GovCon Expert Jill Singer, vice president of Defense & National Security for AT&T Public Sector and FirstNet, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz for the publication’s latest Executive Spotlight interview to discuss AT&T’s work within the intelligence community and federal agencies.
In addition, Jill Singer, a six-time Wash100 Award recipient, also talked about the significant impact that the company has made for federal agencies during the pandemic as well as AT&T’s work in the defense sector with DoD and more.
“We had a pretty great 2021, and we are poised for even more excellent support to the missions we serve. We have new developments with ultra-available networks and high-speed networks. Using those capabilities, we expect to connect mission clouds at critical locations around the U.S. for one of our customers and provide them phenomenal data speeds.”
You can read the full Executive Spotlight interview with Jill Singer below:
ExecutiveBiz: You’re a recognized national security industry leader and a six-time Wash100 winner! Knowing there’s only so much you can openly share about AT&T’s work within the Intelligence Community, can you speak to some of the work AT&T does for these agencies?
“In the national security space, we’re looking at modernizing the technology infrastructures of the Intelligence Community members that we support, and often that’s through advanced connectivity solutions. A big part of our work with these agencies includes managed and professional services.
We bring the power of AT&T and our world-class connectivity and technology services to the Intelligence Community. We also offer mobility, 5G, FirstNet, cybersecurity, and other critical, innovative solutions.
We aren’t necessarily using the exact product or capability that AT&T would deliver to a commercial company for the Intelligence Community. Instead, we are “lifting” our commercial networking services into classified networks and providing our resources through professional services to meet mission needs.
For instance, we are transforming the global network of an unnamed federal agency and introducing new capabilities such as auto-bandwidth management and more modern network management systems. This is an extensive global network. We’re also setting them up for the future and preparing to migrate their network to software-defined networking when the time is right.
We are the trusted IT infrastructure and end-user solutions provider for a different, separate agency. We manage their desktop connectivity services and deliver their networking capabilities. We’ve implemented network performance improvements and helped them improve the way they monitor their network performance. We have also modernized their voice and their internal 911 services.
In addition, we are working with federal agencies on cybersecurity prevention, detection, and response threat analytics. Our cybersecurity work in the Intelligence Community showcases some of the unique features that AT&T has in cyber as a significant global communications provider.
For other government agencies, without naming names, we shifted an agency’s information sharing and collaboration capabilities over to the cloud to help them take advantage of cloud infrastructures.
I should also point out that we have provided air-to-ground communications capabilities for the U.S. government’s top leaders for over six decades. The truth is that we have been supporting the Intelligence Community for a long time.”
ExecutiveBiz: What was the significant impact of the current pandemic on AT&T’s work with national security agencies?
“The pandemic was a remarkable shift for everybody across the world. Due to the classified nature of the work inside the Intelligence Community, those workers couldn’t go home when the pandemic hit.
Their missions needed to continue 24/7, which often meant the workforce was in the office on modified schedules and social distancing as much as possible. For one agency, we supported a massive shift to classified video teleconferencing meetings to assist with social distancing while running the mission.
The same was true for our teams working in the classified space every day since the pandemic started. Our senior leadership at AT&T understood that our team never left work — unlike the vast majority of the country. We stayed at work and were in the office through the entire pandemic. So, there wasn’t a significant change for us, and we were right there inside the offices doing what we needed to do.
In some areas, the pandemic allowed us to jumpstart some of the end-user services needed by refreshing work environments. We also focused on ensuring end-user devices and network equipment were patched to guard against emerging cyber threats.
If people weren’t in the office and machines weren’t turned up for automated updates, it required an additional lift by our teams to secure the environments where needed. The mission didn’t waver for us, and the threats to our national security didn’t change due to the global pandemic.
International travel and safety standards were critically important, but bad actors will be bad regardless of the global state of things. That led to an uptick in cyber threats. I feel that we all had to step up our cyber defenses across the board to make sure that our nation was safe, especially during that time.”
ExecutiveBiz: What can you tell us about AT&T’s defense work? Can you provide a quick overview of your work with DOD and some of the critical technologies and services federal agencies ask AT&T to provide?
Our focus on DoD is as strong as it’s ever been – and we have been supporting the Department of Defense for more than100 years. Our commitment to enable DoD and ensure they have the innovative capabilities they need to secure this nation has never wavered.
DoD can take advantage of the considerable multi-billion-dollar investments in our global wireline and wireless networks. A fair amount of the department’s mission can be done at a lower classification level, even unclassified.
