An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : Media : News : News Article View
NEWS | June 18, 2020

Defense Digital Service Is Hiring Talent, Continuing Mission Despite COVID-1

By David Vergun DOD NEWS

WASHINGTON -- Before COVID-19, the Defense Digital Service was already equipped to work remotely, the agency's lead recruiter said.

"When COVID came we were prepared, and we took our laptops, and we went home," Christian "CJ" Johnson said via livestream video at a Defense One Tech Summit panel.

The tricky part of COVID-19 for the agency was that several dozen candidates for employment were set to join DDS. Johnson said she reached out to the Office of Personnel Management and requested waivers to bring them on board remotely. That request was granted.

"These persons are all coming on remotely," she said. "They're jumping into their projects. We're providing them with their equipment, and we're moving along in the projects. This shows the [Defense] Department that they should consider looking at some of the tools we use outside of being confined to a building."

Though DDS doesn't pay what Silicon Valley can shell out, Johnson explained that it's not about the pay. It's about the mission.

"If you connect the talent to the mission, they're really going to want to come," she said. "This is unlike anything you've ever done. At DDS you are allowed to hack a satellite. There's so many things you can do to support national security. It really is so impactful, and it really resonates with the technologists."

Service with DDS is two years with an option to extend two more, which many choose to do before returning to the private sector. Johnson explained how DDS hires.

"You have to be able to go into spaces and places where the nerds are. You can't be afraid to use unconventional ways," she said. "You have to totally forget about using . You have to use recruiting sites that are heavily used by technologists. You have to attend tech conferences. You really have to engage and look at entrepreneurs who have had different startups, ... who've actually done different things and built different products to really bring them into our space."

Johnson said recruiting isn't a problem. "The problem is the [hiring] processes and policies that often become blockers to bringing in talent at a faster pace," she said. To make life more comfortable and relaxed for these technologists, Johnson said, DDS has open seating and dry-erase walls in the Pentagon that don't look like any other space in the building.

Chris Lynch, the CEO of Rebellion Defense and the former DDS director, said that when he was in the building, the DDS team hacked the Pentagon in just three months during an exercise — a lot less time than people expected.

"There's something powerful with speed," he said. "We didn't cut corners or safety."

His advice: "Challenge yourself to go fast. This is about disruption, it's not about innovation. Disruption takes something we know that needs to be changed and it puts in new approaches that are far more impactful."

Tara Murphy Dougherty, the CEO of Govini, said her company strives to hire people with DOD experience, including those who serve a tour in the building with DDS.

"The department is one of those places where it's really hard to understand how the Pentagon actually works," she offered. "The back-and-forth of exchange of talent is valuable for the department and the tech sector."

But don't look for work at DDS if you're not driven, she said. "We don't care what you're passionate about. We just want you to be passionate. The more we hire those people and point them at national security problems, the better off we're going to be."




Bersama Warrior 2024 first week wraps up with Mission Analysis Brief
Exercise Leadership receives a mission analysis brief as Bersama Warrior 2024 wrapped up their first week of the command post exercise, June 8, 2024 in Kuala Lupmur, Malaysia. (Courtesy Photo)
June 12, 2024 - Forty members of the Washington National Guard and their Malaysian Armed Forces counterparts wrapped up a successful first week of the Bersama Warrior 2024 staff exercise with a mission analysis brief on June 8, 2024, in...

U.S. Navy and Air Force special operations personnel conduct routine training in the Republic of Korea
A U.S. Air Force AC-130J Ghostrider gunship assigned to the 4th Special Operations Squadron from Hulburt Field, Fla. lands at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea (ROK) June 12, 2024. The Ghostrider and its crews are participating in a regularly scheduled joint, combined exchange and training (JCET) event designed to positively affect the combat readiness of special operations forces (SOF) personnel in support of the mutual defense of the U.S. and ROK homelands. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jacob Cabanero)
June 12, 2024 - U.S. Air Force personnel and an AC-130J Ghostrider gunship assigned to the 1st Special Operations Wing arrived in the Republic of Korea on June 12, 2024, in support of an ongoing joint, combined exchange training iteration...

RIMPAC to begin June 27
Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2024 coordinator Royal Australian Navy Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Gill, right, briefs Commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet (C3F) Vice Adm. John Wade about RIMPAC 2024 at C3F headquarters, June 11, 2024. Twenty-nine nations, 40 surface ships, four submarines, 14 national land forces, more than 171 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are set to participate in RIMPAC in and around the Hawaiian Islands, June 27 to Aug. 1. The world’s largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity while fostering and sustaining cooperative relationships among participants critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans. RIMPAC 2024 is the 29th exercise in the series that began in 1971.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Sarah C. Eaton)
June 12, 2024 - Planning and preparations are being finalized for the 29th biennial Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), a multinational exercise involving 29 nations and more than 25,000 personnel, set to run June 27 to Aug. 1, in and...

ASD(A) Cyber Warfare and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Convene Workshop to Discuss Cyber Challenges Faced to Safeguard Critical Infrastructure
June 10, 2024 - From April 16-18, 2024, more than 90 experts in the fields of cybersecurity and operational technology throughout the Indo-Pacific region gathered to analyze and discuss the cybersecurity challenges of critical infrastructure...

JPRMC-X | Closing Ceremony
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Marcus Evans, the commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division, alongside Philippine Army counterparts, salutes during the closing ceremony held at Fort Magsaysay, Philippines, June 10, 2024. The annual Salaknib exercise enhanced the strategic readiness capabilities of the U.S. Army and Philippine Army while building on the shared vision of maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Samantha Aguridakis)
June 10, 2024 - U.S. and Philippine Army soldiers and distinguished guests come together for the closing ceremony of the 2024 Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center-Exportable (JPMRC-X) exercise held at Fort Magsaysay, Philippines,...