Change as a way of life
- By Dan Caterinicchia, Dan Caterinicchia
- Mar 10, 2002
Miriam Browning enjoys rebuilding things. The concept of transforming institutions so they exceed past successes permeates her life at work and at home.
As the Army's principal director for enterprise integration, a post she took over last August, Browning is focused on two initiatives that are changing how the Army works: the Army Knowledge Management project and the Army's transformation effort. The AKM project is an effort to improve the management and availability of information throughout the service, and the Army's broader transformation effort aims to use technology to make its forces lighter on their feet and more lethal.
AKM, which includes the Web portal-based Army Knowledge Online initiative, emphasizes better information sharing and faster, more informed decision-making. When Thomas White, secretary of the Army, outlined AKM's five strategic goals in a memorandum last August, Browning immediately began working on them.
She is pleased with the progress, especially her success in garnering support from management and breaking down cultural obstacles, but she admits there is still much to be done.
"Changing the hearts and minds of the Army that the [command, control, communications, computers and information technology (C4IT)] world is in everyone's best interest — that's a major cultural win," Browning said.
But the conditions were right for that to happen, she said. First, the Army's chief information officer, Lt. Gen. Peter Cuviello, is a strategic thinker. Second, there is an absolute commitment to change from White and Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff. Also, the Army's C4IT strategy fits into its overall transformation effort.
"I rely on Miriam Browning's consistently sound advice and counsel," Cuviello said. "She is a key player at the CIO/G6 [office]. Her leadership of our enterprise-integration efforts is ensuring [that] the Army transforms quickly into the network-centric, knowledge-based force we want it to be."
"We have changed the way the Army does IT," Browning said.
The flipside to that success is explaining the complexities of IT management to the Army's senior leaders, who consistently ask, "Why can't it get done faster? Why this way, and not that way?"
But "Why?" in the technology business isn't a simple question, said Browning, adding that her office, along with the CIO's staff, is trying to find answers to these questions.
"Education and communication is the way we tackle that dilemma," she said.
Another rebuilding effort that is part of Browning's life is the physical one at the Pentagon. On Sept. 11, Browning was vacationing in Florence, Italy, and she does not think about the "what ifs" had she not been away, she said. Her office was damaged in the attack, placing her staff in a cramped, temporary space down the hall. It is a daily reminder of the attack, but the Army has learned a lot since then, she said.
"The most obvious change that [Sept. 11] brought was a real awareness that C4 and IT are critical to how we do business," Browning said. "If there was any doubt before that we could live without computer systems, that's gone away."
The attacks have brought more visibility and, in some cases, more money for C4IT, Browning said, including funds for upgrading infrastructure at overseas locations and installing Secret Internet Protocol Router Network capabilities at every National Guard adjutant general office across the nation.
But continuing to make progress in the Army's enterprise integration and homeland security efforts will not be easy. The service's workforce faces large numbers of personnel close to retirement, as well as numerous unfilled IT positions.
To attract and retain talent, the Army and the federal government as a whole should focus on what benefits differentiate them from the private sector, such as job security for life in exchange for good work, and not focus on salary, Browning said.
"If you want to make a lot of money, don't work for the government," she said. "It does offer a lot of honor and making an impact. Making money isn't necessarily making an impact."
To help attract young people, the Army CIO's office has initiated an intern program offering more intensive training to handpicked recruits. The Army Knowledge Leaders program gives outstanding scholars — some fresh out of college, others with work experience — two years of academic, technical and leadership training, all paid for by the Army. Upon completion of the program, the interns are given an Army position.
The program has eight interns this year and plans to hire the same number next year.
"Making the Army and federal government an employer of choice is easier said than done," she said.
Leaders in the Defense Department, the Office of Personnel Management and the Army have adopted a technology — management focus and are targeting people to be in the Senior Executive Service, not to be just "data dinks."
"These are future government leaders here," Browning said.
Outside the office, Browning and her husband enjoy going to the opera and restoring historic buildings, either the structures themselves or various parts of historic districts.
But that's her hobby. Browning's dream job — if she weren't leading the Army's enterprise integration efforts — is one with a more helpful role.
"I'd like to be a lawyer to the families of [Sept. 11] victims staking claims to the Taliban and Al Qaeda millions and bankrupt them," she said.
In other words, helping people rebuild their lives.