Behind the Defense Business Board CIO Recommendations

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The Department of Defense information technology modernization needs to be seen not just as a back office issue, but also a strategic asset for years to come. If implemented properly, that could dramatically change how DOD approaches its mission, said TASC CEO David Langstaff and chair of the influential Defense Business Board in an interview with FedScoop.

The DBB recommended that the DOD’s IT modernization efforts be spearheaded by a high-ranking official, in this case Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who then empowers the department chief information officer to lead the initiative.

Langstaff told FedScoop that the recommendation comes from similar initiatives in the private sector he says are usually only successful when fueled from the top.

“What we’ve seen is that there needs to be someone in charge who is really in charge or it won’t happen. It can’t be a CIO initiative, but come from the top,” Langstaff said. “It’s not just about modernizing IT systems, but changing culture.”

For instance, Langstaff said that creating a new system will require some to give up direct control of their systems, something that can cause power struggles. That’s part of the reason the DBB advised giving more authority to the DOD CIO and then having the branch and agency CIOs within DOD act more as facilitators and implementers of the policy.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Carter will review the board’s recommendations and, if they accept them, decide to what degree they will be implemented.

The DBB is made up of private sector corporate executives that deliver senior management advice to the secretary and deputy secretary of Defense based on best practices from the private sector. The report was initiated six months ago by then Deputy Secretary of Defense Bill Lynn to look into the cost-saving possibilities of an IT modernization and how the department should approach such an effort, including lessons learned from the private sector.

The goal was not to provide an outline of what specifically to do, but more how to do it, Langstaff said.

“Fundamentally, they have to determine at what level they want to optimize from the standpoint of IT modernization,” Langstaff said. “The points we made are about having a clear strategy and strong leadership that is embraced by the services.”

DBB Draft IT Modernization Outbrief V26 (2)

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Ash Carter, Bill Lynn, DBB, Department of Defense (DOD), Departments, Leon Panetta
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