Navy Turns CIO’s Role Over to Management

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The Navy’s IT operations have a new sheriff, in the form of a chief management officer whose arrival makes the high-profile Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer a thing of the past.

Undersecretary of the Navy Thomas Modly recently issued a memo outlining the changes as part of a larger restructuring effort. The Navy is effectively eliminating the Department of the Navy chief information officer (DON CIO), a civilian position that has steered IT policy for the Navy and Marine Corps. Modly will fold most of the DON CIO responsibilities under the management umbrella, and turn over some of the functions of the office, including IT management, to service officials in the Navy and Marine Corps.

The changes reflect mandates in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which directed DoD to establish a chief management officer position to focus on operations and oversee planning, performance management, information technology management and resource allocation. DoD detailed its plans in what’s known as the “901 report,” named for the applicable section of the NDAA. The department’s CMO started work March 1. DoD’s move also diverges somewhat from the tack taken by the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) for civilian agencies. Both aim to streamline IT operations, but FITARA emphasizes the role of the CIO as the prominent IT decision-maker, while DoD and the Navy are placing the emphasis for oversight on the CMO.

Modly will lead a new Office of the DON Chief Management Officer, replacing the scuttled deputy undersecretary for management position that had overseen the DON CIO’s office, according to the memo. As chief management officer, Modly “will assume the responsibilities and authorities of the DON CIO,” maintaining a small CIO office for statutory compliance, but delegating “most other CIO functions to my DON CIO deputies in the Services,” he wrote.

The goal is to streamline operations and give the Navy greater agility, in the interest of staying ahead of developments in a fast-changing technology landscape. The Navy wants to be able to get accurate information more quickly, cut back on overhead and red tape, and prune processes that slow down decision-making, according to the memo. The changes, “will contribute to a leaner, more focused approach to business transformation, and will help facilitate greater cross-enterprise collaboration on critical issues that require an enterprise approach,” Modly wrote.

Aside from enterprise approaches, the restructuring also could be an acknowledgment that one size might not fit all aspects of Navy and Marine Corps operations. The Marines, for example, decided in 2014 to go its own route with regard to the Navy Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) and the Navy’s Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) contract. The Navy at one point also resisted the Department of Defense’s push toward the Joint Information Environment.

At the services, the CIO’s role will be assumed at the Navy by the deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare (N2/N6), currently held by Vice Adm. Jan Tighe, and at the Marines by the director of command, control, communications and computers (C4), a job held in an acting capacity by Kenneth Bible.

There had been signs that the DON CIO’s role was being diminished. The job has been held by acting CIO Kelly Fletcher since Rob Foster, who had held the post since June 2015, left in August 2017, but Navy leadership had made no mention of plans to fill the job permanently.

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