption, our notions of organizational resiliency and leadership. And, we actually have three guests today. And let’s start off and I’ll ask them to introduce themselves in turn. David Bray is the CIO for the Federal Communications Commission. David, how are you?

David Bray:

I’m great! How are you, Michael?

Michael Krigsman:

I am excellent! So David, tell us what you do.

David Bray:

Sure. So, right now I’m the Senior Executive and Chief Information Officer at the Federal Communications Commission. Fifteen years ago, I had signed up for a little-known program called the Bioterrorism Preparedness Response program at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, and was actually supposed to brief the CIA and FBI on September 11, 2001, on what we would do if a bioterrorism event was to happen. So, obviously a lot of memories there. I will be interested in talking about both about what happened and what was supposed to happen after all of that.

Michael Krigsman:

Fantastic! And then, at FCC Headquarters, we have Karen Evans and Tony Summerlin. Tony, please. Welcome to CXOTalk, this is your first time. Give us a brief introduction about yourself.

Tony Summerlin:

I’m Tony Summerlin, I work for Dr. Bray here at the FCC. I’ve been here as long as David has, three years, but I’ve worked in and out of government for 30 years, luckily not all of it, just a small part of it. And, I’m leading the modernization efforts on David’s behalf here at the FCC.

Michael Krigsman:

And Tony, rumor has it that across the government, when people think about IT and the CIO role, that they look to you. That’s the rumor I heard.

Tony Summerlin:

Well Karen can probably say a lot to that, since I supported her in the White House for seven years, but I’m the disposable object that gets moved along to get things done. So I make a lot of contacts, friends, and the other people on a regular basis. (Laughter) When you try to disrupt people, they get very upset, so, I would say it’s probably 50:50 whether someone thinks I’m a positive or not influence, and I like to think I am. But we make a lot of change.

Michael Krigsman:

Well, we’ll definitely talk more about that. And, Karen Evans is the Head of U.S. Cyberchallenge, and really had the first role of U.S. Government CIO, though at that time, it didn’t have the CIO title. So, Karen Evans, welcome! How are you?

Karen Evans:

Oh, I’m great. Thanks for having me back, and I would think based on our title “Disruption and Resiliency”, that that is Tony’s nickname. He is a disruptor and he’s very resilient, so he is the embodiment of what we’re talking about today.

Michael Krigsman:

Alright, so then, let’s begin. Tony, let’s go back to September 11, 2001, and where were you, and what happened and what was the impact on your business and your organization at that time?

Tony Summerlin:

Well, I was actually sitting on a racehorse, exercising a racehorse at the racetrack, and I came back and saw what happened, and rushed back to the office. The world definitely changed. We were in the middle, with Mark Forman, of designing the e-Gov initiatives, which Karen was a huge part of, and trying to change government from the e-Gove perspective, and making government more efficient. And certainly in the face of what happened on 9/11, it added a whole new level of difficulty because people’s focus had changed necessarily away from government and technology, to the security of the American people.

Michael Krigsman:

And, Karen, where were you and what was your situation at that time?

Karen Evans:

So, on that day specifically, I worked for the Office of Justice programs, which is in the Department of Justice and makes federal grants out to state and local governments. The taskforce that Tony’s talking about, I think it’s really key, especially since we’re talking about disruption and resiliency, because that really is what Mark Forman was attempting to do; to use technology to disrupt the federal government services, and make them more resilient.

But, my particular area in that was working government to government and we had one called Disaster Assistance — disaster benefits. But, it was very focused at that point on physical types of things, like hurricanes, storms. And I remember that working group, and even Tony, and the Office of Management and Budget, giving me a hard time because I had spent two years through the Office of Justice programs talking about terrorism, because we had that big incident in Japan. Remember sarin gas on the subway and stuff like that? So I was very focused on that and we had been training the nation on doing things like threat assessments.

