FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. – U.S. Army Network Enterprise Command (NETCOM) Commanding General from Nov. 18, 2018 to April 19, 2022, Maj. Gen. Maria B. Barrett, who will soon pin her third star and take command of U.S. Army Cyber Command (ARCYBER), has provided her thoughts on commanding NETCOM for the past three and a half years.
Q. Maj. Gen. Barrett, what would you consider your most memorable endeavors while in command of NETCOM?
MG Barrett: Transition of responsibility of DoDIN-A Ops [Army’s Department of Defense Information Network-operations] to NETCOM. Our ability to provide scope and scale for Secure and Operate activities I believe significantly enhanced ARCYBER’s Defend mission, particularly when critical vulnerabilities emerged that needed to be addressed quickly across all the Army’s networks.
[Another is] EITaaS [Enterprise IT as a Service] and Army 365. While we, as an Army, decided to not continue the EITaaS pilot, we broke the mold of how we use, contract, authorize and operate commercial as a service capabilities, which will help us in the future. But one of the best, tangible outcomes that resulted from this pilot effort is Army 365 and the migration to our enduring IL5 [Impact Level Five] MS Teams and Exchange Online capabilities in record time.
This not only saved the Army from having to extend DEE [Defense Enterprise Email], but has enabled integrated collaboration in a way not previously experienced with DEE/Outlook with OneDrive, MS Teams, email, and SharePoint and other apps across one platform. Further, we assembled a small, agile, highly dedicated, distributed team to form the Task Force. They proposed a crazy idea of encouraging the Army to “self-migrate” in order to speed the timeline; for those of us who worked DEE migrations 10+ years ago, we were dubious. A significant portion of the Army ended up migrating themselves—which really shows how adaptable some corners of our Army have become. This team punched way above their weight, solving a multitude of technical, process/policy and contractual issues from April 2021 when the decision was made through March 2022.
COVID was both a challenge and an opportunity. It was a challenge because the NETCOM enterprise, from the headquarters to the NECs [Network Enterprise Center], obviously played a critical role in facilitating the Army’s move to majority (~80 percent) telework within a few weeks. We had not “stress” tested the services/capabilities that would enable telework (i.e., VPN [Virtual Private Network], voice conference bridges, chat/Skype for business, etc.). But we found things that worked really well … and that informed where we should focus our efforts, not only for COVID, but in future modernization priorities.
It [COVID-19] was also a challenge because while we were facilitating telework in order to protect the Army’s Soldiers and civilian workforce, we had to do it while protecting our own. It was not always easy to strike that balance of mission and protection, especially as guidance and conditions continually changed over the two-year period. I can’t say enough how much leadership at echelon made this possible—and I will always be thankful to the NETCOM enterprise for how they conducted themselves in the face of this challenge.
Budget. I was very cognizant that this was not a new drill for this command, thinking about some of the DoD challenges over the past decade. And yet, when faced with any particular budget challenge the team always came through. Their analysis and development of options was always timely, synchronized across the staff and with key stakeholders, and truly enabled my decisions. The collaboration with customers and partners (such as Army Contracting Command) were critical to mitigating the impact.
Q. What were your best recollections of your time commanding NETCOM?
MG Barrett: Best recollections were seeing this command grow from being not involved (or marginally aware) of ARCYBER DCO [Defensive Cyber Operations] missions to providing an active, supporting role. From the 160th [Signal Brigade Theater] and RCC-SWA’s [Regional Cyber Center Southwest Asia] crisis action planning and execution for tearing down the Afghanistan network in a logical way, ensuring comms until the very last moment.
Q. What will you miss about the post where NETCOM is headquartered?
MG Barrett: What I’ll miss is watching weather roll over the Huachuca Mountains from my office window, sunsets over the Huachuca Mountains from my porch, watching the animals on Brown Parade field at dusk.
What I won’t miss: running at altitude—it was very humbling at first.
Q. What messages do you have for the NETCOM Team, the Noncommissioned Officers and Soldiers and Civilians?
MG Barrett: To the entire Headquarters Team. I said when I came in here that I didn’t want to go through my tenure as commander and not know the people who performed the mission each and every day. I was off to a good start when COVID hit. This will likely be the biggest regret of my command.
To the Soldiers. Because I could not circulate into your workspaces during COVID, I might have asked you more than a few questions when you were checking ID cards at the door…I apologize if you thought you were in trouble [the general said with a smile].
To the NCOs. Thank you for training and taking care of our Soldiers and as well as the vast array of missions from support to operations in order for this command to be successful.
To the Civilians. While I did not get to know you in the way I had originally intended, I did get to know quite a few of you very well over the course of the last 40+ months. I know that behind each one of the Civilians I interacted with, was a team of professionals who delivered their best every day. Know there will always be a very special place in my heart for the Civilians of this command.
Q. And finally ma’am, your thoughts on Sierra Vista, Ariz., and the Fort Huachuca community?
MG Barrett: This is a very welcoming community. My husband Brian and I enjoyed every minute of every opportunity we had to engage. Again, my biggest regret is that the pandemic put a damper on our getting to know each other better. I sincerely thank the community for its authentic support to this installation, and the installation’s support to the NETCOM mission and its people.