Letter to the editor

I am responding to a letter that ran Feb. 26 on FCW.com in which the anonymous author proposed that the Navy appoint an information technology resource allocation czar, a "benevolent dictator" to rule over Navy/Marine Corps cyberspace.

The premises put forward in support of this notion were that:

* The Navy Department recently has been weakened by a talent hemorrhage at the top.

* Some private-sector firms have successfully employed czars to force/enforce change.

* Examples of imperfect program execution can be found within the departmental portfolio.

In regard to the personnel turnover issue, it is in the very nature of all military organizations to renew constantly their talent pool and to refresh their leadership. This process is even more pronounced at the service secretariat, where both uniformed and politically appointed leaders come and go.

Former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig, Adm. Archie Clemins, Vice Adm. Art Cebrowski and Vice Adm. Jerry Tuttle all led the Navy's information transformation. All were succeeded by very able leaders, including those the author listed as evidence of brain drain.

That group has departed and in its place another wave of talent swells. To name one — Dave Wennergren, the new department chief information officer, who I had the very great pleasure to work with for the past five years.

Regarding the second point, private-sector governance models are routinely examined by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and all the services, striving to improve warfighting and warfighting support.

Particularly, large corporations with widespread operations are constantly examined by the services for IT governance innovation. The services are aware of the efficiency associated with strong corporate IT models and also of the fragility of this approach. Good governance models balance headquarters centralization with its control and uniformity and decentralization to the field with its flexibility, innovation and inherent buy-in and do not lose sight of accountability for results.

The Navy Department has worked hard to find better balance in this equation with its investment in enterprise architecture and networks. I would argue that the department has it more right than wrong, particularly with the recent restructuring to establish the Navy and Marine Corps flag and general officers as formally designated deputy positions to the Navy Department CIO.

The final premise of the author dealing with imperfect execution is one that the resource/requirements, acquisition and CIO communities are dedicated to improving.

Office of Management and Budget leadership has raised the bar in terms of reviewing projects and initiatives to ensure that they demonstrate economic sensibility, architectural compliance and transformational commitment through the President's Management Agenda. They are to be commended — as are DOD CIO John Stenbit and DOD Deputy CIO Priscilla Guthrie — for giving much greater emphasis to the Exhibit 300, which documents these dimensions.

The Navy Department has a major initiative under way to improve greatly not only the documentation but the coupling and alignment of investments to the larger vision.

It is important that the department support the CIO, however investing neither too much nor too little power in that position. Creation of an IT czar other than the CIO would "break" the CIO position. Making the CIO the proposed IT czar would "break" the collaborative enterprise governance processes that have begun to emerge from dealing with issues related to the Navy Marine Corps Intranet.

Under the guidance and direction of Secretary Gordon England, much thought and effort was put into restructuring the departmental governance strategy to address all of these issues. Let's give the new structure and the new secretary time to make it work.

Daniel Porter
Senior vice president, strategic development
Vredenburg Inc.
Former Navy Department CIO

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