That makes DoD a fertile ground for looking at innovative and new technologies as they come to the commercial market. One area where we have seen the Department of Defense lean forward on behalf of the entire federal government is in the adoption of 5G capabilities and 5G exploitation for mission purposes.
We’re fortunate to have been chosen by DoD to participate in some of its 5G experimentation prototypes. One of the programs we’re involved with aims to explore the integration and use of augmented and virtual reality for warfighter training. The prototype is being developed at Fort Hood in Texas.
This program allows us to work with partners and the military to help ensure our soldiers are future-ready, which includes AR and VR capabilities integrated into their toolbox as they prepare for the future of warfare. This type of experiment required the development and delivery of wireless 5G. Our 5G delivers the speed, power, security, and reliability to support this program and demonstrate that DoD can enable the future soldier with AR and VR capabilities.
We’re also working in the logistics space, and we’re helping DOD explore the possibilities of a 5G-enabled smart warehouse at Naval Base Coronado in San Diego. We recently reached our first milestone in this DoD-led 5G prototype. We demonstrated data throughput speeds greater than 4 gigabits per second with less than ten milliseconds of latency using AT&T 5G spectrum and a private 5G Core and Radio Access using commercially provided equipment.
Now we will advance this program to its next stage: delivering AT&T 5G across the 120,000 square foot Naval Base Coronado warehouse. There, we expect to efficiently and securely connect the smart warehouse application infrastructure and provide our high-speed, low latency 5G connectivity for autonomous mobile robots, video cameras, Internet of Things (IoT), and AR/VR systems.
These capabilities can enable inventory tracking, transshipment, and other elements of DOD’s objectives for the test. Ultimately, AT&T 5G is expected to integrate with official Navy systems to enable Smart Warehouse capabilities.
Our work in the DoD 5G prototypes is helping the DoD see that we can deliver private networking capabilities on a private core using our commercial networks. It gives them all the advantages of private networking, such as high throughput, low latency, robust cybersecurity protections, and the flexibility and scalability of our commercial networks. The DoD’s 5G prototypes are an absolute necessity: essential to the Department of Defense’s future operation and any large organization in the public or private sector.
One of the compelling aspects of the DoD’s 5G smart warehouse is that the technology capabilities are expected to not only allow DoD to know the entire inventory of the building or complex but also to know – with high accuracy – the status of all that inventory: whether it’s a larger military platform or something smaller. Knowing the exact location of their inventory, allowing them to easily account for it or deploy those assets when they’re needed, is game-changing.
We believe this is where 5G has the power and the capability to bring an intelligent construct to warehousing and logistics. 5G is leaning far forward, but this is just the beginning of what these capabilities can enable. We’re very excited to continue working with DoD to show the power of 5G.”
ExecutiveBiz: Where does 5G fit into the networking modernization plans of defense and national security agencies? What else can you tell us about the coming year for AT&T’s work in the sector?
“5G is a communication capability that enables a broad suite of application or solution capabilities. I don’t want to leave the impression that 5G means you’ll never need a terrestrial network again or an existing fiber plant network again. You will still need that in many scenarios.
With the experimentation that we’re doing on the network edge with DoD, they can quickly use their fiber assets and other global telecommunications assets to reach the cloud environment while exploiting 5G for distributed access from the edge. It allows for the combination of all communication capabilities to enable a mission on land, in the air, on the sea. Eventually, we’ll also have 5G capabilities in space.
Hurricane Michael devastated much of the Florida panhandle a few years back, and Tyndall Air Force base was destroyed. It was an awful situation. We are working with DoD and the Air Force to perform a significant rebuild at Tyndall Air Force base and enable what we are calling “the Air Force base of the future” with the latest modern network technology, including 5G.
In addition, the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community have protective services responsible for securing military bases and installations or securing other locations in a physical sense. We’re excited to see the growth of FirstNet usage within the DoD and Intelligence Community.
Our mission to ensure our military and intelligence personnel have the same FirstNet capabilities as local first responders is extremely important because we don’t want gaps. We don’t want delays in communication whenever they need to respond to an event or a natural disaster. We’re excited about providing FirstNet to the Defense and National Security sectors in addition to public safety nationwide.
We had a pretty great 2021, and we are poised for even more excellent support to the missions we serve. We have new developments with ultra-available networks and high-speed networks. Using those capabilities, we expect to connect mission clouds at critical locations around the U.S. for one of our customers and provide them phenomenal data speeds.
We are also excited about IoT, including IoT capabilities for military and other installations. This can include logistics and building management, supporting smart energy usage, and improving perimeter security. Wherever we can deploy our networking capabilities, we can connect and enable small footprint sensors and IoT capabilities to make a difference and help improve mission delivery.”