Defense

DOD CIO weighs giving mil branches more leeway on enterprise services

David Cotton, Deputy CIO for Information Enterprise at United States Department of Defense

David Cotton, the Pentagon's deputy CIO for information enterprise, is part of an effort to figure out how much to centralize DOD IT.

In his first year as Defense Department CIO, Terry Halvorsen made a point of delegating commercial cloud procurement authority from the Pentagon's IT infrastructure agency to the military branches and other agencies. The policy change, intended in part to hasten DOD's move to the commercial cloud, was a significant break from the approach taken by Halvorsen's predecessor, Teri Takai.

Today, there is still an ongoing dialogue between Halvorsen and his advisers on how much control of IT services they want to cede to the military branches and how much they want to retain.

David Cotton, deputy CIO for information enterprise, is part of a team of senior officials that meets every couple weeks to hash out the pros and cons of allowing agencies to provide their own enterprise IT capabilities, rather than exploiting a DOD enterprise service.

Two IT services are top of the group's agenda right now, according to Cotton: data centers and cloud computing.

"It gets down to: If that [military] service does it for themselves, they would need to be open to also provide it as an enterprise capability to others in the department," Cotton told reporters after a Feb. 18 appearance at the Federal Networks conference. "So we don't want to lose the intent of having enterprise services. It's just [a question of] where that enterprise service delivery comes from."

How this vision of shared services pans out could have big implications for contractors and for the ability of DOD's myriad agencies to implement the Joint Information Environment, a push to a common IT infrastructure.

Allowing decentralized management of enterprise IT capabilities "has always been one of the precepts of JIE," Cotton said. In some cases, that might mean a military branch providing an enterprise capability instead of relying on one provided by the Defense Information System Agency.

As Halvorsen was keen to stress in announcing the new cloud procurement policy, delegating authorities to the military branches does not do away with security and operational requirements. If those requirements are met, and the military branch can save money by providing an enterprise IT service, why not let them? Cotton reasoned.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.


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