Letter to the editor

I found the letter to the editor titled "Navy needs an IT resource czar" interesting and a bit puzzling since the author mixes secretariat issues with bigger issues within the Navy proper.

So, I'd like to go over a couple of points raised by the writer, specifically:

While many of the Department of the Navy's senior IT leaders have recently departed (Gordon England, Dan Porter, Joe Cipriano and yours truly, Ron Turner), there are many, many others within the secretariat, the Navy and the Marine Corps to take our place. All one has to do is study the details of the new Department of the Navy chief information officer structure developed while England was secretary of the Navy.

This restructuring is still in its infancy and needs time to mature. If the organization is enacted as drafted, it places much greater focus on the unity of purpose of the Navy/Marine Corps team by making the CIOs of the Navy and Marine Corps dual-hatted as deputy CIOs under the new CIO office led by Dave Wennergren.

In their secretariat function, their job will be the programmatic and resource "czars," if you will, to cover all of the investments and sustainment efforts that are funded with the Department's $6.2 billion annual IT budget. Let me come back to the issue of the Navy CIO later.

When Vice Adm. Richard Mayo was the Navy CIO, he was also the N6 resource sponsor for the Navy-led IT efforts. I think there were two general agreements that led to his decision to request the establishment of Naval Network Warfare Command.

First and most importantly, was the urgent need to have the Navy establish a single entity that would focus on how the Navy would actually operate in a network-centric environment. So establishing a type commander for IT made perfect sense. The fact that Natcom is an Echelon III command is of less importance. Mayo is in charge of Navy IT operations. That's a good thing. The Marines have had a similar structure for a number of years and it works extremely well for them.

Secondly, Mayo was in a unique and unusual position as the N6 program guy for all Navy IT. All other parts of the Navy's budget and programmatic requirement's generation belonged to the N7 "platform" sponsor, under then-Vice Adm. Denny McGinn. Navy C4I issues were viewed separately from the major sponsor — so why not put them together to get a unified Navy view of all of their program priorities? Again, this is a good thing.

On the three-star CIO billets being downgraded to a two-star billet, I think you have to let common sense rule. Under the N7/N6 realignment, N7 is the person in charge of all Navy program sponsors — aircraft, ships, subs, weapons and all IT and network system support (NSS).

Because IT is so integrated into every aspect of what the Navy does, it needs a single Navy belly button to work with the N7/N6 organization. Enter the Navy two-star. While still overseeing the Navy C4I efforts, in his/her role as the deputy DON CIO, that person has the ability to ensure that Navy dollars are not spent on programs that do not meet overall Navy requirements. You have to let both the Navy reorganization of N7 and N6, and the secretariat reorg of DON CIO flush out how they will operate in the new world.

One area I will have to agree with, on the Navy side, is that the Navy two-star has to be viewed and accepted as the Navy's senior IT leader and take all of the management of IT/NSS issues seriously.

This is, unfortunately, not necessarily viewed as a career-enhancing move for any flag officer — getting the tag as "the computer guy." But it has to be. If "network-centric" is to succeed, you need both the operational and the programmatic/strategic planning portions working. Netcom covers the operational part. The new deputy DON CIO for Navy matters has to take charge of the rest for the Navy.

Imagine that the department's IT/NSS strategic plan was actually linked to a solid business implementation plan. Imagine that IT/NSS program funding documents and IT/NSS contracts had a kick-out clause that said something like "if this program is not part of the approved IT/NSS plan, no funds can be expended or no contract let" for this effort until approved by the new CIO office.

Once this is implemented, the chief of Naval Operations (CNO) won't get bleary-eyed listening to pleas for funding for IT initiatives that are "exactly what is needed" or "vital to transformation." You'll know who's assessing these requests for the CNO to ensure they'll be compatible or fit into a coherent IT capability procurement strategy — that two-star and his staff (for Navy issues). In fact, if someone comes in to brief the CNO and can't say that their initiative is in the "plan," he ought to show them the door.

Certainly there has to be room for experimentation and innovation, but even that has to be coordinated so we don't wind up going 180 degree from the rest of DOD. The Marines have a similar structure, as well as the secretariat overall. There is a process in place to ensure that IT initiatives make good business sense — just give it time to be rolled out.

The interoperability issue is another story entirely, one deserving a separate response. It's bigger than Navy. Bigger than Department of the Navy. Bigger than DOD.

As to the comment on the "six or seven enterprise resource planning initiatives under development that are rumored to be costing the Navy billions to implement AND are NOT all interoperable" — remember that these (I think it's four or five) initiatives started off as pilot efforts. Were it not for other departed Navy leaders with a transformation vision like the former undersecretary, Jerry Hultin; Systems Command (SYSCOM) leaders like Vice Adm. John Lockhart, Vice Adm. Pete Nanos, Rear Adm. John Gauss; the former chief financial officer Charlie Nemfakos; etc., the Navy may never have started these initiatives.

They realized that their overall "business operational costs" were too high. They knew that the internal work processes within the SYSCOMS were too fractured ever to be integrated — and yet, each of those commanders basically performed the same functions for the Navy, just in a different manner.

So, what if all of their processes were the same? What if they adopted common business practices and common commercial business software? Would it simplify running their businesses? Would it lower their operational costs? Would this simplification eventually generate "cash back" that could be pumped into the procurement side of their business?

After reviewing the successes and failures in the private sector, they took money out of their own hides to start up these enterprise resource planning pilots and led by example. The follow-on SYSCOM commanders have adopted the same toughstance. Bravo Zulu to all of them. Are they perfect? Probably not. But, they are well on their way to achieving the goals set out for them.

For the Navy to be serious about transforming itself, both from a business and tactical/tactical support sense, and generating any savings, it must take the lessons of commercial organizational reforms to heart.

They need to make their two-star deputy "the IT/NSS overseer" in the Navy. But as quickly as I say that, they must also remember they are but one of two services in the Navy-Marine Corps team. If the new CIO structure is taken seriously and allowed to stand up as designed, the author's basic wishes will be granted.

Ron Turner

Former Navy Department deputy CIO

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