New DoD CIO still unknown, but role will not change

Deputy DoD CIO Wennergren dispels rumors of modified responsibilities for next appointee. Technology executives see their responsibilities evolve to meet their ...

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor

There has been a lot of discussion about the White House cybersecurity coordinator and the hold in the Senate on the nomination of Martha Johnson to be the administrator of the General Services Administration, but few have asked who is going to be the next Defense Department chief information officer.

Many consider the DoD CIO to be the second, maybe third, most influential technology executive in the government-after federal CIO Vivek Kundra, and maybe after federal chief technology officer Aneesh Chopra.

But there has been little discussion publicly of potential candidates to replace John Grimes. Grimes, the CIO under the Bush administration, resigned in May, leaving long time career official Cheryl Roby in charge on an interim basis.

Some in industry say one of the reasons the job has been hard to fill is the possibility of the CIO losing some responsibilities to the undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Ashton Carter.

Others in industry say the White House’s ethics and post-employment rules are making potential candidates think twice about coming into government. The administration placed restrictions on the job a political appointee can take after government service.

Dave Wennergren, the deputy DoD CIO, put to rest at least some of the rumors that have been circulating around the role of the DoD CIO.

“It is true that we still don’t have new boss yet, but I’m confident that one is coming,” says Wennergren after a speech sponsored by IAC/ACT in Arlington, Va. “My new boss will do the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration and CIO job as it’s currently configured right now. I know of no move to change it.”

But Wennergren says that doesn’t mean the CIO’s role isn’t evolving-not just at DoD, but across the government.

Wennergren, who also is the vice chairman of the CIO Council, says the Office of Management and Budget and the CIO Council are developing a new policy to reaffirm and reiterate the importance and role of the CIO in all agencies.

The policy still is in draft so Wennergren couldn’t offer too many details.

“The statutes that guide us are great, but they were written quite a while ago and as we move from the end of the industrial age to the information age, some of these issues need to be more fully addressed,” he says. “There is a lot of thought work about role of the CIO in the future. Today it’s a lot less about information technology and a lot more about effective information management and secure information sharing.”

A request to OMB asking for more information on the upcoming memo was not immediately returned.

OMB put out a memo on the role of the CIO in October 2008 trying to ensure these technology executives remain a part of the decision making process.

And Kundra has said several times that he believes CIOs need more authority.

In the mean time, DoD also is clarifying the role of its CIO as it relates to the new Chief management Officer. Deputy secretary William Lynn is the CMO, but a deputy CMO, who is expected to run the day-to-day operations, hasn’t been named yet.

Wennergren and assistant deputy CMO Elizabeth McGrath co-signed a memo in July detailing how the two positions will work together.

“The deputy CMO and the CIO each have vital, distinct roles in DoD enterprise governance and mutually support each other’s processes,” the memo states. “The deputy CMO participates in CIO governance, such as the CIO Executive Board and the Enterprise Guidance Board, to provide DoD business requirements to shape the IT infrastructure and services. The DoD CIO participates in business systems governance, such as Investment Review Boards and the Defense Business Systems Management Committee, to verify conformance with enterprise rules, principles and approaches; enabling interoperability, efficient use of common infrastructure and services as well as visible, accessible, understandable business data in a trusted environment.”

Wennergren says the memo is important to all of DoD as all the services will have CMOs and have CIOs.

Another policy many in industry and the Pentagon are watching is how DoD brass will address the use of social media.

Wennergren says the policy is broader than Web 2.0 or social media, but all Internet capabilities.

“We want to help people be thoughtful and responsible because the Internet is how we do our work,” he says. “Social networking services provide a huge value for our servicemen and women in the quality of life, but frankly these capabilities are not just about quality of life. We leverage the Internet heavily to get the department’s work done. The policy will help people recognize that they have to be thoughtful about how they use all of these capabilities because there are risks in using the Internet.”

He points to the use of wikis to develop policy across the department. Many of DoD’s new policies are developed collaboratively.

Wennergren says the social media policy and DoD’s new information management strategic plan are two examples of new guidance that were developed using this approach.

Wennergren says he is hopeful the social media policy will be done by early 2010.

(Copyright 2009 by All Rights Reserved.)

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