And, when that day happened, I was in Washington DC, at the Office of Justice Programs, and all telecommunications went down within a matter of maybe ten minutes of seeing the actual buildings being attacked on CNN. I remember us all watching it on CNN. And then, rumors started flying about what was happening in Washington DC, and then the third plane then hit the Pentagon. And so, I just remember everyone wanting to run out into the streets, and we were like “No, no, no, no!” because that’s what we were trained on, because that’s what the terrorists would want us to do, is to run out onto the street. And what if this isn’t over and they’d take over the subway.

So, it was really trying to figure out, like, you’re really stressed, but trying to provide services at the same time. So, because we were a rebel component within the Department of Justice, we weren’t configured like everyone else. So, ours was the only working email services, working in the entire department. And so we were actually the ones that had to communicate with everybody else outside of the department to be able to mobilize the things that had to happen between the FBI, the White House, the Office of Victims of Crime. And we actually went in to the mode of implementing our plan, because it was happening live.

But, I will tell you on a side note, we were still getting emails from the taskforce group, like Tony and those guys, and because everything was due in! All this stuff was due in! They were still sending us notes, and I sent notes back. And I remember sending one note back saying, “OK, now it has happened, and I’m redoing the paper because in a matter of hours, you have to provide  a response about what should the White House do as a result of this terrorist attack.”

Tony Summerlin:

That’s right.

Michael Krigsman:

And, David Bray. You are, and I should say Dr. David Bray, you are the CIO of the FCC. And, give us your historical note on what happened: Where were you? What were you doing at 9/11, and then we’ll talk about some of the lessons learned.

David Bray:

Sure. So that specific day, September 11, as mentioned, I was actually supposed to give a presentation at nine o’clock to the CIA and the FBI as to what we would do technology-wise if a bioterrorism event happened. And actually leading up to that, for those who remember, in March 2001, the Agile Manifesto had come out, which was encouraging Agile development versus Waterfall development way back in 2001. And I was an early proponent of that, because we had to get things out as quickly as possible, even before 9/11. And I was told to get back in my box: follow the five-year enterprise plan; follow the five-year enterprise budget strategy. In fact, I was a bit of a heretic, sort of like Karen as she sort said was a rebel; a rebel constituency within the Department of Justice. I don’t know if I was necessarily mainstream CDC in trying to push for Agile development and rapid prototyping.

But, fortunately we did do some rapid prototyping so that when 9/11 happened, we actually did have technology in place that day. Most of the CDC was sent home from work because we didn’t know if the CDC might be a target. But those of us who were still with the bioterrorism program, we loaded computers in the cars, set up an underground bunker, and then got people up in the air to New York and DC to help with the response, in case there were biological consequences that happened with 9/11.

Michael Krigsman:

And so, for all of you what were some of the key lessons that you learned on that day or subsequently thinking about it in terms of the types of disruptions that hit an organization, and how to think about recovery and then in the longer run, think about resilience?

David Bray:

So I’ll toss out the first one, which is a common theme I think you already heard, which is normally it’s the people that are the potential heretics, or the people that aren’t necessarily in the mainstream of the organization that are usually the ones that are actually getting the organization prepared for a bad day, and they’re not appreciated until the bad day happens. That’s definitely the case of both Karen and Tony, as well as myself. And so, one of the things that I try to do going forward is encourage diversity of thoughts, and if everybody’s thinking the same thing, try to find someone who’s not thinking the same thing because that will actually help increase both cognitive diversity of the organization and of the group, but also make sure that we’re prepared, and looking at things from all angles should a bad day happen.

Michael Krigsman:

So Tony, diversity of thought, that seems like a key attribute in the long run of creating resiliency. Cognitive diversity, David just said.

Tony Summerlin:

Oh, there’s no question. I mean, the diversity of thinking and that’s one of the things we learned as Karen pointed out and we learned in a big way, during the e-Gov initiative, if we hadn’t had those 100 people? Karen Evans: 100 people. 100 people narrowing down to 20-40 e-Gov initiatives, and the diversity of thinking was essential in the way we approached things. And, without that, I don’t think we would have gotten very far. I mean, traditional thinking was only going to give you the traditional answer so, I think that was the genius of putting it together in that form.

