Pentagon should terminate its CMO position, advisory board says

(DoD / U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann / Flickr)

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The Pentagon’s No. 3 position, the chief management officer, is “mostly ineffective” and should eliminated, according to a Department of Defense advisory board.

The office was elevated in 2018 to its current status with the goal of reforming business practices across the department, but it was unsuccessful because it could not overcome cultural barriers and lacked clear authority, according to the report from the Defense Business Board.

The board recommends terminating the role and transferring responsibilities to already-established offices, including the CIO’s office, which has been given more authority over major IT modernization projects in recent years.

“There is significant overlap and confusion across the Department on the role and responsibilities of the CMO,” the report found.

The role has had a rocky existence since its creation under a different name and structure in 2008. Its transformation into a full CMO position in 2018 didn’t change its trajectory. Jay Gibson, the first full CMO, resigned after only a few months on the job after leaders were not satisfied with his work on key IT modernization projects and other initiatives.

Gibson had initial authority over the development of the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) before the project was overtaken by the CIO’s office. The position had a Senate-confirmed officeholder only 45 percent of the time since in 2008, according to the report. Currently, Lisa Hershman serves as the Senate-confirmed CMO.

Much of the CMO’s job description overlaps with the deputy secretary of Defense and chief operating officer. Many across the military services and support agencies have chosen to “ignore” or “wait out” recommendations from the CMO’s office, according to the report. Each military department also has management officers that often superseded the cultural authority of the departmentwide CMO, even though it is higher in the chain of command.

“This poses an issue of ‘who’s in charge’ and confuses the line of authority and responsibility,” the report said of the overlaps.

Other recommendations the report made were to create a second deputy secretary of Defense for resources and management or create a principal undersecretary of Defense for business transformation.

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chief management officer, Department of Defense (DOD), Jay Gibson, Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI)
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