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Navy’s Chris Kelsall: Cyber Must Compete for Resources

cyber_security2Christopher T. Kelsall supports the Department of the Navy CIO IT Workforce Team. We had the opportunity to learn about his role specifically, some implications of the new social media policy, and some of his current priorities and challenges.

ExecutiveGov: Could you explain your role in supporting the Department of Navy CIO IT workforce team?  Can you tell us specifically what you do in your role?

Chris Kelsall: I’m the director of DON CIO Cyber IT Workforce Team.  I serve as a principal expert on workforce policy, planning, systems, credentialing and development requirements for the workforce.  Additionally, I’m responsible for recommending and integrating new workforce programs, requirements and developing theories and concepts, principles, standards and methods for workforce development. I also represent the department of the Navy in both Department of Defense and federal efforts surrounding all of the work that is going on with the cyber security workforce development, the associated competency development and in reporting to Congress.  I also serve as the Don Lead for the information assurance workforce improvement program which includes the training and certification efforts.  I represent the Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer on the Federal CIO Council IT Workforce Committee.  All of these activities are accomplished working directly with U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps cyber IT workforce personnel organizations and folks from our Department of the Navy Human Resource Office. Finally, I’m a member of the Executive Board of the Federal Information Systems Security Educators Association.  Their objective is to facilitate information exchange in the area of information system security awareness, training and education.

Chris Kelsall
Chris Kelsall

ExecutiveGov: Could you tell us about the new social media policy and possible drawbacks or opportunities of the new policy?

Chris Kelsall: As you know, the policy is very high level and in a nutshell it says nonclassified networks will provide internet capabilities. The Department of Defense will defend against malicious activities affecting the network. The Department of Defense will deny access to sites with prohibitive content and internet use will comply with ethics regulations. As such, Department of Defense employees are welcome and encouraged to use the new media especially to communicate with family and friends whether in home port, home stations or deployed but we stress that it is important to do that safely.  Everyone has the responsibility to protect themselves and their personal information online and the information of others and the existing regulations on ethics, operational security and privacy still apply even with the new social media.” The DON CIO’s policy is to use collaboration tools where it makes sense because they enable better communication and collaboration. These tools are very helpful to the Department as we move forward with the new workforce and work to achieve our mission.


“Cybersecurity must constantly compete with other occupations for resources. We are not always the primary mission of an organization.” – Chris Kelsall


ExecutiveGov: How are you able to ensure the Department of the Navy has the leadership commitment, the resources and the initiative to develop the cyber IT workforce?

Chris Kelsall: The DON leadership and cyber IT leaders and human resources leadership are all committed to ensuring the DON has the most capable cyber IT workforce in the world, if you listen to their public statements on leadership that comes out constantly.  The policy and strategic planning guidance that we are receiving all the way down from the top is establishing the environment where the cyber IT workforce in particular is being looked at to be the best in the world and with that environment it is becoming even more possible to look forward in realizing that goal. The second piece is the folks within the DON working these issues all have direct access to the leadership, to the cyber IT flag officers and the senior executive service personnel on a daily basis. The working relationships across the department including with the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps personnel and the organizations in this area have all allowed us to coordinate across the services and organizations. The workforce itself has really jumped at this opportunity. They are very committed.  We’ve established teams that work together on workforce issues, on our policies, on our strategies and the requirements that are needed to move forward. All of these are developed with input from the workforce personnel across the department themselves and just as importantly the human resources leadership and key workforce members have been working with us on a daily basis also to ensure that they provide the knowledge needed to execute strategies and workforce plans and provide the human resources information that is necessary to realize our recruiting and hiring principles.  We operate as an established functional and human resources team. Finally, the DOD has set up teams at the DOD level to specifically address cyber IT workforce requirements and issues. This venue provides us the additional opportunity to share across the DOD components which include the services and the agencies and where needed to gain visibility at the DOD level for workforce needs.

ExecutiveGov: What are you working on currently?

Chris Kelsall: We are working with the federal government OPM initiative that I think you’ve seen in the news where they are looking to build cyber workforce competencies.  We are involved in that effort as both in our role as part of the federal CIO council workforce committee and in our Department of the Navy role and we bring Department of Navy and Marine Corps folks together for those sessions in developing that work.  We are also working with the Department of Defense and have worked for years on the information assurance workforce improvement program and continue to work as that program evolves.  We also work with the Department of Defense specifically on the civilian side with the functional community management effort and human capital planning.

ExecutiveGov: What are some challenges that you are facing? How are you going to overcome them?

Chris Kelsall: The primary challenge faced by the community is the future requirements that will need to be addressed. We have to constantly look at our needs regarding our current systems, our networks and telecommunications but also in how we are going to do business in this new world defined by cyber security. Right now, there are multiple studies and reports pending legislation and efforts that are all looking to address the cyber security workforce across the national arena. Once the role and structure of the federal Department of Defense is outlined we’ll need to take a hard look at how we structure our workforce to meet those processes. We realize that we will be doing this in a balance with the other workforce requirements of the department and we will have to work directly across multiple occupational areas to ensure that we have the right resources necessary to be that world-class workforce that we talked about.

ExecutiveGov: Can you tell me your favorite or least favorite part of your job?

Chris Kelsall: The favorite part of the job is the people that I work with, the people that it brings me in contact with, not just in the Department of Navy but across the federal government. I constantly am impressed by the commitment and the passion of these folks.  They really, really want to do good. The desired drive of the folks at every level of the workforce from the bottom to the top should not be underestimated.  Just as a sideline most of these folks are also a lot of fun. The least favorite is pretty much the opposite.  Cybersecurity must constantly compete with other occupations for resources. We are not always the primary mission of an organization. We help them accomplish that mission. As such, the resources necessary to meet IT workforce requirements are just always not available. Additionally, the acquisition process for IT within the Department of Defense is constantly being discussed but we have yet to come to terms with how we prove the acquisition of IT.  It is amazing what you see from the folks in the field and what they accomplish with what’s supplied to them and how they adapt it to their use. We just need to be able to do that in the formal acquisition process.

ExecutiveGov: What’s one thing most people don’t know about you personally?

Chris Kelsall: There is not a roller-coaster in this world that I wouldn’t get on twice.

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