But the other parts that work really well is all these people existed in government. Nobody flew them in from the left, west coast, or from overseas somewhere. They all exist in government. So, you didn’t need anybody else to come in and tell them what needed to be done. They all knew it, they needed a platform and an audience and a vehicle to get things done, and the group did extraordinary things. There was no question that what was pushed out during that time, considering this was all being done in the face of a new threat that the United States had never known, was extraordinary. And I think that Mark and especially Karen with her seven years of pushing things forward, if you ever look at what was being pushed forward during that timeframe, it was pretty extraordinary in the face of everything that was going on globally.

Michael Krigsman:

Karen, please. Go ahead.

Karen Evans:

Well, I was going to jump in a little bit about the difference of thought and to build off of what Tony said, and a lot of this this, I think, really comes down to the people who have to keep the trains running. Like if you come out of operations, and you only have to fail once somewhere along the line in your career, and you figure out, you go through every scenario that could possibly happen, so that you can then provide the services. And so that might make you a rebel, like David is saying, thinking about “Waterfall isn’t working. Let’s switch to Agile because this is going to happen.” It’s really, very scenario-based, and if you come out of an operations background, you go through every scenario up to the point of “What if the whole world comes to an end, and the government still exists?” And that scenario-type of things that the federal government employees actually work through. And say, OK, what servers do you need to have should this catastrophic event happen? Because it’s always about what we call “coop and cog” in the federal government, you know. It’s the continuity of operations, it’s the continuity of government.

So, what do you have to do to keep operations going, and then what part of government continues to run? And so we were kind of programmed under coop and cog. What happens within an hour, and what has to happen in 30 days in order to keep the country stable.

Michael Krigsman:

David, this notion of “coop and cog” - this type of scenario planning certainly existed before 9/11 and what changed in the aftermath 9/11 as far as this goes?

David Bray:

Sure. I think what happened was a lot of the cases up until 9/11 - if you were thinking outside the box like Karen and Tony, or myself, it was you were kind of pushed to the side. People were thinking about continuity of operations in the face of a Cold War-like threat. They weren’t thinking about what might be on the horizon, what might be new. I think that’s probably true not just of public service but of any government organization, in that they always expect the future to be like the past but slightly different, when in fact all evidence to the contrary is the future is not at all like the past.

So, if you can remember in 2001, we had ten years of the supposed “Peace Dividend” after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and so people were still, pretty much, if they were thinking about continuity of government, continuity of operations, it was probably nuclear, it probably was thinking about something large-scale and nation-state-backed, and not thinking about sort of a lone individual. Of course then after 9/11 came about ten years of focusing very much on terrorism and not thinking about other things that might not be terrorism-related. It might be natural disaster-related, it might be some other form of disruption. And so I think, as a leader you have to be very cautious about making sure your organization doesn’t fall into the trap of thinking the future is going to be like the past, only slightly different. And you need to help them expand their aperture and say, “OK, well this might happen, but what else might happen that we’re not thinking about yet?”

Michael Krigsman:

Tony Summerlin, you are, for the most part, behind the scenes inside the government running IT with David, working for David inside the FCC, while providing other organizations within the government outside the FCC with advice on how to run their IT operations. So, that’s a case for stability, but at the same time, you’re trying to drive change with the Cloud, trying to drive organization change, and so how do you reconcile the demand for stability on the one hand and the need and the desire for disruptive change, on the other hand?

Tony Summerlin:

Well, I don’t actually run anything, I support things, but with great people that run stuff. But what I try to do is move stuff from what I consider jogging or walking to running. So, what we really have to do is pull the rug out from under people, without using too many analogies. People are very comfortable doing what they’re doing. And, in government, just like in most places, you get rewarded for things running the way they’re supposed to run, and you don’t have the time to look at different ways of doing it. So, you have a fall guy that says “We’re going to stop doing it that way, we’re going to do it this way,” and someone has someone to blame it on, that that’s usually me. Then they’ll move along the path because the only loss is not seeing me anymore, which people are pretty happy with at that point, but it has to be, in this case, especially at the FCC, it has to be dollar for dollar. Everything new we did, had to be funded by cutting something else, so it’s a very painful process. But 50% of the people are OK with it and out of that 50%, maybe 25% actually back it. But when things start coming around and they start seeing successes and nobody’s getting shot, it moves pretty well.

