California CIO Teri Takai, the expected nominee as the Defense Department's chief information officer, has a proven track record in IT leadership, but the military poses a new set of challenges.
Teri Takai is well-known and respected in government technology circles, and her expected nomination to be the Defense Department’s next chief information officer follows the recent history of appointees who did not have long careers serving in uniform, one military expert said today.
Takai, who is California's CIO, is widely reported to be the Obama administration's choice to be DOD's next CIO. A formal announcement is expected in the next week or so, FCW sources confirmed. If confirmed by the Senate, she would be the first woman to hold the position.
Two previous CIOs, John Grimes and John Stenbit, came to the job without long, active-duty careers, according to Dale Meyerrose, the vice president and general manger of Harris Corp.’s Cyber and Information Assurance practice and a retired Air Force major general.
Meyerrose, who did not have first-hand knowledge of Takai's nomination, was asked to comment on her qualifications. He was most recently the chief information officer and information sharing executive for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Meyerrose noted that Emmett Paige Jr., a retired Army Lieutenant General, was the last long-serving active duty person to hold the CIO position at DOD.
Though long, active-duty service may not be the norm, Takai’s background is still unusual for the position because she previously worked in state governments and the auto industry, not the Defense Department, Meyerrose said. Still, Meyerrose said Takai is a capable technology executive.
“She is well qualified to understand technology and to run a large organization,” he said.
If Takai is confirmed as the new DOD CIO, she will be well supported by two long-serving deputies in Cheryl Roby, the acting assistant secretary of Defense/DOD CIO, and David Wennergren, the deputy DOD CIO, Meyerrose said.
“Together they ought to be able to provide her the ability to come up to speed with the inside baseball issues within the Pentagon,” Meyerrose said.
Takai’s first priority will be to continue supporting military operations overseas, Meyerrose said. Then, she will need to establish her leadership role within the federal government’s entire CIO structure, including the intelligence and civilian agencies.
Specifically, Takai will need to work closely with Priscilla Guthrie, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence's CIO, and Vivek Kundra, the federal CIO, Meyerrose said. “Those relationships will be hugely important,” he said.
As the DOD ratchet ups its cyber warfare capabilities, the new DOD CIO will be responsible for creating and maintaining the infrastructure to support those efforts. "She won’t have an operational role, but she will have a funding, planning, architecture building, and standards setting role that will enable cyber operations,” Meyerrose said. “It will be similar to those same responsibilities for enabling combat operations, which is the most important thing she will do as CIO.”
Standardization where it makes sense is a key to creating interoperability among various organization, Takai told the Sacramento Bee in 2008 after becoming the CIO of California. “We need to get better at deployment of underlying technology, and [it] doesn't have to be unique every time we deploy a different piece of technology,” she told the Bee.
Takai, who also worked in the auto industry, said some business practices can work in government.
“Where it becomes more difficult in a public sector setting is that you have a legislative body which has so many different objectives and is so large,” she told the Bee. “It becomes difficult for them to understand where a particular technology is going. If you contrast that to a board of directors, it's a very different dynamic.”