Army CIO details digital strategy, changes for IT enterprise

Army CIO plans to release new enterprise digital strategy and rein in $2 billion of bloated IT spending.

Army medallion. Patrish Jackson. Shutterstock ID: 1570671799

Raj Iyer, the Army CIO now responsible for shaping policy and IT needs, said the service is readying an Army Enterprise Digital Strategy to help shape a needed culture change throughout the organization.

"Going digital is a mindset, it's a culture change," Iyer said during AFCEA NOVA's Army IT Day event Jan. 22. "It's about how we leverage technologies, but [also] how we're going to leapfrog into the future with digital transformation. But along with that we're going to need digital skills talent management...organically grow our workforce."

The strategy was in the works last year and ready for sign off by the former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, Iyer said. But they are going to wait for the Biden administration's input before releasing it.

Iyer, who has been on the job about two months, said Army and DOD policies have been "hampered and constrained by legacy policy" and plans to focus on restructuring policies that better align with new technologies and "makes it easier for Army commands to do business."

"If there is a commander in the field that wants to leverage technology to meet the mission outcomes and there's some policy that's standing in the way, to me that's the first thing we're going to go after," while balancing cyber and other risks, he said.

Key to that will be tempering the Army's IT spending and introducing new governance structures.

Iyer said the Army's IT spending is estimated to be $2 billion more than budgeted year over year -- and that has to change.

"When I look at our budget, we're looking at about $14.5 or $15 billion that we budget for on an annual basis. And I look at how much we spend on IT in a year and it's about $2 billion more than that," often due to schedule, priority, and scope changes as well as overrun costs, he said.

The Army is also pivoting to IT category management to get a better handle on spending, budgeting, and "consolidate buying power." This will be informed by the zero-budgeting program reviews, or night courts, happening for the 2022 budget cycle, he said, and the reviews will look at programs' execution and how it aligns with the Army's digital priorities.

The Army also plans to create a virtual IT program evaluation group (PEG) to "take all the IT investments out from each of these pegs and then put that in a virtual peg" so the CIO can evaluate and inform decisions for the 2023-2027 Program Objective Memorandum cycle.

The new CIO hopes to further centralize decision-making from budgets to prioritizing cloud migrations in the CIO role by creating the Army Digital Oversight Council.

The council is expected to function like a board of directors and be chaired by the Army CIO, Iyer said. A charter has been prepared and is receiving feedback to ensure buy-in on the new construct.

IT infrastructure, particularly for tactical cloud capabilities, is another area to expect the Army to develop, especially as it moves to achieve seamless data transmission on the battlefield.

"The big pivot that I'm making now is to focus on the tactical cloud...look at the requirements for sensor-to-shooter," Iyer said, "it's all about connecting the tactical edge to the enterprise and back."