What Technology Contractors Should Expect from Vincent Viola as Army Secretary

Published: January 11, 2017

ARMYBig DataCybersecurityInformation TechnologyInnovation

President Donald Trump has nominated Vince Viola for Secretary of the Army. What are the implications for defense technology contractors?

Anyone following politics knows by now that President Trump has selected Vincent Viola to serve as Secretary of the Army. Viola, formerly a major in the Army reserves, has a long record of understanding the issues facing American soldiers and of the technologies that can help them achieve their mission. The founder of Virtu Financial, Viola has become a very wealthy man through the practice of high frequency trading, a technology approach at the forefront of financial trading. This alone suggests that Viola recognizes and is willing to exploit emerging technologies, a good sign for defense contractors who provide the Army with “game changing” capabilities.

I had the opportunity to hear Mr. Viola speak at the LandWarNet Tech Conference in Tampa, Florida back in 2011. It wasn’t clear to me then that Mr. Viola was an officer in the reserves, but he soon set me straight by launching into a talk on the need for the Department of Defense to embrace innovation. Concerning the Army in particular, Viola argued the need for U.S. technology to stay six or seven steps ahead of potential adversaries. He also praised the Army’s effort to modernize its IT infrastructure.

The gray-hairs among us will remember that this was back when the Army was just embarking on its “Installation-as-a-Docking-Station” initiative, a forerunner of the Joint Information Environment, when the Army envisioned increasing bandwidth to and from camps, posts, and stations to enable the use of mobile computing devices by Army personnel.

Mr. Viola recognized back then the importance of the IaaDS effort for the Army. Defense IT providers can therefore expect Mr. Viola to set technology investment at the top of his agenda. I expect him to fully support and even expand the efforts of the Army’s Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO), which is part of the Department of Defense’s Third Offset initiative. This will translate into increased investment in autonomy, robotics, electronic warfare, networked weapon systems, and offensive and defensive cyber capabilities.

Concerning cybersecurity in particular, Mr. Viola sits on the board of the Army Cyber Institute at West Point, a group that serves as subject matter experts informing business practices and strategic direction for Army cyber. This is a group with an intimate understanding of what the Army’s cyber posture is now and where it needs to go in the future. Mr. Viola will bring this focus to the secretary’s office meaning that industry can expect him to maintain and reinforce the Army’s currently charted course on cybersecurity.

Lastly, in his role as founder of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, Mr. Viola has shown a clear understanding of the importance of intelligence analysis. This fact should indicate a recognition on Mr. Viola’s part that big data analytics must become standard across the U.S. Army. This is a path upon which the Army has already embarked, but with the increased funding that President Trump intends to direct to the DoD, we should see investment in big data technology experience robust growth.    

This brief high-level overview of what Mr. Viola brings to the table should set technology vendors’ minds at ease when it comes to the prospective future of investment by the Army. Vince Viola represents continuity with the present technology leadership and the extension of its priorities into the future. He’s what you might call a “sure thing” for a defense IT industry that values stability and consistency.