Kendall cedes CIM role

The Defense Department's Corporate Information Management initiative lost its champion last week with the retirement of Cynthia Kendall, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for information management.

Rather than replace Kendall, DOD has opted to merge her organization into the Office of Command, Control and Communications. While some interpreted the move as a blow to CIM, Kendall said that is not the case.

"My departure does not signal a change in DOD [support for CIM]," Kendall said. "This organization is going to remain very stable and continue to carry forth."

Kendall knows she leaves CIM in good hands. Her staff directors already shoulder most of the responsibility for day-to-day management of the program. CIM also continues to garner support from the top ranks, including that of Emmett Paige Jr., assistant secretary of Defense for command, control, communications and intelligence.

But most importantly, key elements of CIM have become part of the corporate culture at DOD. Business process re-engineering is the best example. "BPR is an accepted mode of practice in DOD," Kendall said. "People understand it and want to do it. It's integrated into the way DOD does business."

Still, the chief difficulty of CIM is best epitomized by the migration systems initiative. This initiative seeks to eliminate duplicative information systems across DOD's functional areas by standardizing on one or another. As such, it involves "winners and losers," Kendall said—mostly losers.

More than anything, it involves convincing people to face up to difficult change. "CIM, from the outset, has had people across the department concerned because it meant change," Kendall said.

But change has been Kendall's goal since she first joined the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) in 1988. Among other tasks, Kendall pushed to make IT program management part of the curriculum at the National Defense University. She also spearheaded the development of OSD's Major Automated Information Systems Review Council.

In addition, Kendall has played a major role in helping Congress rethink the way information technology figures in DOD's budget. "I like to think we have transitioned from looking at IT [in terms of equipment purchases] to looking at it from a viewpoint of development and modernization," Kendall said.

Kendall believes the CIM initiative has had a similar lasting impact. "A lot of the things we have done have been institutionalized," she said.

If CIM's potential for long-term success is a testament to Kendall's success, it is also a reminder of what has been lost with her departure. "Obviously, the department loses a strong change agent," said Michael Yoemans, DOD's director of BPR.

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