Defense Dept. IT Reform Moves Forward

After announcing impending reforms in 2010, the military is beginning to shake up how it manages IT.
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The Department of Defense (DOD) has made information technology reform an important part of its agenda throughout the Obama administration, and efforts to overhaul the department are finally starting to bear fruit.

Within the last few months, the DOD formally shuttered the office of the assistant secretary of defense for networks and information integration (ASD/NII); released a new military-wide IT enterprise strategy and roadmap to the Web; and urged the military's CIO executive board to be more active in its advice to DOD CIO Teri Takai.

Changes have been in store for DOD IT leadership since at least mid-2010, so they have been a long time coming. But the fact that changes are being made at all 18 months after first being proposed demonstrates that IT reform at the DOD is not a dead issue. Some of DOD's reforms thus far have seemed to place a greater emphasis on the role of DOD CIO Teri Takai.

The most recent piece of the overhaul is a renewed emphasis on the DOD CIO executive board, an organization of top DOD officials that informally advises the CIO on a broad array of issues. In a memo issued to DOD officials earlier this month, deputy secretary of defense Ashton Carter said that he wanted to "refocus and strengthen" the board on providing "active" guidance on the military's IT goals. Before these changes, the board's charter had not been updated since April 2005.

[ What's in store for the military IT budget? See Obama Would Cut Military IT Budget. ]

The executive board move could tie Takai more closely with the rest of DOD leadership, as the board counts among its members the directors of NSA and the Defense Information Systems Agency and several undersecretaries of defense. "The goal of the board is to provide unified direction and leadership to effectively and efficiently manage and operate the information enterprise," Carter wrote in the memo.

Last month, Carter officially disestablished ASD/NII. That move had been on the table since August 2010, when then-secretary of defense Robert Gates announced that the military would be creating a stronger DOD CIO position and in the process eliminate ASD/NII because it had become "redundant, costly, and cumbersome."

The memo disestablishing ASD/NII also directed that the DOD CIO remain as the military's "primary authority for the policy and oversight of information resources management." Although it handed some acquisition authority over to the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, the memo also clarified that Takai would retain certain other authority on IT acquisition.

The third recent major change at DOD was the unveiling of the military's enterprise IT strategy in December. The strategy outlined $5.2 billion in cuts through infrastructure consolidation and enterprise services and identified a total of 26 initiatives to increase DOD's IT efficiency and effectiveness.

The IT strategy plots "aggressive consolidation" of IT at DOD through 2015 in order to do away with what Takai wrote in the document amounted to a "patchwork of capabilities" that have resulted from decentralized IT planning.

Among the plans in DOD's new IT strategy is an effort to institute attribute-based access controls this year and public key infrastructure by the middle of 2013.

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