Defense CIO seeks a promotion
- By George I. Seffers
- Dec 10, 2000
The office of the Pentagon's chief information officer will recommend to
the new administration that the CIO post be elevated to the level of undersecretary
of Defense, with control of up to 10 percent of the military's information
The proposal, which has not been made public and has yet to gain the
nod from Defense Secretary William Cohen, also would at least double the
annual budget for the CIO to about $100 million. Defense Department spokeswoman
Susan Hansen was unable to comment on the plan.
The recommendations are intended to crystallize the Pentagon's vision
for what the CIO's role should be, said one official familiar with the proposal.
The vision includes achieving so-called interoperability — the seamless
flow of information, particularly among the military services. The department
has grappled for years with interoperability; some experts say this struggle
is exacerbated by each service's legal authority to buy its own equipment,
including information systems.
"Right now it's like the Wild West," one official said. "The services
buy whatever the hell they want to buy, and then the CIO is responsible
under the law for interoperability. The CIO position needs to be elevated
to the undersecretary level so that he will have parity with major stakeholders."
Giving the CIO control of up to 10 percent of IT funding would allow
the office to offer incentives for buying joint information systems and
to fund critical programs. Official estimates of DOD's annual IT budget
range from $12 billion to $15 billion annually, but are not considered
"I haven't got a clue how much we spend on [command, control, communications,
computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance]," Art Money, the
Pentagon CIO, said recently. "I would guess it's in the area of $75 billion
to $100 billion — roughly a quarter to a third of the budget — but if you
asked me to prove it, there's no way in hell I can."
Elevating the CIO to an undersecretary with budget authority would provide
the clout intended under the 1996 Clinger-Cohen Act, said Anthony Valletta,
former acting assistant secretary of Defense for command, control, communications
and intelligence and now an executive at SRA International Inc., Fairfax,
"It would really put the position where I believe the Clinger-Cohen
Act intended it to be, which is at the table with the secretary of Defense.
If anything's going to shoot it down, it's going to be the politics," Valletta
Because the Pentagon is legally authorized to have four undersecretaries
and 11 assistant secretaries, Congress would have to approve the move. A
similar attempt in 1997 failed, Valletta said, because it "never got past
the political arguments." Still, with the increasing focus on IT, and more
lawmakers and Pentagon leaders interested in cyber issues, the time might
be right, he noted.
One expert said the recommendations will still fall short of the needed
goal, so long as the individual services retain the authority to purchase
their own information systems.
"If we're going to have a CIO worthy of the name, he has to have the
authority to really direct things, and to give him control of 10 percent
of the [IT] budget sounds like tithing," said Ken Allard, a former Army
officer and vice president for Stratfor Inc.
Raising the CIO's budget to $100 million a year is needed just to "do
the fundamental stuff" and to eliminate "ambiguity about who controls the
IT investment function," one official said. At present, that authority tilts
between the CIO office and DOD's acquisition, technology and logistics office.