But you have to partner with the best of the best, as in software providers and integrators. I mean, there are people that get up every day to do the best job they can. People don’t get up to do nothing. So you get them all on board with a nice path that has a very clear end goal, and you have leadership like Dr. Bray, who clearly sets what the light looks like at the end of the tunnel, and then it’s easier to bring people along. But, nothing is easy, because there is no reward. I mean, the reward for doing a good thing has usually been quashed unfortunately over the years, so it’s no one’s fault. It just has to be done in a way so that someone else can take the heat. And luckily, our chairman, and Dr. Bray, and our managing director are all willing to take the heat and when it works that way from the top, it’s not really as hard as one might think.

Michael Krigsman:

Well of course, there is that old saying that goes, “No good deed shall go unpunished.”

Tony Summerlin:

True!

David Bray:

I just want to say that you’re hitting the nail on the head, Michael, with the fact that if you want to encourage resiliency, you have to encourage a change in the incentives. As Tony was pointing out, there’s really no reward for taking risk in public service and that’s OK. That just means that those of us who do it, want to do it for something other than some tangible reward. We want to do it to actually make some positive difference in the world or the nation.

Karen Evans:

Well, see, then I would argue that is the reward. And so, when you look at public service, and you look at what is the motivator in how to create an environment where disruption is appreciated. Because you’re talking about, like, how do I bring in new technology? How do I integrate new processes? How do I change things? And that reward is in the long-run, and you may not necessarily be rewarded in the short run, but in the long-run, you’re rewarded because I see a lot of the things that I’ve been pushing really hard for that I got my butt handed to me more times than who knows what, but the nation is doing it now. I mean, there’s the embrace of...I can’t go and… I’ll share this one little thing, this is really...This is kind of funny. I think it’s funny, but my husband says I have a techie sense of humor here...

But, my son just graduated with a public policy degree, and they were talking about the implications of different policies coming out of the White House. And, they actually picked up one of these tech policies, which was mine dealing with IPv6, all this other stuff like that, right? And so…Tony Summerlin: That was a three-year project. That was a three-year project! But, the point is that my son was in the class, and the professor was saying a bunch of different things, and so my son put his hand up and said, “No, that’s not the intent of the policy, and here’s how it works and here’s what…” And he went through this whole process about why the White House does what it does to try to stimulate the economy, to have a market response. And then he goes, “Well how do you know?” And he says, “Well, look at the signature on that policy,” and he looked at it and he said, well, “That’s my mom.” So, he came back and he goes, “I can’t believe the way they’re interpreting these things!” That’s the reward. It’s not the instant gratification that we get from public service, it’s about you’re making a difference and it may not come back to you until ten or fifteen years later. Like, where we are today. It’s fifteen years after September 11 and a lot of the things that I fought really hard, and said needed to get in place, are now in place. And so, there are things that the nation will never know, all the struggles that went on to get them in place, but there’s a resiliency now in the infrastructure.

Michael Krigsman:

We have a very interesting question from a regular listener, Arsalan Khan, who’s asking on Twitter. Are there incentives in place to encourage people in the government to think differently?

David Bray:

So, I would say, sort of what both Karen and Tony were saying, which is 1) the long-term impact — that you do get to see things 10-15 years later that you worked on and then pushed through to get done; 2) it is a responsibility of any good leader to actually try and push things forward. So, I think both what Karen tried to do in her role as federal CIO, my role as FCC CIO, is make sure at least for those people on your team, you are rewarding them even if the larger ecosystem hasn’t taken that on. I do think it’s a larger conversation which is, if public service was designed to be risk averse, partly because the Founders didn’t want it to change overnight, are there parts of it where we need to give more license to taking risk and experimenting.

