The Pentagon’s new chief information officer offered the first glimpse of his strategy at a Thursday conference, with a focus on sticking to principles in the latest National Defense Strategy and emphasizing improvement of current DoD technology.

Dana Deasy, who was sworn in as DoD CIO on May 7, said he will pursue big tent initiatives such as cloud computing and machine learning but maintain a focus on working within the department’s massive IT infrastructure and meeting the Secretary of Defense’s goal for lethality and reform.

New DoD CIO Dana Deasy (right) discusses his strategy at the AFCEA Defensive Cyber Operations Symposium. Photo: Matthew Beinart.
New DoD CIO Dana Deasy (right) discusses his strategy at the AFCEA Defensive Cyber Operations Symposium. Photo: Matthew Beinart.

“I also always remind people innovation is sometimes taking what you have and how do you make it better,”Deasy said at the AFCEA Defensive Cyber Operations Symposium in Baltimore. “I think that sometimes we don’t spend enough time on looking at the fact that we have an estate, a very large estate, and we shouldn’t always be think that the only way you get improvement is moving to something brand new.”

As the department’s lead technology official, Deasy will oversee much of the department’s upcoming multi-billion dollar Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud project. JEDI has received industry pushback for its single source contract structure, which some see as tailor made for a large company such as Amazon [AMZN] Web Services.

Deasy cautioned against thinking of the massive cloud migration as a move from an old IT system to a new one, but rather as an opportunity to improve DoD’s current network.

“This is the most phenomenal opportunity I think we’ve ever experienced as technical folks, to be able to look at your legacy estate and say this is a brilliant opportunity to re-engineer,” Deasy said. “Cloud allows you to do amazing things you simply haven’t been able to do thus far, the idea of self-healing, awareness, the ability to get more services on the fly. This give us, as IT professionals, a whole new way to operate and build the future of how we want IT to run.”

Deasy who has no prior military experience, said he is using the most recent National Defense Strategy to formulate his approach, and work towards the document’s call for updated technology initiatives and capabilities that improve mission readiness.

“It’s going to be multi-dimensional. There will be some technologies that we’ll be doing that will actually support both the reform side as well as the lethality side. In most everything we’re talking about doing, you’ll end up back at how does this help with our alliances,” Deasy said.

Deasy, a former JP Morgan lead technology, is the first confirmed CIO since the role opened up in February 2017. He takes over for acting DoD CIO Essye Miller.