Chief Information Officer

The CIO of PAE Talks About “ISIS, Ebola, and Antarctica: A Case Study of Out-of-the-Box IT”

John Lambeth, the CIO of PAE, discussed the special challenges of bringing IT to crisis situations.

Lambeth began his keynote presentation at the 2016 CIO Leadership Forum held in Washington, DC on February 2 by explaining his challenges as the CIO and head of cyber-security. PAE, a provider of integrated global mission services, operates worldwide and even has personnel in Antarctica managing the polar research center. Lambeth’s job is to balance risk and the mission—“turning data into information and getting it to someone sitting on a cardboard box in the jungle in Liberia.”

In his world, said Lambeth, there really is a difference between theory and practice, especially from an information security perspective. “I’m a CISSP and I’m in charge of global cyber-security as well as IT strategy for PAE. A big challenge I have is that my customer—the federal government—is going to the Cloud.”

“A big challenge I have is that my customer—the federal government—is going to the Cloud.”

One of the structures that Lambeth has put in place is having the CISO report to the CIO. There’s a parallel VP of Security who looks after things like cage codes and classifications. He reports to the Chief Legal Counsel. “This is very effective in our world,” said Lambeth, “because we have to deploy a governance process and often have to use technologies that aren’t the mainstream technologies that we use internally.”

Lambeth emphasized that his organization supports BYOD. Of PAE’s 15,000 employees, only about 1,000 have corporate PCs because they’re in the field fixing aircraft, purifying water, cleaning up facilities, or training counter-terrorism units, explained Lambeth. How does the CEO get his message of the day to people who may log on to the corporate network only every two or three weeks? “We meet these challenges by using BYOD. We also support droids and iPhones.”

The Office of the CIO at PAE has two critical components. One is the program office, where the highest level PMPs work, and the other is the CISO. The CISO reports to the program office. This is where PAE creates governance when it rolls out large programs. No one can engage IT unless they come through the program office, said Lambeth.

Some of PAE’s locations are only reachable by satellite uplink or dark fiber. “Our challenge is to aggressively embrace new technologies as much as we can tolerate from a risk standpoint,” explained Lambeth. Emerging, cloud-based technologies include: identity management, infrastructure as a service, event management for security incidents, storage, and disaster recovery. “These are the topics that CIOs are going to be grappling with over the next three years.”

“Our challenge is to aggressively embrace new technologies as much as we can tolerate from a risk standpoint.”

Lambeth concluded his presentation with some general recommendations for CIOs gleaned over his years of experience in IT:

“Look for opportunities in your organization where you can be part of revenue generation. It puts you in a whole new set of meetings when you’re directly impacting the revenue or external customer satisfaction.”

“We took the highest level PMPs and put them into IT. When we sign a contract with an external program, we put an IT/PMP alongside the program lead as he or she tries to stand up the program. This makes IT the place to go if project management expertise is needed for external programs.”

“We took the highest level PMPs and put them into IT. When we sign a contract with an external program, we put an IT/PMP alongside the program lead as he or she tries to stand up the program. This makes IT the place to go if project management expertise is needed for external programs.”

“The best way to avoid surprises is to connect yourself in some way to business development. That’s where you’ll find the strongest partnership to make sure IT isn’t caught unawares.”

Visit Argyle Executive Forum's CLOUD TOGETHER SUMMIT - Dallas in Dallas, TX on Feb 26, 2020

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