Survive budget shortfalls with smart tech, DOD CIO urges

As agencies throughout the federal government prepare for shrinking budgets, technology will be the key component of surviving fiscal lockdown and keeping critical operations running smoothly, according to Defense Department CIO Teri Takai.

But technology alone won’t be enough – behind it there must be serious innovation that solves problems in different ways than in the past, she said.

“It’s a challenge in any large setting to really get to innovation. Innovation has to make a difference – there has to be a ‘so what’ in terms of enhancing capability or enhancing customer service,” Takai said at the ACT-IAC Excellence.gov awards luncheon in Washington March 13.

The awards recognized government agencies using technology to improve their services, whether it was better interaction with citizens, smoother operations for tasks like renewing driver’s licenses, enhancing cross-agency collaboration or implementing efficiencies that save money.

Takai admitted that her own challenges at DOD tend to be a little different than other government entities, although there are plenty of similarities, she said.

One of her priorities is getting a handle on the sheer volume of technology at DOD – one area in which the department is different from most agencies.

“I’m not pushing technology; I have so much technology that it’s really about, how do you manage that and get control of it? What do you do with it?” she said. “We spend $38 billion a year on technology, which is a staggering number. The challenge for us is how to bring those technologies together, how to make sure we can share information and how to make sure we can meet our increasing cybersecurity threat.”

But more familiar to offices outside the Pentagon are issues in IT consolidation, another high-profile effort that’s also going on at DOD.

“It’s not just a technology challenge or a physical challenge; it’s actually about convincing people to use a service, trust someone else to run [their] stuff and…meet customer demands,” Takai said. “We need to look at ourselves as an enterprise and not 772 data centers.”

Takai stressed that despite the different missions and political dynamics at various organizations, there are some key lessons everyone can use: be persistent; sell ideas by keeping things simple rather than technical and complex; think outside of individual departments; and have a champion for the cause.

For her work at DOD, taking these steps while still adequately funding national defense “means taking as many…kinds of efficiencies that we can take to make us run better, more agile and more technologically competent so we can make sure the warfighter is supported, even in the face of decreasing budgets,” Takai said.

More information on the award winners can be found here.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.

Featured

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

  • Shutterstock image.

    Merged IT modernization bill punts on funding

    A House panel approved a new IT modernization bill that appears poised to pass, but key funding questions are left for appropriators.

  • General Frost

    Army wants cyber capability everywhere

    The Army's cyber director said cyber, electronic warfare and information operations must be integrated into warfighters' doctrine and training.

  • Rising Star 2013

    Meet the 2016 Rising Stars

    FCW honors 30 early-career leaders in federal IT.

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