Note: In Part 1 of a two-part series, Rick Wagner shines a spotlight on federal agencies demonstrating resiliency to respond and rebound from 2020 challenges and reimagine a future of innovation and transformation.
As we look ahead to the close of 2020 and the beginning of a new year and administration, I’m more excited than ever to be leading our 3,000-member Microsoft Federal team. Formed in July – the same time I came aboard – this new organization reflects Microsoft’s commitment to, and investment in, federal government agencies and the specialized partners who join us in supporting their mission-critical work.
In this year of unprecedented challenges, we’ve seen U.S. government agencies respond to the health and economic crisis posed by a global pandemic, civil unrest over policing and racial justice issues, raging wildfires, catastrophic hurricanes and more. Unlike the private sector, the business of government is always open, especially during times of uncertainty, adversity and disruption. I’m inspired by the speed of federal agencies to address evolving demands while advancing government and our nation. I’m also proud that Microsoft Federal kept pace with our customers in using technology as a core enabler for innovations that serve everyone.
Leadership, resiliency, momentum
Federal agencies are demonstrating leadership, resiliency and momentum in building solutions for some of the most pressing issues of 2020. That’s why our Microsoft Government Leaders Summit digital broadcast on Dec. 7 is focused on empowering mission and leadership resiliency. With our trusted cloud, AI and other leading-edge capabilities, federal organizations are quickly tackling coronavirus issues to ensure seamless delivery of important services and continuity of operations. For example:
- With the pandemic forcing a move to remote work, the Department of Defense (DOD) needed a rapid global solution. DOD and Microsoft created a secure Commercial Virtual Remote environment built on Azure Government, Microsoft 365 Government and Teams. Computerworld acknowledged DOD’s “rapid deployment in less than a month” to connect millions of workers.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) used our Healthcare Bot service to release a Coronavirus self-checker to help the public make decisions about seeking appropriate medical care. By early April, international healthcare organizations had created 1,230 COVID-19 self-assessment bots, reaching 18 million individuals and serving more than 160 million messages.
- Nextgov credited the Department of Veterans Affairs for deploying an AI-powered, conversational coronavirus chatbot using our Healthcare Bot service “to help veterans and their caregivers find answers to pressing questions triggered amid the pandemic.” We expanded on the VA’s efforts to keep veterans safe amid the pandemic through cloud-based dashboards, built with Microsoft’s Power BI, Bing Maps Platform and Azure App Service and other initiatives supported by technology.
- Roll Call and FedScoop reported on the DOD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center integrating supply-chain data to better inform the military’s response to the pandemic. In weeks, Project Salus produced an Azure- and AI-powered prototype with data from 150-plus sources to quickly assess national supply chains and identify potential shortages of water, medicines, food and other essentials.
Meeting diverse missions
While the pandemic requires great agility and resiliency, federal agencies also moved forward across several fronts to better meet their diverse missions, such as:
- Veterans Affairs, Microsoft, Medivis and Verizon joined forces in February as Project Convergence to establish the nation’s first 5G-enabled hospital at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System. Not only will this public-private partnership result in 5G-based innovations, but it will create opportunities to improve veteran healthcare by leveraging the power of Microsoft HoloLens 2 and our Azure cloud. USA Today recently highlighted this initiative, with Susie Adams capturing its impact: “Doctors will be empowered to plan and perform live surgeries, see ultrasounds in 3D, and train doctors, surgeons and nurses to learn and understand human anatomy in new ways.”
- Microsoft is partnering with the U.S. Air Force to support its mission through more modern IT solutions, including Microsoft 365, Teams and Azure. The move is allowing the Air Force to scale more easily, improve cloud performance, and empower better cross-agency collaboration and communication while complying with strict DOD requirements.
- With two tropical storms headed for the Gulf Coast, we partnered with a U.S. Navy team over the Aug. 22–23 weekend to successfully deploy an enhanced weather model in a production-like Microsoft Azure environment. Capable of rapidly scaling weather and ocean pattern predictions on demand, the system confirmed the potential of using our secure cloud to deliver faster, real-time tropical cyclone forecasts.
- Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are working with Microsoft to use AI and machine learning to help monitor endangered beluga whales, threatened ice seals and polar bears. GCN reported that our AI-powered models reduced analysis time by an impressive 93%.
We’re working with the federal government to accelerate progress in other ways, such as The First Five Consortium with the Department of Energy to develop disaster-response AI tools that help first responders quickly address floods, wildfires and windstorms. The Wall Street Journal explained the name as a reference to “the importance of the first five minutes in responding to a natural disaster,” and Susie Adams noted our Azure cloud and AI models will be used to analyze massive and disparate data sets in real time to help first responders better allocate resources or inform the public.
Microsoft Federal and our industry team are pleased to collaborate with the DOD in advancing microelectronics technology and strengthening the American microelectronics industrial base through the Rapid Assured Microelectronics Prototypes (RAMP) using Advanced Commercial Capabilities Project. We believe RAMP is vital to protecting national security, maintaining U.S. technological leadership and strengthening the economy.
We also hope the path is soon cleared to begin the essential work on the DOD’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI), providing fast, responsive, flexible and adaptive cloud services to users at all classification levels. Originally announced Oct. 25, 2019 but stymied by litigation, we remain committed to delivering the best technology, the greatest value to our women and men in uniform, and the highest speed to adoption, innovation, capability and scale.
Respond, recover, reimagine
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has been widely attributed with seeing the world going through three pandemic phases: respond, recover and reimagine. As evidenced by the above examples, federal agencies have successfully responded to initial COVID-19 impacts and are now rebounding through collaboration and modernization with secure cloud and AI solutions. We’re also seeing great strides to shape a future of economic growth, transformation, and increased public trust and confidence.
For more than 40 years, Microsoft has supported federal agencies as they fulfill missions and create more efficient, effective government. Microsoft Federal is fully dedicated to continuing our company’s history of serving as the trusted partner to government customers as they digitally transform, reimagine tomorrow and achieve more for all of us.
Please join us for the first-ever digital Microsoft Government Leaders Summit, 10 a.m. to noon ET, Dec. 7. Register today to hear from:
- Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Brad Smith, Toni Townes-Whitley, myself and others discussing the government landscape and what’s needed to address the most pressing issues for federal agencies.
- Federal leaders who are responding to change and recovering through collaboration and modernization.
- Author and historian Walter Isaacson, sharing insights on the leadership and resiliency strategies that powered great historic transformations during challenging times – and how these lessons can provide a roadmap for leaders in times of extreme disruption.