QUANTICO, VA, (Dec.8, 2020) – Dr. Raj Iyer, the chief information officer for Information Technology Reform, presented the 2020 Department of Defense CIO Award for Cyber and IT Excellence on Friday to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Information Management for the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command.
“The ability to bring about change through simple innovation…I say simple because a lot of times we see that innovation needs to be sophisticated, and complex and costly, and involve leading technology, and it doesn’t have to be,” said Iyer during the virtual presentation. “Mark has shown that even a simple tool that he has created with a very small labor force…has helped save tremendous dollars for the Army and our federal government.”
The Department of Defense Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy, recently recognized nominees and awardees of the 2020 DoD CIO Awards program. Due to the pandemic, this year's DoD CIO awards presentations was coordinated and conducted by the local commands.
In its 20th year, the annual awards program recognizes individuals and teams for “exceptional achievements in delivering forward-leaning and strategically impactful capabilities and management practices” within a range of capabilities provided by DoD personnel.
“Your accomplishments during this very challenging time are nothing short of extraordinary, while operating in a maximized telework environment,” Deasy said in a video release. “Your commitment to protecting the nation’s warfighters and enabling them to win on the battlefield is the driving force behind the Defense Departments digital modernization strategy.” Deasy said the digital strategy is supported by five components: artificial intelligence, cloud, command control and communications (C3), data and cybersecurity.
“I am honored to recognize and congratulate this year’s recipients. The recipients of this award have demonstrated how technology truly enables our nation to perform critical missions despite the COVID-19 global pandemic,” said Deasy. “We are living in unprecedented times, and the global pandemic has demonstrated the importance of robust and secure IT capabilities. The accomplishments and dedication of this year’s nominees and awardees provide critical capabilities to the warfighter and the department and the work each of you is doing is crucial to digital modernization strategy.”
The Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Information Management/G-6, Mark Santaw, was selected as one of the three best individuals across the entire Department of Defense for his innovative efforts in Digital Modernization.
“Although shocked and certainly honored to be recognized, I was mostly proud just to have been able to help the other organizations save time and money with an easy to implement solution, while at the same time ensuring more of the needed criminal background information was available nationwide,” said Santaw, a first-time nominee and awardee.
According to the nomination submission, Santaw was recognized for successfully creating a tool to automate the import of electronic criminal disposition data (DSPE) into the FBI's Next Generation Identification system for not just the Army, but also for other DOD, state and federal law enforcement agencies. This data is used for nationwide federal criminal history and weapons prohibition background checks.
After the G-6 team successfully coded the Army Law Enforcement Reporting and Tracking System (ALERTS) to produce the monthly DSPE extract for FBI processing (the first FBI customer to do so), the FBI reached out directly to Mr. Santaw to help their other customers do the same. Because most criminal case management systems are agency unique and complex in both design and programming, he couldn’t just re-use the ALERTS solution, but needed to come up with an alternative.
Although different, knowing each system contained the required offender data which could be extracted, Santaw realized that he could code a generic, universally acceptable spreadsheet, with standard and customized functions to convert, normalize and transpose the data into the rigid FBI ingest format. This resulted in a 1 MB system agnostic tool, which enables law enforcement organizations to easily convert 10,000 offender entries at a time, into the proper format within seconds. Prior to this function, the average time for the FBI’s manual R84 process was 15 minutes per offender. The FBI adopted the “easy-to-use tool” for distribution to Federal, State and DoD agency customers.
The following sums up Santaw’s problem solving perspective, “When you are trying to think outside of the box, don't forget to first look inside of it, as the best solution to a complex problem, might be the least complex answer,” he said. In this case, the innovation was to “use something that most agencies already have and know how to use, instead of trying to over engineer a unique, non-repeatable solution.”
Santaw said the newly incorporated process has saved the Army more than 30,000 records and 7,500 manual processing hours, and has been used by many other federal agencies, to include the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency for over 2 million criminal records. Santaw was especially happy the solution enables the FBI’s criminal disposition team to “leverage the tool themselves so they were not required to work on-site during the pandemic…if that even prevented one person from being affected, it was worth any effort made.”
Since March, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges to information technology across the Army and DoD, which has greatly has expanded its telework capability. “I have been amazed at how quickly the entire command, and the Army as a whole, has embraced the technologies…available to work remotely,” said Santaw, who first joined CID in 2007 as the deputy chief information officer.
His office is responsible for all information technology and policy across the CID headquarters and groups. Santaw, who also oversees information management for the Office of the Provost Marshal General and the Army Corrections Command, and his team of 13 is responsible for the continued success in cybersecurity and information management. He also oversees the IT budget for the entire command of approximately 3,500 end-user systems, and his team manages 15 Law Enforcement mission system applications with more than 25,000 users worldwide.
Santaw and the G-6 team has helped protect CID Army IT systems while ensuring a continuation in mission execution from the safety of workers’ homes at the onset of the pandemic. Santaw said prior modernization efforts with the ALERTS, Law Enforcement Advisory Portal (LEAP), and the Crime Records Center’s Electronic Imaging (EI) system, have allowed more personnel to work safely from home. “Luckily, and somewhat behind the scenes, we have been working for years to make it so that our workforce would be able to securely access most of our application and data resources from off-site by making them available across the internet as long as you are authorized and have a valid Common Access Card (CAC).”
“We are blessed and extremely fortunate to have Mark on our team,” said David Close, Chief of Staff, CID. “His vision, innovation, and leadership has directly impacted CID’s data sharing capabilities between Federal and Department of Defense law enforcement organizations. This technical advancement in criminal justice information reporting resulted in significantly reducing operating costs and has saved our agents thousands of man hours by streamlining and automating the process.”