Under Pressure, Pentagon Adopts New IT Strategy - InformationWeek

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Under Pressure, Pentagon Adopts New IT Strategy

The CIO of the Department of Defense has devised an ambitious IT plan that aims to help the military branches cope with billions of dollars in budget cuts.

The Department of Defense is staring at a classic enterprise IT challenge, only on a massive scale. Facing billions of dollars in budget cuts, the DOD must decide where to invest its IT dollars in order to save money across its operations, and where to pinch IT spending. But with national security on the line, the stakes are much higher--it must do so without compromising its IT infrastructure and applications.

The answer comes in the form of a new plan that aims to replace the military's branch-specific systems and networks with a more efficient, and ultimately more capable, enterprise model. The strategy will require changes that go well beyond new IT systems. "This plan commits us to changing policies, cultural norms, and organizational processes to provide lasting results," DOD CIO Teri Takai told Congress earlier this year.

The Pentagon has the biggest IT budget of any organization in the world: $38.4 billion in fiscal 2012. But that budget's a moving target, as the DOD is under intense pressure to cut its overall spending by tens, potentially hundreds, of billions of dollars over the next five years.

The new IT Enterprise Strategy and Roadmap identifies 26 tech initiatives to be carried out over the next 10 years. The strategy, crafted by Takai along with CIOs of the military branches, was signed by the deputy secretary of defense in early October and is due for public release this month.

The DOD drew on best practices from the private sector in devising its plan, which is spelled out in a 48-page document. The strategy identifies networking services, computing services, end user services, application and data services, and business processes as areas of focus. It provides benchmarks for sought-after efficiencies, including a 30% reduction in servers and up to $3.5 billion in savings over five years. Supplementing the IT Enterprise Strategy is an "initial implementation plan" that identifies work to be done in fiscal years 2012 and 2013, with a focus on near-term gains.

Takai, in an interview with InformationWeek, says the objectives of the IT Enterprise Strategy go beyond efficiencies that translate into cost savings. The department also wants to improve cybersecurity and broaden information sharing across the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines.

Some of the projects are in their early stages, but most have yet to begin. "There's some pretty aggressive items in there," Takai says. But she adds: "I wouldn't call them quick wins."

Pending Reorg

As Takai has learned in her first year on the job, quick wins are hard to come by in the vast bureaucracy of the Pentagon, which at 6.5 million square feet is more than twice the size of the Empire State Building. Her IT strategy document, originally due at midyear, is arriving months later than planned. "I'm continually surprised at the steps that need to take place here," she says.

A former CIO of California, Takai was appointed DOD CIO in October 2010, and she immediately walked into a restructuring of the CIO's office (which formerly had the buttoned-up moniker of Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration) and the breakup of the Joint Forces Command (which had coordinated much of the IT work that cut across miliary branches).

A year later, the plan for reorganizing the CIO office has been nearly finalized but still awaits another bureaucratic step: approval by Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter. It defines more clearly the authority of the CIO to include oversight of IT spending and implementation, as well as the CIO's relationship with three critical units: U.S. Cyber Command, which is responsible for protecting DOD networks; the Defense Information Systems Agency, or DISA, which provides IT services to the military branches; and the Office of Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. Takai's organization will be renamed the Office of the DOD Chief Information Officer.

The CIO office reorg is part of a broad restructuring ordered last year by Robert Gates, the secretary of defense at the time, whose goal was to lower costs by eliminating redundant functions. Takai's appointment was a surprise to nearly everyone. She had neither of the qualifications one would expect for the job: a military background or experience in the federal government's senior executive service.

But Takai did have three years under her belt managing California's not-insignificant IT operations ($4 billion budget and 10,000 people), where she is credited with driving efficiency and accountability. Before that, she was CIO of Michigan and had worked in the private sector for Ford, EDS, and auto parts supplier Federal-Mogul.

Takai has two senior advisers to show her the ropes--Chief of Staff Rear Admiral Janice Hamby and Principal Deputy CIO Robert Carey, who together have years of experience in what some call simply "the building." In our interview, Takai says the size, structure, and culture of the DOD have taken some getting used to. "It's been important to learn the way the Office of the Secretary of Defense works vis-a-vis the military and how the entire structure is laid out," she says.

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