Army CIO Cites Progress In Farewell To Staff

Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, who retired last week, says efforts to modernize the Army's IT infrastructure leaves an "unbreakable foundation" for the next decade.

Elena Malykhina, Technology Journalist

October 7, 2013

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Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, who retired Oct. 2 as the Army's CIO after two and half years of wrenching IT consolidation and budget cuts, praised the work of her colleagues, saying the Army's recent IT modernization efforts have resulted in an "unbreakable foundation that will carry the Army forward for at least the next decade."

Lawrence, who enlisted in the Army 41 years ago, brings to a close a career marked by a string of command assignments around the globe, including the Army Signal Command, where she earned wide respect for her grasp of the Army's communications and IT systems. It also attracted the attention of the Secretary of the Army when he tasked Lawrence, beginning in March 2011, for leading a series of sweeping cost-saving initiatives to consolidate the Army's data centers and modernize the Army's network infrastructure.

"When I stepped into the CIO/G-6 position, I knew I would be in for one of the most challenging jobs I'd ever had. What I didn't know is that it would also be one of the most rewarding," said Lawrence in a farewell blog post.

Modernizing the Army's network became a central project under an IT management reform plan released in February 2013. With that plan in place, the Army aims to save $1.5 billion annually beginning in fiscal year 2015 by managing IT and its network as a portfolio. According to Lawrence, the goal is to improve visibility of the Army's network assets, increase efficiency, and improve IT network decision making. As part of that effort, Army leaders recently implemented an end-to-end portfolio management review process involving 31 organizations across the Army.

[ The military is gradually upgrading its in-the-field communications capabilities. Read Army, Marines Get New Battlefield Computers. ]

While serving as CIO, Lawrence also oversaw the consolidation of the Army's data centers. After identifying more than 800 data processing locations, the Army targeted 185 data centers to be closed, and as of September, had completed more than 70% of that effort. The consolidation efforts are expected to reduce operating costs by $29 million, Lawrence said.

In the summer, the Army completed most of its migration to an enterprise-wide email system that now allows 1.43 million non-classified network users and 115,000 secret Internet network users to access their email securely from anywhere in the world.

Adoption of the system is the first phase of a Defense Department (DOD)-wide move to a private cloud. The system eventually will support 4.5 million users across the department. "Enterprise email greatly improves operational effectiveness, security and efficiency," Lawrence said.

Another project, the Army Request for Information Technology (ARFIT), aims to increase the visibility of IT expenditures, improve compliance with Army IT policies, and cut costs associated with maintaining and operating the Army's IT infrastructure. The ARFIT policy framework was completed this year.

Lawrence acknowledged there still remains much to be done. The next challenge that lies ahead is cybersecurity, specifically, establishing cyber protection teams (CPTs) to conduct global cyberspace operations, she said. "We must execute this to standard -- it is a no-fail mission," she said, adding, "It will take the entire team to achieve this goal. Our relevancy depends on getting the (cyber protection teams) into the force quickly and smoothly."

Mike Krieger, the Army's deputy CIO, has assumed the duties of acting CIO until a replacement for Lawrence is found.

About the Author(s)

Elena Malykhina

Technology Journalist

Elena Malykhina began her career at The Wall Street Journal, and her writing has appeared in various news media outlets, including Scientific American, Newsday, and the Associated Press. For several years, she was the online editor at Brandweek and later Adweek, where she followed the world of advertising. Having earned the nickname of "gadget girl," she is excited to be writing about technology again for InformationWeek, where she worked in the past as an associate editor covering the mobile and wireless space. She now writes about the federal government and NASA’s space missions on occasion.

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