Army Reserve outsources CIO function to Unisys

In what may be a first in government, the Army Reserve last month outsourced its chief information officer function to private industry, hiring a Unisys Corp. executive to act as its interim CIO.

Dennis Kelly, formerly Information Technology Omnibus Procurement (ITOP) deputy program manager at Unisys, last month was named the interim CIO at the Army Reserve. Kelly heads the CIO Program Team, which is made of deputy program managers— in functional areas such as networks and information systems— from the Reserve's three major sites in Washington, D.C.; St. Louis; and Atlanta.

One of Kelly's primary responsibilities will be to implement the requirements of the Clinger-Cohen Act, which requires agencies to consider exactly how information systems will help them carry out their missions and the performance they can expect from these investments. However, it is the deputy program managers, who are government employees, who actually approve the funds for programs.

"He is a CIO in everything except the ability to commit federal resources," said Maj. Gen. Thomas Plewes, deputy commanding general for the Army Reserve Command. "Those program managers on the CIO Program Team carry through the CIO functions for the various organizations, so they commit the funds. We've checked the legality of it, and it works for us."

In August the Army Reserve awarded Unisys a task-order contract under the Transportation Department's ITOP contract to establish and operate a CIO office. "From a consulting point of view, it is learn by doing instead of learn by studying," Kelly said. "Doing the operations and strategic planning [under the contract] gave us the understanding of what was needed to establish the CIO office. The client wanted a fresh perspective, and we are providing that."

Kelly will provide a central point of contact and focus for the CIO function in the agency; that function previously was spread among the three major sites. "He brings a great deal of expertise to bear and brings together these three parts and synchronizes activities," Plewes said.

Kelly is essentially "firewalled" from other work Unisys is involved with at the Army Reserve. "I have to operate just like a government official would," Kelly said. "All of the procurement integrity rules also apply to me."

"I certainly won't say that it can't work, but it certainly is a novel way of doing it," said Ira Hobbs, deputy CIO at the Agriculture Department. "Obviously the Army Reserve feels comfortable that [this arrangement] relates well to its internal structure."

Renny DiPentima, CIO at SRA International Inc. and a former deputy commissioner for systems at the Social Security Administration, said the government should make "every effort to recruit people to come in from industry and academia as CIO candidates." DiPentima helped draft a report that recommended how best to set up the CIO position in government. However, regardless of where the candidate came from, that person should have "all the authority of a CIO as the Clinger-Cohen Act intended."

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