Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert J. Skinner relieved Navy Vice Adm. Nancy A. Norton as the director of the Defense Information Systems Agency and commander of Joint Force Headquarters–Department of Defense Information Network during a ceremony held at the organizations’ joint headquarters on Fort George G. Meade Friday, Feb. 26.
Skinner, who received his commission through Officer Training School in 1989, became the 19th DISA director and the fourth JFHQ-DODIN commander. He was promoted to lieutenant general during a ceremony held in the Pentagon Hall of Heroes a day preceding the change of command and directorship.
Prior to assuming command and directorship, Skinner served as the director of Command, Control, Communications and Cyber at U.S. Indo-Pacific Command on Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii, where he was responsible for C4 across the largest regional combatant command enabling joint and coalition operations.
Army Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, commander of U.S. Cyber Command, director of the National Security Agency and chief of the Central Security Service and acting Department of Defense Chief Information Officer John Sherman were the ceremony's guest speakers and presiding officers.
Nakasone welcomed Skinner and Norton and highlighted many of the significant roles they have held during their careers.
“Under Nancy’s leadership, JFHQ-DODIN has matured in its role to secure, operate and defend the DoD Information Network,” he said. “This mission area is one of the department’s, and my, top priorities. Unity of effort and synchronization of the department’s network defense has been a hallmark of her tenure as commander.”
“Over the last few years, I have come to know Bob well. I am excited to see him take on this challenge,” Nakasone continued. “I first met Bob in 2013 when he was the deputy commander of Air Force Cyber here at Fort Meade. Since commissioning in the Air Force, he has commanded our communication and cyber professionals at the squadron, group, wing and numbered Air Force levels.”
Sherman echoed Nakasone’s praise for both leaders and personally thanked Norton for her expertise and passion for the mission.
“I want to thank you for the partnership, the expertise, and the passion you’ve had for the mission,” Sherman said. “That passion always came through for the mission here, for the women and men you lead here, and especially for the goodness of DOD, and DISA, and of course JFHQ-DODIN. They say what you leave behind is a real mark of a leader, and you are leaving an incredible legacy behind here.”
He said he’s confident that Skinner will build upon that success.
“I’ve been proud to work with you, albeit for a short time,” Sherman said. “I’ve talked to you about things like zero trust and cybersecurity and advancement in one of the most important and perhaps dangerous regions of the world, and you’ve been right there on the front line as the J-6 out there. We’re going to need every bit of that energy and vigor you brought to that job here back in Maryland again as you take over DISA and JFHQ-DODIN. I know you are going to do well, and I know you are going to build on what Admiral Norton has given you here.”
During her tenure, Norton led DISA and JFHQ-DODIN in connecting and protecting the joint warfighting community in cyberspace even in the most trying of circumstances. She instilled a culture of trust and accountability while at the helm, dramatically transforming the agency and command into a well-coordinated team, achieving new heights of effectiveness and efficiency.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Norton’s guided actions brought together operational and administrative authorities and capabilities to lead DoD through the largest transition of work flow to telework while ensuring the agency and command were focused on the high-priority mission to keep DoD functioning. She leveraged the workforce’s technological expertise to maintain continuity of operations and to increase the department’s telework capability and capacity around the world, while taking the appropriate preventative measures to protect the health and safety of the workforce.
“DoD had to completely change how they did business to maximize telework in order to keep our workforce safe to be able to defend the nation,” she said. “Most of our workforce were sent home just like everybody else across DoD, but we were able to deliver without hesitation, without pause. We never stopped working. We delivered results.”
Norton said she’s always believed in empowering people and giving them the opportunity to do the things that they need to do to be successful, which is critical in a time of crisis.
“With COVID-19, we rapidly sent people home, asked them to telework and had to then trust them to understand what the priorities were and how they would fulfill their mission day in and day out,” she said. “So that approach to trusting your people, and making sure that they have the tools and the ability to do their job and fulfill what they actually know they need to do really became important.”
Norton’s dual-hat position, with one foot in the U.S. Cyber Command operational role and one in DoD Chief Information Officer’s community role, was instrumental in prompting initiatives that will lead to positive changes in policy, processes and technology in the coming years.
After assuming command, Skinner spoke directly to the men and women of DISA and JFHQ-DODIN.
“You have 61 years of exemplary service and providing key combat capabilities to forces worldwide, JFHQ-DODIN, just over six years,” he said. “The department is expecting the same, if not more, as we continue to address the future complexities across the spectrum.”
Skinner concluded his remarks by reminding the workforce of who DISA and JFHQ-DODIN serve.
“My charge to you is that each and every day we must say: What have I done for the warfighter? What have I done for our mission partners?” he said. “The great philanthropist Albert Schweitzer once said, ‘example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing.’ Let’s get to it and set the right example.”
Immediately following the ceremony, Norton retired from the U.S. Navy after 34 years of service.