Military IT Leadership To Undergo Transformation

The Department of Defense will eliminate its current centralized IT leadership function and create a new, stronger CIO position that will be part of the Defense Information Systems Agency.

J. Nicholas Hoover, Senior Editor, InformationWeek Government

August 10, 2010

3 Min Read

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As part of a series of sweeping changes designed to cut costs and eliminate waste, the Department of Defense will eliminate its current centralized IT leadership function and create a new, stronger CIO position that will be part of the Defense Information Systems Agency, secretary of defense Robert Gates said Monday at a Pentagon press conference.

The move, which comes after a period of apparently declining influence and a yearlong leadership vacuum at the current DoD CIO's office in the office of the assistant secretary of defense for networks and information integration (ASD/NII), also puts in question the nomination of current California CIO Teri Takai to be DoD CIO. Her nomination hearing was in the Senate was postponed last week.

Many of the details of the sweeping changes have yet to be hammered out. As part of the overall changes, secretary Gates appointed a task force that will "develop action plans and oversee their implementation" over the next 90 to 120 days, he said Monday. Asked to provide more detail, a DoD spokeswoman declined, saying that "bottom-line decisions are still to be made."

That means that, for now, much of the future leadership of military IT and its $32 billion annual budget remains up in the air. It's unclear whether the several thousand staff at ASD/NII and at the Command, Control, Communications and Computer Systems Directorate (also known as J-6), which is also on the chopping block, will lose their jobs or shift to the new organization, just as it's unclear what will happen to DoD acting and deputy CIOs Cheryl Roby and Dave Wennergren or J6 commander Lt. Gen. Dennis Via.

Clearly, many of the responsibilities of both ASD/NII and J6 will need to be moved over into the new leadership structure. ASD/NII over the last few years has written top-level policy on issues like social networking, open source and XML use, and has continued to evolve high-level architecture requirements. J6's responsibilities include, among other things, overseeing critical interoperability exercises.

However, it's apparent that Gates and others thought the organizations had outlived their usefulness. "The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration or NII was set up in 2003 when policy, oversight and advocacy functions for command, control and communications split off from intelligence," Gates said Monday. "The resulting arrangement for dealing with enterprise IT and hardware issues, which includes a similar function for the J-6 on the Joint Staff, has since become redundant, costly and cumbersome."

In a later press conference, undersecretary of defense and DoD comptroller Robert Hale added that NII, J6 and DISA have largely been oriented "for what some would call a circuit-based phone-line world," making DoD's IT leadership less efficient and effective than it needs to be in today's rapidly changing world of IT. To account for that, the new CIO's office will come endowed with operational control of military IT, both Hale and Gates said.

About the Author(s)

J. Nicholas Hoover

Senior Editor, InformationWeek Government

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