Army CIO talks transformation

Organizational strategy would restructure functions to improve warfighter support.

The Army’s chief information officer is taking a cue from industry in articulating a transformation of that office’s role within the service. The Army CIO/G-6 Campaign Plan for 2008 to 2015, released in October 2007, describes a transformation in which the CIO’s office will evolve from a functional organization “to a process-based organization and finally to a service-based organization.” The plan sets objectives for achieving integrated network capabilities and improving cybersecurity. The campaign plan followed the CIO office’s release of a 500-day plan to achieve joint network-centric capabilities. The ultimate goal of transforming the Army CIO’s office is to make the infrastructure and services it provides invisible to warfighters, said Maj. Gen. Bill Gerety, the Army’s chief integration officer. The armed services historically have been function- oriented, he added. “Perhaps historically a functional alignment made sense,” Gerety said. “But we have found that that has not allowed the flexibility that a CIO [office] of this magnitude requires. We are talking about one of the largest and most complex IT environments anywhere.” In crafting the campaign plan, Gerety’s team looked to industry for inspiration. “We have learned what they have done to maximize their efficiencies and the use of their capital resources,” Gerety said. A process-based organization is arranged in a matrix instead of a vertical hierarchy, he added. Getting to a process and eventually to a service orientation will involve extensive coordination across the Army community of information technology providers and users, including the CIO, the Army Signal Center and the Army Network Enterprise Technology Command, said retired Lt. Gen. Pete Cuviello, a former Army CIO and now a senior strategist at BearingPoint, a management and technology consulting company. “Where they are trying to go is to more of a process and outcome organization,” Cuviello said. “The campaign plan is an attempt to support that both from a policy and an execution standpoint. The significance of this effort is that they are trying to articulate goals, and they are putting manpower behind those goals.” The CIO’s role in serving warfighters will be to reduce obstacles to using technology and communications so that they can focus on their specific missions, Gerety said. “Today, when soldiers make the transition from their home stations to a training environment to the theater, they don’t experience seamlessness,” Gerety said. “IP addresses today are not dynamically reassigned in country.” Iraq also lacks the bandwidth that is readily available in the United States, he said. When the transformation is complete, Gerety said, warfighters shouldn’t see a difference when they go from one location to another. “Even though they have changed their physical environment, the IP address haven’t moved, and they will have the same access to databases even though they are no longer attached to the fiber grid,” he said. “When they pick up and find themselves in Baghdad, Balad or Mosul, and they are plugging into a different architecture altogether, they will find that the way they have trained is the way they will fight,” he added.

Changes still on drawing board

The Office of the Army Chief Information Officer unveiled a seven-year transformation plan, but officials said the Army is still working on the details of how to better deliver services to support warfighters.

Maj. Gen. Bill Gerety, the Army’s chief integration officer, said he does not know if or how the office’s structure might change during the transformation. “We’re still looking at laying down the processes we will be focusing on,” he said. “If we’re going to this [transformation], we want to become the gold standard for all” of federal information technology.

Gerety said he envisions the CIO office bringing greater value to the Army by providing IT and related-services more efficiently and cost-effectively.

— Peter Buxbaum

Buxbaum is a freelance writer in Bethesda, Md.