DOD director revels `in the fray'

Over the last year or so Cynthia Rand has seen her life overrun by the Year 2000 problem the Clinger-Cohen Act and outsourcing issues.

And she could not be happier.

In her role as principal director for information management at the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command Control Communications and Intelligence (C3I) Rand is responsible for coordinating the development of a myriad of departmentwide policies procedures and guidelines in response to these and other major IT issues.

She also serves as something of a lightning rod for the Defense Department taking on the steady stream of information requests from congressional committees the General Accounting Office and other sources.While an outside observer might question just what satisfaction such a job could bring - as several of her friends have wondered - Rand clearly relishes her predicament. "I would rather be in the fray than out on the periphery " she said. "I want to be directly involved - if not in the lead - in priority projects or initiatives in any job I take."

Her situation has changed considerably since she joined DOD three years ago. Rand left a position as director of information resources management at the Transportation Department to become deputy to Cynthia Kendall then deputy assistant undersecretary of Defense for information management.

In the first year or so at her new job Rand was involved in a multitude of issues as a representative on DOD councils for both Kendall and Emmett Paige Jr. assistant secretary for C3I. Besides taking an active role in projects related to DOD's Corporate Information Management initiatives she co-chaired the Software Management Council an initiative to improve how the department manages large IRM and weapons-related software programs.

Although DOD was clearly a good place to work she found herself wondering after her first year about her decision to take the job. "Two years ago I would have told you `I am not sure I am in the right place ' " she said.

In particular Rand felt too removed from the mission of the agency. She was happiest when working on specific issues and dealing directly with DOD services and components.

Her doubts were echoed by friends from her days of working on public policy issues at the National Endowment for the Arts where she was deputy chairman of management before joining DOT in 1991.But everything began to change early last year when Kendall retired and DOD passed off many of her responsibilities to Rand. Not only did Rand take on a new level of responsibility but the very nature of the work began to change as well.

During the course of the year officials at DOD and other agencies began to raise questions about the notorious Year 2000 problem - the question of how software programs employing two-digit date code will process information after 1999 - which was just gaining recognition as a sticky technical issue. With industry analysts putting the cost of fixing government software programs in the billions Rand found herself dealing with a flurry of information requests from top Pentagon brass Congress and GAO. She is responsible for coordinating the answers which come from each DOD service and component.

`A Professional High'

"[Year 2000] keeps me awake at night it got me up at quarter to 6 this morning " she said. "But you've got to understand that's a professional high and excitement for me."

The scenario was repeated when Congress passed Clinger-Cohen which requires federal agencies to demonstrate returns on their IT investments. It happened yet again with the issue of outsourcing following several major reports that called for DOD to rely more heavily on the private sector for many basic functions.

The rapid turn of events left Rand almost breathless. "I haven't had time to think - there is so much demand for information from external resources I have not even had time to think about it " she said."But I would rather have it this way than to be on the outside looking in " she added.

The emergence of these complex urgent and high-profile issues cast her job in a new light. She said she finds the Year 2000 issue the most challenging because it has a fixed deadline a clear objective and an expected outcome.

Still it does not surprise her that other people sometimes find her job satisfaction inexplicable. "When I see my friends in the arts community they have concerns " Rand said. "They ask me `How are you doing?' I say I am enjoying it.

"So now they really have concerns " she quipped.


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