Gen. Steven Boutelle: Leading by teaching

Everything about the Army chief information officer’s role has changed since Lt. Gen. Steven Boutelle stepped into that position in July 2003. The war in Iraq has evolved from a force-on-force battle into a grueling fight against insurgent violence. The military leadership has changed, too. Boutelle has worked with two Defense secretaries, three Army secretaries and three heads of multinational forces in Iraq.

Boutelle has changed, transcending the role of CIO to become a business leader, policy leader and thought leader.

Boutelle receives well-deserved credit for his accomplishments in helping the Army procure and deploy crucial battlefield communications that link soldiers with vital information. But he also has taken lesser-known actions to put the Army on a sounder footing for the future, including steps to transform Army training and education to reflect new realities.

“We were pushing new systems into the hands of soldiers and Marines, but the classrooms were not keeping up,” Boutelle said, “Most of our institutional training was still based upon our Cold War systems.”

He stepped in and rushed $50 million in emergency funding to upgrade the classrooms and curriculum at the Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Gordon, Ga., helping the command reduce a backlog of students. The Army began to catch up with its training needs by building 47 classrooms.

The service also invested heavily in online training during Boutelle’s tenure. It now offers more than 4,000 online courses. Boutelle updated the curriculum to include voice over IP, videoconferencing and satellite systems. Soldiers can now get commercial certifications.
He worked to change the operational specialties that soldiers pursue so they are aligned with the realities of combat today. 

Boutelle believes in educating up the chain of command. He holds two-day weekend workshops on information technology for generals and senior military leaders. Every month, generals meet to hear from Boutelle about the role of the Internet, the network and current technology in war.

Those workshops change each month to reflect new threats and countermeasures. Practitioners in Iraq and Afghanistan join the sessions via videoconferencing. The workshops have become so popular that other services’ flag officers and even a senator have participated.

The Army manages and operates the National Science Center, which consists of an educational facility in Augusta, Ga., a distance-learning program to help teachers, camps to teach math and science, and learning facilities in tractor-trailers that travel to schools to engage students nationwide. Half of the center’s funding comes from the private sector, and Boutelle is the primary fundraiser.

“He’s a change agent,” said Lt. Gen. Charles Croom, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency. Croom said Boutelle never loses his focus. “If it doesn’t help the soldier in the field, he doesn’t want to hear about it.”

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