Cureton's successor picked at NASA

Larry Sweet, NASA's new CIO, takes office as the agency is under IG pressure to improve its IT management.

Larry Sweet

Larry Sweet, NASA's new CIO, takes office as the agency is under IG pressure to improve its IT management.

Larry Sweet, a NASA veteran who began his career at the space agency in 1987, will officially take the reins as the agency's CIO on June 30.

Sweet replaces Linda Cureton, who retired in April. NASA's associate deputy administrator Richard Keegan has been acting CIO since Cureton's departure. Sweet has served as the Johnson Space Center's CIO and information resources director since 2007.

Sweet will be responsible for ensuring NASA's information assets are in line with federal policies, procedures and legislation, and he'll also manage several major IT efforts. The most important of those efforts is likely the IT Infrastructure Integration Program (I3P), which will consolidate and integrate NASA's IT contracts to increase collaboration and reduce costs at the agency.

Perhaps more important moving forward, though, is that Sweet will be installed at the same time the agency is supposed to improve IT governance, enhance CIO authority and make fixes to other IT problems that have dogged the agency for decades, according to a June report by NASA's Office of Inspector General.

NASA's decentralized IT operations "hinder the agency's ability to implement effective IT governance," leaving the agency CIO with limited visibility or control over IT investments and unable to enforce security measures across all NASA computers, the IG reported. Of the $1.46 billion allocated for IT in fiscal 2012, the agency CIO had direct control of only $159 million, or about 11 percent.

In 2010, decentralized IT operations and limited CIO control actually caused NASA to overspend on its fiscal 2010 IT budget by $400 million, highlighting the seriousness of the problem.

NASA administrator Charles Bolden concurred or partially concurred with all eight OIG recommendations stemming from the report. They include requiring the CIO to approve all IT procurement expenditures over an established threshold and consolidating overall IT governance within OCIO. All recommendations were due to be addressed within one year.

In his response, presumably written before NASA had selected Sweet for the job, Bolden wrote that NASA would look for candidates who had demonstrated strong governance in their careers to take on these new challenges. Based on Bolden's other statements in response to the OIG criticism, it seems Sweet will have no shortage of work to do when he begins. "I will ask the new CIO to conduct a comprehensive assessment of existing NASA IT governance and the IT organization and recommend any necessary improvements to address the findings in this report," Bolden said.

Sweet and NASA are at least one step ahead of several other agencies, however: the Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Personnel Management, Social Security Administration and Departments of Veteran Affairs, Homeland Security and Housing and Urban Development are all still searching for their next permanent CIO.

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