DISA welcomes Christopher M. Barnhurst as its next executive deputy director
by Suzan Holl
DISA Strategic Communication and Public Affairs
Navy Vice Adm. Nancy A. Norton, Defense Information Systems Agency director and commander of Joint Force Headquarters-Department of Defense Information Network, recently selected Christopher M. Barnhurst as the agency’s next executive deputy director.
Barnhurst replaces Anthony Montemarano who retired Dec. 11, 2020.
Barnhurst’s career is symbolic of DISA’s core values: Duty that Inspires Service and Accountability. His commitment to connecting and protecting the warfighter in cyberspace dates back to his first year in college when he worked for DISA during his summer and winter breaks as a GS-3 student hire. Dedicated service, mission results and teamwork led to his senior executive service appointment in July 2017.
He credits DISA’s leadership for their investment in his professional development.
“I have been fortunate enough to work with many talented leaders and managers over the course of my career at DISA, and I owe much of my success to their willingness to invest time and energy into my professional development,” Barnhurst said. “My hope is that others throughout the agency look at the path I have taken and realize that there is real opportunity within DISA and that they can achieve their own professional goals.”
Having worked his way up from student employee to executive deputy director provides Barnhurst with unique experience and perspective on the agency.
Prior to his SES appointment, Barnhurst served as the principal advisor to DISA’s comptroller for planning, programming, budgeting and execution and as a senior manager of DISA’s Defense Working Capital Fund budget and operations division.
He also led the development and implementation of a revised pricing structure for DISA’s network services that resulted in significant departmental savings and incentivized DoD-wide adoption of more efficient technologies. As a result, he was awarded the American Society of Military Comptrollers Award for Budgeting.
“I started my career working in the Defense Working Capital Fund budget division and, looking back, I think that played a huge role in preparing me for subsequent leadership positions,” he said. “To be an effective analyst or manager of DWCF programs, you really have to understand the way we deliver technical capabilities, along with the cost structure of each program in order to price them, assess risk and determine how they fit into the agency’s overall strategy. Gaining those insights has been invaluable.”
Leveraging years of agency-wide insights, Barnhurst also served as the agency’s chief financial officer and comptroller where he provided executive leadership and oversight for formulating and executing DISA’s $11 billion budget.
“The CFO position further prepared me for the role of executive deputy director in the sense that it is one of the few positions in the agency that has total visibility across all centers and programs,” he said.
As executive deputy director, Barnhurst is focusing on maximizing the agency’s value to the department and the warfighter as a combat-support agency and an enterprise IT service provider through increased efficiency of operations and speed to capability.
Some of his key priorities include a mission analysis to determine how best to position the agency for successful mission execution today and in the future; evolving DISA’s role in providing effective perimeter, boundary and endpoint cybersecurity for the DoD as we adopt zero trust; and emphasizing the use of data generated by the agency to inform strategic and operational decisions.
Barnhurst is also poised to tackle issues on the horizon that may be challenging for the agency.
“We are entering a period of leadership transition across the department, and I think we are likely to see continued downward pressure on budgetary top lines in the near future,” he said. “Historically, that creates both challenges and opportunities. Challenges in the sense that we will be scrutinized by the department as it looks to drive efficiency, but opportunity in that we are uniquely positioned as a combat-support agency and enterprise-service provider to deliver value.”
The use of data management is also a potential challenge, according to Barnhurst.
“We will also need to be hyper-focused on data management – both how we use the data we generate to inform strategic and operational decisions, and how we contribute to the execution of the department’s over-arching data strategy outlined by DoD CIO,” he said.
However, Barnhurst is looking forward to continuing to collaborate with the DISA workforce in tackling all of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
“We have made tremendous progress in building a culture of trust and accountability, and I look forward to continuing to build on that moving forward, while emphasizing the continued importance of delivering on our core mission—supporting the joint warfighter.”
Published 9 Feb. 2021