Walking the red carpet into history: DISA, JFHQ-DODIN welcome first female director

Cover Story

Navy Vice Admiral Nancy A. Norton passes through a military honors cordon as she prepares to take on responsibilities as commander of the Joint Force Headquarters–Department of Defense Information Network and the directorship of the Defense Information Systems Agency during a ceremony held Feb. 1 at the organizations’ joint headquarters on Fort Meade. (Photos courtesy DISA Office of Strategic Communication and Public Affairs)

By Noreen Costello, Chief, Communications Branch, Defense Information Systems Agency Public Affairs

Navy Vice Adm. Nancy A. Norton assumed command of the Joint Force Headquarters — Department of Defense Information Network and directorship of the Defense Information Systems Agency on Feb. 1, becoming the first female director of one of America’s top military information organizations.

The ceremony was held at the organizations’ joint headquarters on Fort Meade.

Navy Adm. Michael S. Rogers — U.S. Cyber Command commander, director of the National Security Agency and chief of the Central Security Service — presided at the ceremony, along with Essye B. Miller, acting DoD chief information officer.

Army Lt. Gen. Alan R. Lynn relinquished command and directorship of his final command after serving the nation in uniform for 38 years.

“I look at this audience and I think to myself, ‘Man, if you are doing anything in [information technology], networks, cyber … you are here today,” said Rogers as he opened the ceremony in the standing room-only venue.

Vice Adm. Nancy A. Norton (center) accepts the guidon from Essye B. Miller, acting DoD chief information officer, during the change-of-command ceremony on Feb. 1. Norton assumed command of Joint Force Headquarters-DoD Information Network and directorship of DISA from Army Lt. Gen. Alan R. Lynn (right).

DISA’S Impact

Addressing the men and women of DISA and JFHQ-DODIN, Rogers said, “You do something that matters to this nation, and every day you work tirelessly. And on your best day, quite frankly, many times people won’t really appreciate what you do. But on your worst day, everybody appreciates what you do. … You are literally spread around the world, and yet you do a job that matters every day and you do it tirelessly.”

The four-star admiral said the ceremony was an opportunity to stop for a moment and remember the importance of command and accountability.

“That idea, ultimately, is embodied in the concept of a man or woman willing to step up and say ‘I will assume this responsibility. I will assume this role. And no matter what happens, I am the ultimately accountable individual,’ ” Rogers said.

“That is something incredibly powerful,” he said, turning to Norton, who will report directly to him as commander of JFHQ-DODIN. “I can’t say how proud I am of what you have done and what you have achieved, but more importantly, what you will achieve. I look forward to being your mission partner in so many ways.”

The acting DoD chief information officer, whom Norton will report to as director of DISA, said she was thankful to be a part of the ceremony.

“It’s a great day to be thankful — thankful for a variety of reasons,” Miller said. “Thankful for the men and women of DISA and the global capabilities that you bring to bear in support of our warfighters’ missions. Thankful for the families that stand behind these two officers and the force as they do their job. And finally, thankful for the future and opportunities that DISA will have under the leadership of Nancy Norton.”

“You carry the trust and confidence of many of us as you step into the role of DISA [director],” Miller said to Norton. “I have no doubt you’ll be a great partner as we go forward.

“Even more so, you and Al will stand in the legacy of the DISA directors that are here today, who have paved the way and broken many boulders for you to move ahead in technology and in the way we do business.”

Miller also brought on a thunderous round of applause when she said, “I get to partner with the first female director of DISA.”

Finally, she remarked on DISA’s relevance to the department.

“Many of you know the National Defense Strategy was released just a couple of weeks ago. Secretary [of Defense James] Mattis is committed to restoring military readiness as we build a more lethal force, strengthen our alliances with our partners, and reform the department. The mission and the capabilities that this organization brings to bear resonate in all three of those areas,” Miller said.

Lynn’s remarks focused on thanking the many people who have supported him professionally and personally throughout the course of his career and during his time at DISA and JFHQ-DODIN.

“It has been an honor to work with the men and women of DISA and JFHQ-DODIN because they are truly special,” he said. “They have all the talent in the world and they’ve put that talent towards an idea bigger than themselves, towards service to the nation.

“It is what makes our nation great and it’s an honor to have served with this caliber of men and women.”

The passing of the JFHQ-DODIN and DISA unit flags served as a symbolic transfer of command, responsibility and authority before Norton took the stage to make her first remarks as commander and director.

“It’s my great privilege and honor to relieve Lt. Gen. Al Lynn today,” she said. “This is a special day for me because of the officer and leader that I have had the opportunity to work for and learn from over the last few months, and get to relieve today.”

Norton thanked her family, friends and the mentors she has had through her career.

‘Deeply Grateful’

“I am deeply grateful for the confidence placed in me as I take the helm,” she said. “It’s an exciting challenge that I now eagerly, gratefully, and humbly accept. I will never take the weight of this responsibility for granted.”

Norton also spoke directly to the men and women of DISA and JFHQ-DODIN.

“You are clearly committed to supporting a tremendous mission, supporting our warfighting and defense mission around the globe,” she said. “This is the information age, and it is your hard work and dedication that will keep the information flowing.

“You have proven to be a great team, and I look forward to leading this team and the challenges we will face together. It is an incredible honor and privilege to be serving with you. God bless you, and God bless America.”

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