DoD Cloud Exchange 2024: OSD’s Danielle Metz on moving from ‘fiefdoms’ to coherent IT enterprise

Over the past 18 months, DoD has been working to turn a myriad OSD offices into an IT enterprise. A new agreement takes that effort a step further.

Up until about a year and a half ago, the 16,000 employees who make up the Office of the Secretary of Defense were the biggest technology user base in the Defense Department that didn’t much resemble an IT enterprise. Collectively, the organization is bigger than the Space Force and many large DoD agencies, but from an IT perspective, the nearly two dozen entities that comprise OSD were largely left to their own devices — figuratively and literally.

But an enormous amount has changed since October 2022, when DoD created a new CIO position to unify 17 OSD staff assistant offices and four agencies into a coherent IT management structure. Most recently — just this month — everyone involved signed a memorandum of agreement to make clear all assigned roles and responsibilities.

“Over the past 10 to 15 years of IT efficiency and consolidation drills, there was a lot of movement of money and resources, but nothing was written down,” Danielle Metz, OSD CIO said during Federal News Network’s DoD Cloud Exchange 2024.

“Since we weren’t really united and no one viewed themselves as part of a collective, everyone had different expectations, different thoughts. And because we didn’t have a memorandum of agreement that articulated the common services that were going to be delivered by the service provider — and the price points and metrics associated with that — there wasn’t an understanding of whether what was being delivered was considered good, what was considered not so good and how to correct that. All of that needed to be sorted through. And so just getting that baseline is what we’ve endeavored on in the past 18 months.”

The service provider is the Defense Information Systems Agency, which has been delivering IT services to tenants inside the Pentagon and the National Capital Region through its joint service provider since 2015, when DoD ordered an earlier consolidation of its IT service providers.

Buying, managing IT services at an enterprise level

But until recently, each OSD organization has been on its own when it comes to ordering and implementing those services, depending on their needs, and figuring out for themselves how to use them.

“We’re now acting as an enterprise instead of individual fiefdoms, and that it works two ways,” Metz said. “One is that we have collective buying power, but we also are able to advocate for the resources that we all need and not just the piece parts by those who were able to navigate the Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Execution process on their own, which is what was happening. There were a lot of organizations that were struggling, and the whole point of a CIO is to democratize access so that we don’t have winners and losers.”

In its initial stages, beyond creating usage, spending and user experience baselines, Metz’s new office — part of the Pentagon’s Directorate of Administration and Management — has had some early wins in deploying common services to the parts of the DoD “fourth estate” that fall within the new OSD enterprise portfolio.

For unclassified email and collaboration services, all 21 of the organizations have now moved to DoD 365, the Pentagon’s cloud-based implementation of Microsoft 365. As of this month, all but one of those organizations has also migrated to their secret-level systems to the new classified version of DoD 365, eliminating the need for a hodgepodge of aging information sharing tools at Impact Level 6.

Migrating those systems to a single cloud environment also helps mitigate the network fragmentation DoD organizations have been creating for the last several decades.

“It doesn’t make those fragmentation issues irrelevant, but it helps us prioritize the fact that we do need to do some network simplification, both on our unclassified and classified networks. That’s what DISA has been leading with what they call DoDNet,” Metz said. “We’re working with DISA to accelerate their plans to have that in the Pentagon, so that you don’t have like a Pentagon local area network that’s kind of sandwiched in between all these other various networks, whether it’s classified or unclassified. We really do need to streamline and simplify the network because we have a lot of network outages. We have performance issues.”

Moving toward a single budget for OSD IT

Another major objective: figuring out how to create a unified IT budget for nearly two dozen organizations with widely varying missions, expertise and needs.

Metz said the most sensible way to provide for each organization would be to create a single working capital fund for the entire enterprise’s IT expenditures, rather than forcing each of them to plan their technology budgets via DoD’s arduous and rigid PPBE process.

“In that model, you’re using your crystal ball to assess what is the technology that we need to be able to implement, and then you have to get a lot of details to be able to come up with a funding profile over five years — but you’re doing it two years out, and you’re going to be wrong. And even if you have it programmed, if you’re operating under a continuing resolution, you don’t have access to those dollars. It really slows your ability to drive the important changes that need to take place. In a working capital fund or fee-for-service model, you’re able to make those capital investments and technology insertions a lot more gracefully instead of having to do big bang approaches — which we know in technology never ever works.”

Discover more articles and videos now on Federal News Network’s DoD Cloud Exchange event page.

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