Acting DOD CIO goes public

Terry Halvorsen offers transparency and better data in town hall-style appearance before vendors.

Terry Halvorsen

Acting DOD CIO Terry Halvorsen told Defense contractors that transparency is a two-way street.

Acting Defense Department CIO Terry Halvorsen pledged a transparent relationship with industry and acknowledged what he said were DOD’s shortcomings with contract data in some of his first public comments since becoming the top defense IT official three weeks ago.

"We need to be more transparent out of the DOD level, at the CIO office, but you all also are going to have to be more transparent in your discussions with us," he told a packed AFCEA NOVA conference in Vienna, Va., on June 11. The audience ranged from incumbent defense contractors and big-data giants such as Raytheon and Oracle to smaller IT vendors.

The transparency Halvorsen seeks, he said, is not only between DOD and contractors, but also between the military services’ CIOs. The services, he said, "want the exact same thing" in coordinating with Pentagon leadership on IT policy and other issues, which is transparency through data-sharing. The goal should be to use data to compare IT performance across the services, he added, and then take those numbers to industry to set clearer expectations in contracting.

Halvorsen was CIO for the Department of the Navy from 2010 to 2014 before succeeding Teri Takai as DOD CIO last month. Takai recently told FCW that having multiple CIOs within DOD led to "creative tension," not executive turf battles or bureaucratic redundancies.

In an appearance that was more town-hall session than speech, Halvorsen spoke without notes, pacing the center aisle of the room and standing a few feet from audience members when they asked a question. 

"You will see us much more interested in business-like questions," he said of the DOD CIO office under his watch. "You will see us being real involved with the commercial sector. We have to get more involved with business."

To accomplish this, Halvorsen said he will work closely with David Tillotson III, who was named DOD's acting deputy chief management officer May 27. That position is charged with streamlining the Pentagon's business operations. "Dave and I are going to be seamless in our approach. We will be united in almost everything we do, because between business process and business systems, that’s how you get things done," Halvorsen said.

The acting IT chief at the Pentagon was direct in reminding the contractors in the room that communication is a two-way street. "You got to do your homework" to understand DOD, just like a vendor would understand any other customer, he said during the Q&A. 

Halvorsen also said he was eager to cut out redundant databases.

"We have too many systems that do the same thing," he said, adding that some of the department’s databases have 80 percent or more data in common. It is as simple as verifying data and using that to inform policy decisions. "We have not done some of that analysis very well."

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