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The President’s Management Agenda (PMA) sets out broad, ambitious goals for improving the customer experience and empowering the Federal workforce. While technology underpins these goals, an in-depth understanding of the agency's mission and challenges is required to truly realize the promise of the PMA. MeriTalk sat down with Joe Kehoe, vice president of the Department of Defense (DoD) practice at Maximus, to learn how his company approaches agency engagements and leverages emerging technologies to modernize agency systems – with the goal of providing the best experience for his customers’ customers: American citizens.

MeriTalk: One of government’s biggest challenges is balancing legacy system operations with the need to modernize and, in the process, employ emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) to advance agency capability. How do you see this balancing act of maintaining legacy systems and modernizing playing out in DoD today?

Kehoe: Traditionally, when we thought about technology advances of legacy systems, we focused on operational systems and improving a process or increasing the functionality of an application within an organization it supported. In today’s technology ecosystems, legacy systems still have a place; however, those systems are often compartmentalized. As we move forward with technology modernization efforts to include transitions to the cloud and integration of emerging technologies such as AI, we can break down those organizational barriers and securely increase collaboration of data while accelerating the department’s ability to address mission needs.

Modernization of IT environments and advancements in emerging technologies have enabled DoD armed services and agencies to gain more insight and ask questions of their data. We have seen a shift from a descriptive posture where we once asked, “What is happening?” to a predictive posture where we are now gaining insight through data to understand “What will happen next?” This increase in insight allows commanders in the field and senior executives to make decisions more quickly and accurately.

MeriTalk: Not long ago, cloud was seen as an emerging technology; now it enables emerging technologies like AI and machine learning (ML). How has Maximus helped the DoD make the best use of cloud?

Kehoe: Over the past 10 years, government and industry have increasingly aligned and got smarter about how we implement and manage our technology environments, particularly around cloud. Maximus, as the lead integrator of the Army’s Logistics Modernization Program (LMP), is a good example of this partnership coming together to successfully migrate a critical Army supply chain system to the cloud. LMP is an enterprise resource planning system that builds, sustains, and generates warfighting capabilities using one of the largest fully integrated supply chain and maintenance, repair, and overhaul solutions in the world. It is deployed in more than 50 locations and has 23,000 users. Its successful move to the cloud was a massive effort that took careful planning, coordination, and execution across Army organizations. Maximus is proud of today’s LMP system, which allows for finance and logistics data to be more visible, accessible, trusted, interoperable, and secure.

MeriTalk: We know that thwarting cyber threats is a constant challenge. What do you see defense organizations doing to not only minimize cyber threats but also get ahead of them?

Kehoe: Unfortunately, our adversaries are getting more sophisticated in their attacks and as a result, we have to stay resilient in our security posture. While technology advancements have been a game changer for innovations that provide deeper insight into our data, they have also increased new pathways of vulnerabilities within endpoint systems, cloud environments, networks, and third-party tools. Cybersecurity remains a top priority within DoD. Over the years, we have witnessed a close partnership between government and industry in addressing the advancement of cybersecurity and the secure integration of emerging technologies within government IT environments.

At Maximus, we provide comprehensive cybersecurity capabilities, drawing on our team of experts who monitor thousands of assets and process millions of security events monthly. We maintain the protection of large and complex programs with sensitive data that includes work within sensitive compartmented information facilities (SCIFs).

We have been able to support organizations such as Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) in advancing their cyber missions through high-performing teams and cyber technology integration that address not only attacks on the network, but also provide policy, governance, and application security.

MeriTalk: We often hear about military organizations employing emerging technologies such as virtual reality (VR)/ augmented reality (AR) to improve soldier training and battlefield capabilities. Can you tell us how emerging technologies are being used within the Defense Health Agency (DHA) to support soldier mental health?

Kehoe: At Maximus we focus on delivering operational excellence to meet our clients’ mission needs. Each program we support starts with an understanding of our client’s mission objectives and the impact on those our clients serve.

The DHA’s mission is to support providers and supply care to the warfighter to ensure they are fit and healthy both physically and mentally to be a ready and lethal fighting force. The DHA Web and Mobile Technology (DHA WMT) is an innovation arm within DHA and is the center for software development.

Maximus supports the DHA WMT programs and develops various innovative application types – mobile, progressive web app, VR/AR, 3D, desktop – that are designed to help active military, veterans, and their families live better and healthier lives through improved mental health. We currently are developing two VR applications that have been co-created with our clients and have more planned for the future. One VR application is being developed as a supplement to a patient’s mental health treatment with their provider. It is designed as exposure therapy with the added benefit of the user’s provider being able to change the virtual environment’s parameters to best fit their patient’s needs. The other VR application is designed to educate the user about posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms while providing an interactive way to get their heart rate up while learning.

MeriTalk: What advice do you have for defense leaders as they continue to adopt emerging technologies?

Kehoe: Continue to lean forward, innovate, and work in partnership with industry. Keeping pace with the speed of technology through acquisition requires a close alignment with industry. Together, we can securely bring industry’s innovations into operational environments and maintain the technological dominance that is essential to advancing our national security.

MeriTalk: What sets Maximus apart from other government IT providers?

Kehoe: You can only solve agency problems by understanding their true mission and the impact on the people that they serve – our customer’s customer. That customer experience is woven into everything we do: every planning mechanism, every briefing, every implementation. That’s the spirit of Maximus: immersing ourselves in our clients’ mission, bringing in technologies, and training our people to understand the customer experience from headquarters to the field and to mobilize to meet the mission need. We co-create solutions with our clients, taking a technology agnostic approach. We believe what we do matters, and we take that passion to work every day.

Learn more about how we’re supporting the Department of Defense (DoD) through leading-edge technology and digital expertise to deliver end-to-end solutions for agency modernization.