New DISA leader strengthened interoperability of DOD and NATO networks

By Mandy Morgan 
Office of Strategic Communication and Public Affairs
October 24, 2022 

Army Brig. Gen. Joseph A. Papenfus started work as the new assistant to the director of the Defense Information Systems Agency on Sept. 1.

In his new role, he helps lead a global organization of over 20,000 military, civilian and contractor personnel who plan, develop, deliver and operate joint, interoperable, command and control, and global enterprise infrastructure, in direct support of the president, secretary of defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, combatant commanders, Department of Defense components and other mission partners across the full spectrum of operations.


Official photo of Army Brig. Gen. Joseph A. Papenfus posing in front of the United States flag and the 1-star general flag.
Official photo for Army Brig. Gen. Joseph A. Papenfus.


“I am delighted to welcome Brig. Gen. Joseph Papenfus to the DISA family,” said Lt. Gen. Robert Skinner, DISA director and Joint Forces Headquarters-Department of Defense Information Network commander.

“He brings a wealth of experience from a long and distinguished military career. We look forward to seeing him take his relationships formed at U.S. Army Europe and Africa into our problem sets to deliver joint, interoperable command and control capabilities in a very dynamic and complex strategic environment.”

Looking ahead

Papenfus said he doesn’t expect to deviate much from the primary areas his predecessor focused on, which included working with mission partners, advocating for the enlisted, facilitating the acquisition process, and communicating with the workforce and the public.

He plans to spend his first few months getting the lay of the land by meeting with DISA and JFHQ-DODIN leaders and divisions and figuring out how to best support DISA’s director and the organization’s strategic plan. Based on his assessments, he will calibrate his efforts to areas that need the most attention.

Protecting and connecting DOD and NATO networks

Papenfus brings to his new job more than 30 years of military experience at the tactical, operational and strategic levels, having served in a variety of leadership positions within Army signal, space and cyberspace organizations.

Prior to joining DISA, Papenfus spent almost three years as the chief information officer/G-6 of U.S. Army Europe and Africa in Wiesbaden, Germany, where he had three main responsibilities. First, he was in charge of shaping and improving the U.S. Army’s network infrastructure and capabilities in Europe and Africa. He led a workforce of 320 to support 52,000 military members and civilians with a $220 million portfolio.

“It was a great opportunity to take a theater with aging and inadequate infrastructure and work with DISA, U.S. Army entities and other service components to revitalize and modernize it with new technologies and capabilities,” Papenfus said.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Papenfus mobilized Army resources to rapidly provide communications capabilities for 20,000 operationally dispersed people within days, so that they could connect and collaborate.

“Whether working remotely or on-site during a pandemic, when you’re in an operational theater in constant competition and conflict, there is no just going home to wait and see,” Papenfus said. “The operational requirement to provide safety and security to our NATO allies continues as we’ve seen two years later with Russian aggression in Ukraine.”

Second, Papenfus worked to build partner capacity and relationships with allies, including 30 NATO members and their allied land forces and corps as well as with other partners in Europe and Africa.

Third, he oversaw enabling a mission partner environment or coalition network, in support of meeting NATO standards, to be able to communicate with allies in the land forces.

“There was a constant drumbeat about working with the allies on interoperability,” Papenfus said. “People, process and technical solutions are essential components for creating interoperability among allies, partners, the U.S. Army and the joint forces.”

During his time based in Germany, Papenfus visited 13 countries to speak with land force armies, ministries of defense and other partners.

Military and education background

Papenfus began his military career by enlisting in the Wisconsin Army National Guard. He was commissioned to active duty in the Signal Corps and branch detailed to the Armor Branch through the Marquette University ROTC program in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

He holds a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a Master of Business Administration from Webster University, a Master of Strategic Studies from the Air War College and a graduate certificate in crisis management from the George Washington University.


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