But it’s partly, I mean, I would say another reward of working in public service is working with people like Tony and Karen. I mean, Tony is one of those wonderful individuals that people don’t normally think of when they think of public service: that he races horses; he races cars; he runs races himself in marathons; he’s fiercely loyal. And, you talked about the balance between stability and disruption. Tony would never take on a stability project, he’d get bored. But, he’s all about disruption. And I think that is one of the sort of untold stories about people who work behind a curtain in public service. You never hear about the people you get to work with, and that I’d say is a great reward itself.

Michael Krigsman:

And we have another question from Twitter. I always like to take the questions from the audience because that is most pressing on their mind. And Chris Petersen is asking, is there a difference between change agents and pushback from political appointees, versus government careerists, versus before and after an election? Anybody want to take that one?

Karen Evans:

So, let me take that one, okay? Because having done them on both sides, being a career person for 25 years and being a political person before I left, and David’s still a career person, I think I should answer that question!

Michael Krigsman:

So, go for it!

Tony Summerlin:

And qualified.

Karen Evans:

And qualified! Yeah. So, there are different ways to lead. And the way to think about this is political leadership has short tenure. And career leadership, if you thought about this as a project or program, they’re working on a program on political leasdership with short milestones along the way, and career leadership is in it for the long-haul, right? So they’re going to the same outcome but one is focused on continuing on regardless of who’s at the top. Now, are there different rewards for what happens in between these guys? In how to do change agents and what are the change agents? I would say it all depends again on communication and leadership. And so there’s a lot of communication, and depending on the leadership style of the political individuals that come in, and the tone set by the President at the top, that drives a lot of things down through political leadership.

But there is this level of career, I call them the “we be’s”, and they are categorized as “We be here when you be gone.” And everybody gets it when you say “the we be’s”. And so, that layer has to really be penetrated, and you have to really, really strive to show them why you want to get to that outcome. And if they buy in, then they are the strongest change agents that you can forever have in a program.

Tony Summerlin:

And these are courageous people and they all exist. And that’s why I love working for people in government. They’re all there. I mean, all you have to do is present the opportunity, and the “we be’s”, I took Mark Forman to meet the CIO when he first came in, and the CIO told him, “Yeah, I think it’s all very interesting, but I can’t do any of it, and I’ll be gone and you’ll still be here so have a nice day.” So, those people exist, but I don’t think it’s the propensity to behave that way, but you have people like Karen and you ‘d have folks from industry come in and tell her “You’ll never get a job for the rest of your life!” Because of the way that she talked to them and the rules that were in. And she was like, “I don’t really care.” And so, it depends on the goal of that individual, whether political or career. If the goal is to go into private industry and be loved. And there are some people like David Whittaker, for example, who was a tremendous careerist who was fantastic in the private sector.

And so, people can stick to their gumption and their notions and do the right thing and get great jobs leaving government. So it’s a tenuous line though. I mean, I’ve watched Karen get her butt kicked a bunch of times by government…

Karen Evans:

And industry! Both!

Michael Krigsman:

Well we have another, and this is very interesting; and by the way I want to mention that there are thousands of people watching us and I want to thank every single person who is watching right now. We are talking about lessons in organizational resiliency learned after the events of 9/11. And we’re speaking with David Bray, who is the Chief Information Officer of the Federal Communications Commission, and Tony Summerlin who is the special adviser at the FCC, and Karen Evans, who runs the U.S. Cyber Challenge and really had the role of the first United States CIO. So we have another question from Arsalan Khan, who asks, is it possible to enlist government contractors to help with the change process? How would you harness the govenrment contractors to help with this? I hear laughter…

Everyone:

[Laughter]

Tony Summerlin:

