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DOD CIO Driving Enterprise IT Structure Across Military

Defense CIO Teri Takai previews policy directives on commercial cloud computing and cybersecurity during the procurement cycle.

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The Department of Defense plans to soon issue a policy directive on commercial cloud computing within the military, as well as another that involves cybersecurity and IT procurement, DOD CIO Teri Takai said Thursday in an interview with media after hosting a panel at an annual Defense Information Systems Agency conference.

Takai, who was named DOD CIO last October, has spent much of her first year grappling with edicts to increase IT efficiency from the Secretary of Defense, improve cybersecurity, and comply with the White House's IT transformation plan, all the while trying to navigate the dotted line authority she has over the IT leaders at each of the military branches.

One of the key aspects of her role is to drive the concept of enterprise IT across a military that often breaks down along the lines of Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, with each service wanting to do its own thing. "There's a tremendous opportunity to look at the DOD as an enterprise," she said. "It's not something we've done very well, but the technology is pushing us to go there. While we've talked about the net-centric environment before this, now we're there."

Cloud computing and procurement fit well within this aspect of her role. In the panel discussion Takai moderated at the panel, one of the first questions she asked was about cloud computing and shared services like email, where the Army is now moving to an enterprise email system that has addresses ending in @mail.mil.

"We're going to be moving in many cases toward a private cloud construct, but we're thinking about the possibilities for commercial cloud," she said. "One of the things my office is working on is, as we move toward commercial cloud, what does that mean and what do we need from a DOD perspective."

In terms of IT acquisition reform, which the DOD has been working on for some time, Takai said that the DOD will begin taking several steps over the next several months, some of which will be simple fixes, and some of which may even require legislation, though the changes won't create an entirely new procurement system for IT. "It's about working within the system," she said. "Current practices are not as prohibitive as we might think. It's the way we implement those practices."

For example, Takai said that her team and the DOD's acquisition contingent have been looking into how agile development can be better leveraged, how requirements for new IT acquisitions are drawn up, and whether the way the DOD does testing is too costly and, if so, how to fix it.

While she'll soon be issuing cloud computing and cybersecurity directives, and said that she's not afraid of using the budget as a consequence for non-compliance with critical IT directives, Takai added that her general philosophy is not to simply mandate things from the top. "You really do need to understand the individual services' needs, their objectives, and then what we can do from the enterprise perspective," she said. "The culture in each one of the services is important, but it's also important to get issues out in the open."

For example, Takai deliberately raised the issue of enterprise email during the panel discussion, because she knew that the different services had different perspectives on how and whether to move to military-wide email systems. "It's important to have a debate," she said. "We agree on the objective, but we just have to figure out how to get there."

As for the solution to that problem, Takai said that her preference is not to mandate enterprise email, but instead to ensure that it gets to a point where service CIOs are able to see its value and want to move to enterprise email on their own. She's particularly interested in helping to work through the technical details of common identity structures and common directory structures to enable an easy, future transition when other military services (besides the Army) are ready for it.

In the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek Government: As federal agencies close data centers, they must drive up utilization of their remaining systems. That requires a well-conceived virtualization strategy. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

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