Kicked upstairs, Brad Boston takes charge

Former Cisco Systems CIO draws on his experience in managing large enterprises

Brad Boston  was promoted in an unusual way in 2006 when he moved from chief information officer, a position he had held for five years, to senior vice president of the Global Government Solutions Group at Cisco Systems.

Boston was going about his business one day in April when the company’s chairman and chief executive officer,  John Chambers, rushed into Boston’s office. 

“He grabs me by the neck and drags me down the hall and introduces me to Ron Nakamoto of Lockheed Martin,” Boston said. Cisco Systems was a partner of the giant defense contractor on a $2.02 billion Defense Department contract to build a ground-based mission operations system component for DOD’s Transformational Satellite Communications System.

“Brad’s now in charge, and he’ll fix everything” Chambers said. Nakamoto was then vice president of intelligence systems at Lockheed Martin. He is now chief operating officer at Lockheed’s subsidiary Savi Technology.

The job changeover didn’t happen immediately. Boston continued to serve as CIO while he took on the new duties until his replacement, Rebecca Jacoby, filled that position in October.

The CIO job was fun and satisfying, Boston said. But, he added, “five years is an eternity for the expected life of a CIO.” 

Boston said being CIO of a large company helped him understand the information technology issues that major clients such as DOD face because they share many of the same problems.

John Garing, CIO and director of strategic planning and information at the Defense Information Systems Agency, said he often turns to Boston for advice.

“He’s willing to talk to me as a peer and not with the implication that there is a sale around the corner,” Garing said.

Boston said he believes the military services are collaborating better than ever on IT programs because many of the officers are more knowledgeable about technology than their predecessors were. “They are innovators in how they use technology because of their needs and because their enemy has changed,” he said.

But Boston also said it’s rare to find CIOs in government and private industry who have business expertise and technical knowledge.  “There aren’t a lot of people who have that unique blend of skills,” he said. Nevertheless, Boston said he’s known several high-ranking military leaders who became CIOs with little or no business experience and were outstanding in the job.

One of Boston’s goals in the next few years is to ensure that Cisco’s products are suited to the military and the civilian mobile marketplace. “The services that we can put into our wireless technology, for example, to facilitate what the military wants to do, we believe, have direct applications back to some of our commercial offerings,” he said.

Cisco would like to maintain its leadership in networking and be sought as an adviser on networking issues, particularly as the federal government begins a mandatory migration to IPv6.  

Boston spent a good deal of time in his new job asking questions and listening to customers and Cisco employees “to get a lay of the land as to what things are working and what aren’t working,” he said.

One of his primary challenges is to improve communications within the company. “I have a lot of really smart people with a lot of passion to do the right thing,” Boston said. But coordinating all those smart people and orchestrating their activities are difficult tasks that could be done better, he said.

Boston’s experiences as CIO and as a top industry executive have given him an understanding of the challenges facing government organizations, said Pat Ryan, director of defense initiatives, global defense, space and security at Cisco.

“In just six months, Brad has made a real impact in his ability to translate the benefits of Cisco’s products and best practices to customers that need them the most,” Ryan said.

Boston said the government-contracting sector has become a more difficult market in which to succeed because of budget reductions that have affected procurement activity and financial resources. But none of those factors has diminished his interest. “If you’re looking for how to help a government…when they need it the most, this is a most exciting time.”
The Brad Boston filePosition: Senior vice president of Cisco Systems’ Global Government Solutions Group.

Birthplace: Chicago.

Family: Married, with two daughters.

Previous positions: Chief information officer at Cisco. Boston also held positions as executive vice president of operations at Corio, an enterprise-focused Internet application service provider, and as executive vice president of product development and delivery at Sabre Group in Dallas.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Activities: Boston is a member of the board of directors of Active Power and NetNumber. He served as a member of the board of directors of Mercury Interactive from 2004 to 2006.

Hobbies: Golf, tennis, cooking, traveling and sailing.

Last book read: “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” by Mark Frost.

About the Author

David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.


  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group