The value of soft drink diplomacy

By September 13, 2018Faces of the Force
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COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Installation Information Infrastructure Modernization Program, Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems

TITLE: Information system security manager


EDUCATION: Associate degree in general studies, University of Phoenix; Microsoft Certified System Engineer; Certified Ethical Hacker; Certified Authorization Professional; Certified Information Security Manager

DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in program management

by Ms. Susan l. Follett

Bennie Braswell, information system security manager for the Installation Information Infrastructure Modernization Program (I3MP) within the Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS), describes himself as “a nuts and bolts kind of guy. I like understanding how things work, and I like working on things that require attention. That’s why I enjoyed being a Navy diver, and that’s why I enjoy working in cybersecurity—the process of figuring out that I need this piece of equipment so I can perform that task.”

Braswell leads a team that implements cybersecurity throughout I3MP projects, aiming to save time, money and effort for the Army and U.S. taxpayers. “I3MP modernization is paramount for our personnel and the leaders supporting Army’s tip of the spear,” he said. “My greatest satisfaction is knowing the systems I3MP modernizes are as secure as possible, preventing intrusion with secure, defensible, in-depth configurations.”

I3MP supports warfighters through information technology, infrastructure modernization and life cycle management of the Army’s Installation Campus Area Networks and Strategic Command Centers in the continental United States (CONUS). It provides a robust and scalable networked information infrastructure that allows migration to a network-centric, knowledge-based operation, and enhances connectivity between forward deployed forces with CONUS installation infrastructure.

“My experience within I3MP has been very rewarding. I am fortunate to work with many of the organization’s and the Army’s best technical subject matter experts [SMEs]. By working with personnel who have nearly as much concern for cybersecurity as my team and I have, we can provide superior support to Armywide cybersecurity efforts,” Braswell said. “One of the biggest surprises I’ve encountered is how the staff here responds when they encounter a challenge. We run into a lot of brick walls, but everyone—SMEs, network engineers, video teleconference engineers and cybersecurity personnel—always seems to come together to develop a way through, and to do so quickly so that we’re not wasting the Army’s time or money.”

Braswell has had the opportunity to take advantage of several educational opportunities over the course of his career, he noted, “and from the classes I took, the biggest lesson I learned is the importance of listening closely to all involved parties. But even in the classroom, collaboration didn’t always pan out well. I guess I’d like to buy the acquisition workforce a Coke so we can all get on the same page and know the importance of each SME’s input while remaining focused on the main objective.”

Bennie Braswell, right, with information security system teammate Jason Ross. Reminding people of the importance of what his team does is one of the more difficult aspects of his work, Braswell says. (U.S. Army photo by Racquel Lockett-Finch, PEO EIS)

Bennie Braswell, right, with information security system teammate Jason Ross. Reminding people of the importance of what his team does is one of the more difficult aspects of his work, Braswell says. (U.S. Army photo by Racquel Lockett-Finch, PEO EIS)

By his own admission, acquisition is a career Braswell stumbled into. He spent five years in the Navy, where he became certified as a Mark V diver and was also a diving instructor and a diving corpsman. Following his Navy service, he joined the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s Computational and Information Sciences Directorate (CISD) as a systems administrator. “I did that for about three or four years, and then became very interested in cybersecurity, very early on.” Braswell then became an Army certification representative, reviewing security plans related to obtaining authority to operate certification. “In that job, I learned to spot where security gaps were and how to fill them,” he noted. He then moved back to CISD, spending half a dozen years there before moving to PEO EIS. “The position I’m in now combines my tech background and my cybersecurity background and gives me the opportunity to use all of it on some very complex systems.”

One of the more difficult aspects of his work is reminding people of the importance of what his team does. “It’s not as much of a challenge as it used to be, but when I’m trying to do what I need to do to create a secure system, I often hear things like, ‘These security measures take too much of my time,’ or ‘Why do I have to do it this way? Why can’t we do it the old way?’ ” Braswell said. “I try to overcome it in a few ways: by explaining the importance of what we do, and pointing out the cost and consequences of not having it. It usually costs three times more to redo a system that’s not built correctly than it does to just install the proper security measures in the first place, so that’s another reason it’s important to get things right the first go-round.”

He added that the challenge is offset “by knowing that we can save program managers time and money by making sure our systems administrators apply proper security controls and everything moves smoothly. We work hard to identify the right software and hardware they’ll need and identify the optimal time during a modernization effort to install that equipment,” he noted. “We use a lot of metrics to ensure that the necessary components are available and installed at the right time. We follow [process management expert W. Edward] Deming’s principle of doing the right things right, at the right time.”

Looking back at his acquisition career, Braswell noted, “the only regret I have is that I didn’t start soon enough. Had I gotten involved 20 years ago, I would have been able to make a much bigger contribution.”

“Faces of the Force” is an online series highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce through the power of individual stories. Profiles are produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication and Support Branch, working closely with public affairs officers to feature Soldiers and civilians serving in various AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, please contact 703-664-5635.

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