Well, I am a strong believer in harnessing, and we never would have achieved what we were lucky enough to achieve at the FCC without harnessing, that’s a really good word. I mean, I believe in partnering to a very, like, blood brothers extent with our integrators and vendors. And IBM, well, we partnered with the company to move all of our data centers to West Virginia and do everything necessary in the next six months. If you didn’t have a blood relationship, that couldn’t happen. So, the only warning I give to people when they come into the FCC to sell us something or give us something, is we’re really serious. And I learned a lot of this from Karen when she was in the White House and it’s like, “You really want to do that? This is what you have to do to invest to work with us.” And every company. We have nine SaaS products and every single one of those companies are deeply embedded with us. And if we can’t pick up the phone and talk to the top people in the company, and they respond to us, then we just don’t do business with them. It’s not only possible, but it has to happen and Avi Bender is leading an effort now over at Commerce. Karen Evans: Right. That’s a JV effort with industry and I think that has to happen. And I don’t really see that much resistance from industry if you go to the right people.

Karen Evans:

Well, and the other part of this, when you’re looking the portfolio overall. When I was managing the portfolio, it was 71 billion dollars. Seventy one billion dollars. Now it’s at 85 billion dollars. So, when you are talking about what your requirements are, I mean, we’re a good portion of the market. So, you just have to really be clear. I think Dr. Bray is really very clear about what his expectations, what his vision is, what he wants to achieve for the FCC. And when you do that, contractors will respond because they want to be part of success. No one wants to be part of a failure, but I think that you have to be clear about what that outcome is, and you have to share the success with them. And they can’t walk away from you when you’re failing. And that happens a lot. Federal contractors will throw the government agency under the bus, and that’s not right either. And so, you really have to have that shared partnership going for them. And I think David, if you talked a little bit about that clear vision you have, then industry wants to partner with you.

David Bray:

I agree one hundred percent. That’s why I’d use the word, Michael, I’d use the word “public service” because that is first and foremost the public and public-private partnerships, and then government professionals. I think the U.S. is great when we actually have our industry in alignment with what is being done in local communities, and what's in alignment with what's being done in the public sector. And I think sometimes, we end up with industry going in a different direction than what I mean by the public sector and in a different direction than local communities, and that’s where it takes leadership to really bring them all together with a clear vision. And that’s what I think we brought to the FCC and is the secret to our success, aside from having Tony on the inside of the Holy Hand Grenade organization.

[Laughter]

Michael Krigsman:

Let’s shift gears slightly and, Tony, I know that you have been very involved in the effort at the FCC, and I’m sure in the federal government more broadly, to move to the Cloud. So, tell us your views of the Cloud, and what is the relation between Cloud and resiliency, and any other perspectives you have on the Cloud.

Tony Summerlin:

The first thing that started this was data center consolidation, which Karen wrote up before the end of the last administration. And unfortunately we have a branch of government that’s supposed to facilitate contracting and so-forth to help that happen and they haven’t helped very much, which is unfortunate. But to skip over and go to Cloud now is a real possibility. So we had to move two of our data centers out of the FCC, necessarily, because number one, I can’t understand why anybody in the world would want a data center in downtown DC in the nuclear zone, and the expense associated with it. But because of accounting rules and so forth in government that I won’t go into, you can’t actually quantify what it costs. So, if you ask somebody what it costs to have your data center on K Street, they say it doesn’t cost anything, it’s included. So, those things need to be put aside.

But if you’re not going to move the data center or consolidate data centers, then at least take a look at the applications you have and if they can be modified so they can be in a Cloud environment, then they should be there. Why? Because ultimate resiliency lies in the Cloud. People say, "Well, I don’t know that the Cloud is safe.” These people are businesses. They stay in business by staying operational. If there’s anyone that’s going to keep a data center running, it’s someone that has a Cloud. So, I think the entire argument about cybersecurity and resiliency is ludicrous. Comparing a data center to a true Cloud environment (another form of data center, but a true Cloud environment), where you’re slicing and dicing applications and you’re slicing and dicing space and storage, is so much more resilient than anything any agency could afford, even DoD. People cannot afford it. As David has pointed out many times, cybersecurity is the ultimate reason. We can’t afford as a small place; the commission can’t buy all the tools necessary to be cybersecure. But cloud infrastructures provide a level of security that otherwise is unavailable. And people provide pipes to the cloud that are absolutely secure. So, I think the argument about whether or not to go to Cloud is silly. Buying applications that are born and bred in the Cloud that are just SaaS applications is the way to go. And if you’re building platforms, you have Azure softlayer, AWS, you have platforms that are Cloud-based to build them on. And you have ultimate resiliency in those environments with access from anywhere. So, it supports working from home; it supports BYOB; it supports any functions you want not to be at the office in Downtown DC or somewhere else.

