Navy consolidates chief information officer amid restructuring

A one-page memo restructures the Navy Department's organizational chart, includes the elimination of the once-powerful office of the Navy CIO.

As part of a significant reorganization of its management bureaucracy, the Navy is doing away with the top-level position that previously guided Navy and Marine Corps information technology policy.

A memo signed last Friday by Thomas Modly, the new undersecretary of the Navy, effectively eliminates the office of the Department of the Navy chief information officer, formerly an influential, separate position within the Secretary of the Navy’s organizational chart.

Going forward, Modly himself will take over the pro-forma title of DON CIO along with all of its responsibilities and authorities. A handful of staff will remain assigned to a restructured and downsized office, but only to handle the IT duties that federal law explicitly requires the secretaries of the military departments to perform.

The changes to the CIO role come as part of a broader management restructuring Modly directed just a few months after his confirmation as the Navy’s number-two civilian official.

The memo fully eliminates the deputy undersecretary of the Navy for management, the organization that, until last week, oversaw the DON CIO and some other functions, including its Office of Strategy and Innovation.

Many of the functions that had been performed by the deputy undersecretary will be absorbed into a new, smaller organization, the Office of the Chief Management Officer, which will report directly to Modly. In addition, most of the Navy’s IT management responsibilities are being delegated to service-level officials in the Navy and the Marine Corps.

“The new offices of the CMO and CIO will contribute to a leaner, more focused approach to business transformation and will help facilitate greater cross-enterprise collaboration on critical issues that require an enterprise approach,” Modly wrote. “This action will proceed immediately.”

Navy, Marines taking different IT paths

The new arrangement appears to de-emphasize the notion that the two sea services should operate under one set of IT policies, but also reflects the realities of the different directions the Navy and Marine Corps have taken. The split was noticeable after a 2013 restructuring of what had previously been a single contract for a fully-outsourced Navy-Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI).

In the intervening years, the Navy and Marine Corps have chosen to pursue different models under the Navy’s Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) contract.

The Marines have opted for a fully government owned-and-operated network known as the Marine Corps Enterprise Network (MCEN), including a cloud computing strategy that relies largely on a Marine-operated cloud computing center in Kansas City (MCEITS).

Meanwhile, the Navy has leaned toward an operating model in which it owns most of its infrastructure, but relies on the NGEN contract to perform most of the day-to-day labor involved in running its IT networks in the continental U.S.

Modly’s decision to devolve more control to the services also potentially reduces  confusion about the various positions in the Navy that can lay claim to the title of CIO.

DON CIO role had already diminshed

Until now, there were at least three officials at any given time who could act as chief information officer:  The DON CIO, the Navy’s Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare (N2/N6) — a three-star admiral position currently held by Vice Adm. Jan Tighe — and a subordinate position that carries out most of the Navy’s service-level CIO responsibilities.

The latter job is sometimes colloquially called the “Navy CIO” or “Deputy DON CIO – Navy,” and was previously held by Janice Haith, a now-retired civilian senior executive. Rear Adm. Danelle Barrett, a uniformed officer and seasoned veteran in Navy C4I systems, assumed a similar role in January, albeit with some changes that also added Navy cybersecurity responsibilities to her portfolio.

Meanwhile, the Marine Corps has been working to elevate the importance of all-things-IT-and-cyber in its warfighting operations, and accordingly, created the new position of Deputy Commandant for Information last summer. The new three-star position is currently held by Lt. Gen. Daniel O’Donohue.

However, Modly’s memo does not explicitly delegate the now-dissolved DON CIO responsibilities to O’Donohue.

Instead, on the Marine Corps side, they will be given to “the Marine Corps C4,” presumably referring to that service’s current one-star CIO position. That role is held by Brig. Gen. Dennis Crall, the Marines’ director for command, control, communications and computers.

On the Navy side, the memo delegates the DON CIO’s former responsibilities to Tighe. The role of DON CIO had already been somewhat diminished by the Navy’s apparent disinterest in appointing a permanent official to serve in the role.

Rob Foster, who had served in the position since 2015, left his position last August to accept a job as the deputy CIO for the National Credit Union Administration. Dr. Kelly Fletcher, previously the office’s principal deputy, had been leading the organization in an acting role since that time, but the Navy did not name her or anyone else to lead the organization on a permanent basis following Foster’s departure.

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