Inside DOD

By Amber Corrin

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What would the CIO do in Gates' new DOD?

Guest entry by Michael Hardy, managing editor/daily report.

The August 9 announcement by Defense Secretary Robert Gates of his detailed plan to reduce the Defense Department budget by $100 billion over the next five years raised more questions than it answered. One of the key questions: What is the proper role of a chief information officer in the leaner, more consolidated information technology infrastructure that Gates envisions?

Gates proposes closing the office of the assistant secretary of defense for network intelligence and integration -- the official who serves as the CIO. Where would the CIO's new home be, organizationally?

Robert Hale, DOD comptroller, said that DOD's IT capabilities and networks are really just one more weapon system. He suggested, at an August 9 news conference, a re-organization that would center on networks.

"If you could move the operational activities under operational control and take the oversight into administrative and policy issues and put them in another organization, that would align us in such a way that what has become the reality in that our networks are really weapons," he said. "We treat them as weapons systems, they go all the way from the tactical edge -- the Aegis or the warfighter in the foxhole -- back to the headquarters."

If the network is a weapon, that implies the leader of the IT organization is really the head of a weapons program, not just a technology strategist.

What is your take on this? What is the proper role for the CIO of the Defense Department? Is it fundamentally different than that of a CIO in any other agency?

Posted on Aug 10, 2010 at 7:25 PM

Reader Comments

Wed, Aug 18, 2010 Pentagon Insider Pentagon

Many people inside and outside of the Pentagon were very dissatisfied with ASD/NII's leadership and vision (or lack thereof) and cheered at SECDEF's decision. Transferring acquisition oversight of IT acquisition programs to OSD/AT&L is a good thing so long as the same NII players don't transition over. Yet many within DOD have huge concerns about transferring the DOD CIO role to DISA and feel that's going from bad to worse. The DOD needs a strong CIO within the Pentagon to fight the battles within the building and champion a strategy for the Dept. Friends who have worked with/for DISA say "DISA is where careers go to die" and you can't spell disaster without DISA. ASD/NII failed to implement IT Acquisition reform for years and DCMO Beth McGrath and DEPSECDEF William Lynn assumed that role, but their Section 804 Report to Congress was a huge disappointment. It lacked any details and was kept close hold without coordinating with the stakeholders. Instead of disbanding ASD/NII and J6, I think they simply needed a large turnover in personnel and adjusted roles and responsiblities. CCA and Title 40 are just excuses for continuing to fail as the implementation of CCA has been a disaster. So while NII may have failed at their mission, I don't know if we're going to be more efficient by eliminating NII and J6 and have DISA assume their roles.

Fri, Aug 13, 2010

First, everyone should realize that this is just another DoD internal political shuffle. The role for a CIO is defined in CCA and must be a senior level person who has a clear grasp of mission and technology as well as the authority to guide it best for the organization. In other words enterprise architecture, and not just enterprise infrastructure. DISA is an agency of "implementers" and technologists (a good one at that). However, the CIO needs to be above that and not be overly influenced by fancy technology but be able to understand mission and the business to support it. Wherever the CIO goes, it must be given the right support and respect that it has been denied for years.

Thu, Aug 12, 2010 Dave M Hawaii

The "IT is a weapons system" elevator speech is getting pretty worn out. I've seen all kinds of senior leaders make all kinds of ill-considered decisions on the strategy, policy, programs and investments end of IT on the grounds that "IT is just another weapons system." I happen to think the SECDEF was poorly advised on the matter of needing an ASD/NII or not. Just because there has been a general failure of leadership, specific vision/strategy and most certainly a failure of execution from ASD/NII doesn't mean that the need, the charter and assigned functions of that staff don't remain as legitimate and important as ever. ASD/NII probably represented SECDEF Gates' last fighting chance to break the tyranny of Title 10, to drive programmatic and acquisition reform in IT, and to consolidate/integrate commodity DoD and IC IT infrastructure. He needed to do this in close alignment with ODNI and USD/I, and the ASD/NII staff needed to be specifically empowered and charged to make it happen. Putting the right leader in the job would certainly have been key - and I have no idea of California's former CIO was the right leader. Time would have told. So now it will take another 5-10 years for some other new top-level staff to get their shingle out and get their heads wrapped around the challenges. I'm not seeing this as an inspired course of action, frankly.

Thu, Aug 12, 2010 Saeed U. Din Washington DC

CIO must provide or facilitate the very accurate information and data to the concerned Officials with further comments or recommendation in discussion or analysis on sound and valid reasons or evidence for the pure ends of improving or enhancing the functions or operations and policies of the agency that reflects our key values and priciples as leaders universally and trusted and respected sincerely that we deserve honestly in other beholders in just ends.

Wed, Aug 11, 2010

The CIO is not just a technologist but rather an individual/organization that is responsible for enabling the most efficient and effective technology for the sharing and distribution of data and information across the department in support of the deparment's mission execution. The CIO function/responsibility requires the knowledge of the mission execution process, the required data/information for execution, the data/information exchange requirements for execution, the individual tasks/activities that must be performed to execute the mission, where and by whom those tasks/activities will be performed in order to efficiently apply information technology to enable mission execution. The major issues are incentivizing the use of same/similar technology by each of those individuals responsible for mission execution within the department, ensuring the individuals responsible for mission execution are responsible and accountable for the data and information they use and/or produce in support of the department's mission execution and ensuring the individuals responsible for mission execution document the "as is" and "to be" knowledge identified above so the CIO can execute his/her responsibility.

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