Karen Evans:

So, I want to bring it back to 9/11 and then fast-forward to Cloud. So, when 9/11 and all of this stuff happened, there was one news service that stayed up through the whole thing, which was CNN. So, we wanted to find out who was actually hosting and provisioning CNN. And it turned out it was Marc Andreessen. Marc Andreessen’s new company. And he always wanted to talk to me.

So, he wanted me to buy provision services. So, if you think about this, this was fifteen years ago, so we’re running a data center. So what we said to him was...So he was actually thinking about Cloud before Cloud was called Cloud, so think about that in 2001. Well the other part of that was, we said, “You know what we’re really interested in? What software were you using to provision as fast as you were provisioning, given how you had to scale up and surge in order not to go down. Would you sell that to us?” So they started thinking about it, repackaged it, and that’s Opsware, that he ended up spinning off, selling out. But he was working on Cloud, so now come fast forward to Cloud.

So Tony’s talking about apps and other stuff. People are looking at it because of the argument. Tony Summerlin: The enablers. The enablers...I’m at the point where you don’t even need a data center anymore. We should even be talking about data center consolidation, it should be data center closure. So if you look at this administration's policy, it actually talks about data center consolidation and closure now. Because, for resiliency and disruption, you want to go. So retooling applications... and now you talk about government contractors and industry responding? There’s technology out there right now that knows that all the organizations, which are prohibiting going to the Cloud as app re-enigineering. So they’re actually coming up with technology so you don’t have to re-engineer your app, you can take advantage of the Cloud, and they’re going to be right in the middle. And to me, I think we’re going to bypass this whole argument about the apps and cybersecurity, and we’re going to buy this one little object-like connector. There’s technology in there and industry is responding to that. And it’s going to be both in private industry as well as public sector. And that’s this disruption that’s going to happen in maybe I’d say in may be 12 months to 18 months. You’re going to see that type of technology come out that’s going to allow us to just fully make use of Cloud.

Michael Krigsman:

So yesterday, on the Oracle earnings call, Larry Ellison made the comment that on-premise is here...The comment he made was “Coexistence will be in place for the next ten years,” between on-premise and the Cloud.

Tony Summerlin:

Yeah.

Karen Evans:

Possibly.

David Bray:

On-premise should be dying, it should be a slow, ideally faster death than some people are predicting, because I think if you’re on-premise, you can’t be fast. I mean, one of the biggest advantages that we got moving to the Cloud at FCC was, if you’d asked us to send a new application in the past, it would have taken six-seven months to do the procurement and get a working prototype. Now, with Software as a Service, we can get a new application prototype working in less than 48 hours. And so, that’s the biggest advantage. So, any organization that tries to do things on-premise, you need to be okay with not being very fast. And as Karen and TOny mentioned, is you do have to have the resiliency. What do you do when there’s a surge? Both a surge because more people want to view things or just because there’s more traffic? Or a surge because there’s a distributed denial of service attack. And so, again I don’t see the value of on-premise. Finally, just the effectiveness, that really get more money focused on development vs. trying to maintain systems, here at the FCC, we were spending 85% of our budget and growing just to maintain our systems. Now it’s less than 50%. So, I would actually say, and it’s not just true for public service, any company looking at how they want to exist in the next year or two, you should be 100% public cloud. I don’t know why you would do anything on premise. Maybe the only thing right now that’s holding you back is you can’t move your existing assets in legacy applications. But that’s when you get to Karen’s point, which is that there are companies that are coming along and will allow you to jump much faster to get off those legacy applications to the Cloud.

