The $36 billion man
Kevin Carroll manages Army IT programs with a human touch
- By Frank Tiboni
- Apr 01, 2005
Kevin Carroll, the Army’s top information technology official, will oversee the award of about $36 billion in new business during the next few years. But employees and vendors say he doesn’t let the money and power go to his head.
Carroll humbly handles his job as the Army’s program executive officer in the Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO-EIS). He acknowledged last month at his organization’s industry day that he and his employees don't always get it right. He said at a conference recently that he blundered in putting only a $500 million financial ceiling on the services portion of the IT Enterprise Solutions (ITES) contract awarded two years ago, which Army officials must put out for bid again this summer.
Carroll took responsibility for the snafu, adding that PEO-EIS workers learned lessons from the Army’s first wide-scale, performance-based contract. As a result of those lessons, the new ITES 2 Services deal comes with a ceiling of $20 billion.
Carroll is the first to acknowledge that his management style aims to encourage people to enjoy their jobs helping soldiers. “My basic premise is that everyone is unique, differences are good and fun, and open and honest communication [helps] all: employees, bosses and vendors,” he said.
Program office employees say Carroll’s contracting knowledge and relaxed attitude make him a top-notch manager.
“He’s brilliant and caring,” said Linda Vallenzano, a graphic artist who has worked with Carroll for four years under contract with TAMSCO. “He’s a personable guy. He talks to you at work like he’s your next-door neighbor. He’s unpretentious. He likes to make everyone feel comfortable.”
“He has a great feel for the industry because of his contracting background,” said Col. Wellsford Barlow, Carroll’s deputy for three years before retiring from the Army last month. “He knows when to step in and when to stay out.”
A vendor says Carroll knows how to keep everyone in the loop. “He fully understands the roles of government, users and contractors in the procurement process,” said David Gardner, senior vice president for sales and marketing at STG. “He involves us and openly communicates.”
For example, when Carroll notified Gardner last month that PEO-EIS officials chose STG as one of 17 companies to compete for the eight ITES 2 contracts, he told Gardner to bring issues immediately to him. “Not a lot of government contracting officials will say that,” Gardner said. “I think that is a great thing.”
Carroll’s colleagues recognized his managerial talents when they presented him with the Janice K. Mendenhall Spirit of Leadership Award last year for his commitment to supporting the federal IT community during the past 15 years and strengthening relationships between government and industry officials.
Carroll can place people of different backgrounds and experience levels on a project and mold them into a cohesive team, said Barry West, chief information officer at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. West serves as president of the American Council for Technology, which gives the leadership award annually with the Industry Advisory Council.
The soft-spoken Carroll doesn’t like to talk about the recognition he’s received. He’d rather talk about the more visible role of his organization, which received more programs to manage during the past two years. He prefers to praise the work of his employees, who quickly procured and installed IT to serve warfighters in Iraq and Afghanistan, under programs such as the Combat Service Support-Satellite Communications initiative. The project used 40 minisatellite dishes to connect Army logisticians and doctors, soldiers historically at the bottom of the Army’s bandwidth food chain.
“I think the programs we’ve received and the awards we’ve won are the result of the work we’ve done,” Carroll said. “It is starting to get noticed.”
He reiterated the point at the PEO-EIS Industry Day. “We have a lot of good people,” Carroll said, wearing a huge, green bow-tie with glitter to commemorate St. Patrick’s Day. “I do believe we have a very positive, but not perfect, perception.”
PEO-EIS employees say the clown-sized bow tie and humble comment is typical of Carroll.
“He’s personable, but he maintains a focused attitude,” Vallenzano said.
“He’s very low key. I’ve never seen him lose his temper,” said Barlow, noting that the only time he saw Carroll get excited was over horse racing or Maryland Terrapins basketball.
Carroll must continue keeping his cool as his organization manages more people, projects and money. PEO-EIS employs 613 and works with 844 contractors, with 20 employees and 321 contractors supporting warfighters in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army’s IT shop has 14 project offices with 40 programs, including six that the Defense Department and service officials moved to PEO-EIS in 2003. The office accounts for $2 billion annually in projects, including $810 million in IT purchases last year.
He and his organization undoubtedly will receive more scrutiny as Army officials plan to announce or award major contracts this summer and next year worth almost $36 billion.
ITES 2, an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity deal for enterprise services, totals $20 billion and covers nine years. “It’s getting a lot of attention in the Pentagon,” Carroll said.
The General Fund Enterprise Business System, a firm, fixed-price contract to implement back-office software to update the Army’s financial systems, amounts to $850 million and is already one year behind schedule. “It will also get attention,” he said.
Army Knowledge Online Enterprise Services, another firm, fixed-price deal to manage the service’s Web portal and knowledge management strategy, is worth $600 million.
Other less well-known but significant programs include the 10-year, $5 billion Army Desktop and Mobile Computing contract; the five-year, $5 billion World Wide Satellite Systems deal; and the multiyear, $4 billion Infrastructure Modernization award.
And Carroll has more headaches to come.
Army officials must slash $2.6 billion from the service’s budget during the next five years, and they want PEO-EIS to pony up $31 million. He must also deal with changes in his top-level staff. Col. Tom Hogan is replacing Barlow, so now Carroll must find a new program manager for enterprise infrastructure to replace Hogan.
“We’re losing a lot of our program managers this summer,” Carroll said.
Barlow expects Carroll will handle the contract awards and employee turnover the way he deals with Army IT projects — “with a calming influence,” Barlow said.