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White House Pulls Defense Dept. CIO Nomination

IT reforms at the Pentagon will delay filling the empty position, but former nominee Teri Takai remains in the running to lead the military's IT ops.

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The Department of Defense has been without a CIO since May 2009, and now it's going to be without one a little longer. The White House this week pulled the nomination of current California CIO Teri Takai, putting off any possible confirmation hearing until a later date while the DoD works to revamp the role of the military's CIO shop.

However, despite the withdrawal of Takai's nomination, the DoD confirms that she is still in the running for the job. "We have not stopped considering her," a DoD spokeswoman said via email late Thursday. "In light of the secretary's initiative to reduce overhead and achieve efficiencies, we're reviewing the entire organizational structure. We determined it was best not to go forward with Ms. Takai's confirmation hearing until bottom-line decisions are made on how to stand up a re-fashioned and strengthened CIO that reports to [the secretary of defense]."

It's even possible that Takai will no longer have to go through a formal confirmation hearing in order to take the job as DoD CIO. According to a defense department source, the fact that, as part of the reforms, Takai will no longer be the assistant secretary of defense for networks and information integration, as past CIOs have been, may make Senate confirmation unnecessary.

Takai's nomination had appeared to be up in the air since at least early August, when her Senate confirmation hearing was postponed. Less than a week after the postponed hearing, the DoD announced that it would eliminate its current IT leadership function in favor of a new, stronger CIO that will be part of the Defense Information Systems Agency, throwing Takai's future in even more doubt.

Neither Takai's name nor nomination were mentioned by DoD officials testifying Tuesday before the House Armed Services Committee, though deputy secretary of defense William Lynn and joint chiefs vice chairman Gen. James Cartwright did reveal new details of the coming reforms, saying that the next DoD CIO would report directly to the secretary of defense.

The DoD had earlier announced that the new CIO would, organizationally, sit within DISA's organization, and that two other organizations currently charged with IT management -- the command, control, communications, and computer systems directorate at the Joint Staff (known by shorthand as J6) and the office of the assistant secretary of defense for networks and information integration (NII) -- would be closing shop.

"The steps we are taking will give that CIO greater resources," Lynn said Tuesday. "We think we'll end up with a stronger CIO." On Tuesday, Lynn said that, as part of the reforms, the DoD would add to the CIO's purview resources from J6, the Defense Information Systems Agency, and "potentially some functions from some other areas [in order] to unify the IT oversight in the department." He added in written testimony that there are a number of ways that responsibilities can be reallocated.

In written testimony, Cartwright said that the need to shake-up IT leadership "has become obvious" as IT oversight is currently carried out via a "complex web of authorities and responsibilities that is unclear and difficult to navigate." That echoes secretary of defense Robert Gates, who, in August, had called the military's IT leadership functions "redundant" and "cumbersome."

Separately, the Air Force Times this week reported that one of Gates' top aides recently issued a memo adding more detail to the changes the CIO role will soon undergo. According to the report, the DoD will draw up, by December 15, a plan to migrate all the functions that will be retained from NII and J6 to DISA (command and control and general IT functions), U.S. Cyber Command (cybersecurity), the DoD comptroller's office ("resourcing" capabilities), and the military's acquisition office in anticipation of the closure of NII and J6 by the end of March.

Meanwhile, while Takai's possible new job at the Department of Defense continues to be delayed, she still has plenty of work to do in California. The state is in the midst of a sweeping, multi-year IT reform agenda that was mandated by an executive order from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in February and then signed into law last week. Takai's agenda includes ambitious goals, such as consolidating data center space by 50% by July and cutting the state's IT energy use by 30% by July 2012.

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