Tony Summerlin:

You know, we’re working at the FCC with companies that are willing to take our kit out the building, move it to their Cloud environment, and start translating the app, and all as part of a service. So, it moves away, but the whole roadmap is based on the fact that they’re going to be rewritng and moving the apps. The whole problem with old legacy systems in the Cloud, evne if you do the translations necessary, is that costs are extraordinary. Yet when Tony Scott gave a speech and someone challenged him on the cost differences, it’s not about cost, it’s about agility and resiliency. You’ll never get them in your data center.

Michael Krigsman:

Ok. So, we have just a couple of minutes left. And, this has been a very interesting discussion of the Cloud. But, why don’t we, in our last few minutes, just go around the virtual room, as it were, and each of your final, parting thoughts on retaining resiliency and the role of leadership in that. So David, shal we start with you?

David Bray:

Sure. So one thing I want to say real quick on the Cloud conversation. I would love to see a virtual conversation between Marc Benioff of Salesforce and Larry Ellison. That would be a fun Cloud vs. on-premises discussion that I would love to pay money to see. Because I think that they definitely have strong views.

On closing thoughts, the one closing thought I would leave is it takes leadership that will help create incentives for your team to act differently, to lead differently, to think differently, and to encourage risk takers to look outside the box and say, "Well, every day right now looks like we’re being okay, and what are we thinking about in the future that may be a disruption like a 9/11-like event, or maybe just a disruption because the marketplace might change, or a customer base might change." We might have a disruption of that sort, and that’s where you want to have people thinking differently. Specifically for public service, I think we really need to have a strong conversation that brings together Congress, that brings the executive branch, and the public sector, that brings together industry, the private sector, and communities. Because right now, there are things such as encryption debates such as debates about bio and things like that, where we’re really going in different directions. But I think at the end of the day, we all want to see the same thing, which is a safe, secure, free, and private well-being of the United States and this world. So can we have a conversation about how we can continue to be resilient, in an era in which technology is moving forward exponentially.

Michael Krigsman:

Fantastic. Karen Evans, your final thoughts quickly on resiliency and leadership.

Karen Evans:

I think if you want to have true resiliency, it requires leadership, and the adoption of disruptive technology and innovation. Because everything David’s talked about in the innovation of thinking, needs leadership to allow it to be embraced in the organization.

Michael Krigsman:

Ok. Tony Summerlin, you get the last word.

Tony Summerlin:

Our chairman is a courageous guy, when we moved our data center and because we went offline, they tried to attack him on the Hill and he said “I absolutely refuse to apologize. It was what had to be done and it’s the right thing to do.” There are pain points. There are pain points, but it has to happen and unplugging people is always unpleasant, but there are plenty of technologists out there to help, and I think there are plenty of people in government and elsewhere that have their heart and soul to make  a change. You know, the incentive should be the outcome. I don’t think these pay things or anything like that will help, and I think the what government has to do in particular, is not provide disincentives. And, other than that, just letting people move forward with their thinking. I’m a consultant. Most places I go people already know what they need, they just need somebody to tell it.

Michael Krigsman:

Ok. So giving people the freedom to solve the problems in the right way. So, you’re a positive person, a very positive person aren’t you? You’re an optimist.

Tony Summerlin:

Me? I am! I wake up every day totally paranoid but very optimistic.

David Bray:

He’s a disruptive optimist.

Michael Krigsman:

I like that. A disruptive optimist. And, on that note, it is time to end this very interesting conversation, and it just flew by, and I’d like to thank the thousands of people who watched this show today, and special thanks to our guests. You have been watching Episode 192 of CXOTalk, and today we have been speaking to David Bray, who is the Chief Information Officer of the Federal Communications Commission, Tony Summerlin who is special adviser at the FCC, and Karen Evans, who is the leader of the U.S. Cyber Challenge and who was, in fact, the first person in the CIO role for the United States federal government, ever. What an awesome show. And I also really want to thank Livestream, because the Livestream folks really provide our video infrastructure and they just help make CXOTalk possible. So thank you to Livestream and thank you to everybody, and we’ll see you next time.