Donald Reid | Foreign Service
GCN IT Leadership Awards 2007 | Reid helps bring IT security under control at State's far-flung outposts
- By John Rendleman
- May 04, 2007
State Department computer security expert Donald Reid is known for getting results, whether it's fixing flaws in an organization, creating a new capability or discovering untapped talents of team members.
In his four years at State, he has, for example, won two prestigious computer security awards, significantly upgraded the agency's overall information security rating and dramatically streamlined its internal security clearance process.
'I've found Don to be one of the easiest people to team with that I've encountered in my [25-year] federal career,' said John Streufert, State's chief information security officer. 'Don asks me to define my [information technology] security requirements and says he will find a way of meeting those requirements,' Streufert said.
Not bad for a guy who started out not knowing he'd be a career civil servant. Reid began his federal career in 1969 as an Air Force special security officer after attending the University of Maryland's Air Force ROTC program. But 'it wasn't until after 10 years in the Air Force that I looked around and decided that I liked what I was doing and that I would stay,' Reid said.
Since then, Reid has devoted virtually his entire career to the federal government, apart from a one-year stint in the private sector. After a successful 30-year Air Force career, Reid spent one year at Litton TASC and Harris Services Technical before returning to the government as assistant inspector general at the Education Department.Triple threat
After three years at Education, he joined State in May 2003 as senior coordinator of security infrastructure. His three principal missions are maintaining the security of the agency's global IT network, protecting its sensitive and classified information, and managing its employee security clearance program. And those missions apply to 260 locations overseas.
State hired Reid because it needed someone who could manage all three of those missions within a single security infrastructure directorate.
Reid's success in correcting security problems and making other improvements led the National Security Agency in November 2005 to award its Frank B. Rowlett Trophy to Reid and his team for making the biggest contribution to improving the operational information assurance readiness of the federal government.
The agency's top security and IT officials say they're particularly proud of NSA's recognition of Reid and his team because it was State's first time winning the trophy and the third time in the award's 15-year history that NSA had awarded it to a non-Defense Department agency.
Reid was also instrumental in fixing the failing grade given by the Office of Management and Budget to State's overall IT security effectiveness.
Reid corrected the deficiencies behind OMB's negative evaluation by integrating existing capabilities into a seamless security solution and unifying the IT security staff behind a common goal, Streufert said. He described Reid as a rare individual who leads by example every minute of the day.
Reid also completely revamped State's employee background investigation and national security clearance process, which was completely broken when Reid came onboard, said Richard Griffin, assistant secretary of diplomatic security at State.Up to speed
The delays ' six months for routine investigations and sometimes two years or more in complex cases ' had severely undermined the agency's ability to hire talented employees and staff overseas posts, Griffin said.
Now the agency issues interim clearances in 14 days and full clearances in an average of 77 days. Solving the problem required motivating the agency employees responsible for the process and seeking their suggestions for improvements, Reid said.
During regular meetings of senior staff, 'each one had a personal frustration' and a suggestion on improving the process, he recalled. More than technology, their involvement and the praise they received in return were critical to the solution. 'You had a demotivated workforce that was under constant criticism, and now it's the opposite; they're being praised all the time,' he said.
A key to success in government IT, Reid said, is determination to accomplish a mission, a trait he says he learned in the Air Force. 'You grow
up knowing that you have a mission and that you've been given the resource[s] you need to accomplish that mission.'
Another critical ingredient is the ability to unleash the hidden talents of team members. 'The government can be its own worst enemy at times. It tends to demotivate people,' Reid said. The antidote, for Reid, is uncovering skills staff members weren't aware of and providing plenty of positive feedback when they succeed. 'They've got to feel that they have the ability to solve problems that don't seem to have solutions,' he said.