For Deloitte’s Nathan Houser, a new age of national security rests on three pillars: IT investment, employee recruitment, and a new mindset to address looming threats fueled by easier and cheaper access to technology by nefarious actors.
As principal and Federal National Security Sector leader with Deloitte Consulting LLP, Houser routinely advises national security clients, including law enforcement, the intel community, and the Department of Justice, on how to achieve their mission.
That effort begins, first and foremost, with addressing a frequent challenge. “The sheer volume of issues and requests that [our clients]are receiving often puts them in reactive mode, pulling much of their time, energy and emotion away from being proactive,” says Houser. See how he guides clients toward a more proactive approach amid these challenges.
WashingtonExec: How would you advise clients to manage cyber risks?
Nathan Houser: Managing cyber risks should not be viewed merely as an expense, but as a positive investment to enable the mission success and performance of agencies. Cyber risk is a natural byproduct of innovation and the steps agencies take to drive efficiencies and improve service will invariably open the door to potential threats. They really need to broaden the scope of how they think about cyber risks.
WashingtonExec: How are national security threats different from those of the past?
Nathan Houser: The challenges of national security are absolutely being shaped and transformed by technology being used by perpetrators and protectors alike.
It’s tough for our clients to anticipate where, what and how [technology]will be used. For example, when it comes to the intel community — which has long been based on information that is not publicly available — it is now using a mix of information, both public and not publicly available. That shift raises questions — do they work behind a wall of secrecy or do they work out in the open; how do they access information that is out in the open — those are critical mindset changes that must occur to be as impactful as possible.
WashingtonExec: What conversations are you having with clients in the national security realm?
Nathan Houser: Two themes permeate discussions with all of our clients, especially at the executive level: managing risk – whether it is cyber or another mission risk, and creating efficiencies.
Those two themes inform how our clients are buying large volumes of services in areas such as enhancing cyber, modernizing IT, and optimizing their financials — all of this is underpinned by people. There is a huge focus on strengthening their workforce as well.
WashingtonExec: What strides are you seeing on the workforce front?
Nathan Houser: We are seeing senior officials within government really focused on developing effective leaders by equipping them with the right skills and capabilities. Recently, the Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte jointly released the “Best Places to Work in Federal Government” survey, which is based on the federal employee viewpoint survey that the Office of Personnel Management conducts.
I am thrilled that both the Intel community and the Department of Justice – two major parts of the national security sector — performed exceptionally well; the intelligence community ranked second, and Justice third. Leaders of those agencies consistently cite the passion of their people for the mission. That stands as a testament to the value that those organizations are delivering to the American people.
WashingtonExec: How do you see government interest in private sector innovation?
Nathan Houser: I am very pleased to see an increasing focus in many parts of the government on really understanding what the private sector is doing broadly.
Clients frequently come to us because of our unique position as a large federal contractor that also has an even larger commercial business – we see that clients are really interested in what large organizations globally are doing around a number of specific topics such as IT, social media, cyber, financial management, workforce practice, risk management — the list goes on.
WashingtonExec: How can the technology gap be closed on the government side?
Nathan Houser: From my perspective, the overarching answer is leadership, interest and desire. We are seeing more of a focus among our clients on attracting people, including millennials, who share their mission.
There is also a big thrust around technology, in making continued investments in technology that can do real-time analytics — available to the right users, at the right place, in the right format, in the headquarters and in the field – for end users to make smart decisions. It’s an exciting time.