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DoD to split up top IT office

Sep. 27, 2010 - 05:38PM   |  
By JOHN T. BENNETT   |   Comments
Gen. James Cartwright, Joint Staff vice chairman, and Christine Fox, director of DoD's Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, will be in charge of overseeing a process that will culminate with the shuttering of the Pentagon's Networks and Information Integration directorate on March 31, 2011.
Gen. James Cartwright, Joint Staff vice chairman, and Christine Fox, director of DoD's Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, will be in charge of overseeing a process that will culminate with the shuttering of the Pentagon's Networks and Information Integration directorate on March 31, 2011. (Cherie Cullen / Defense Department)

The Pentagon's top high-tech directorate will officially close its doors next March, according to a Defense Department memo that describes how its surviving functions and personnel will be split among four other DoD entities.

Robert Rangel, a senior aide to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, has tapped Gen. James Cartwright, Joint Staff vice chairman, and Christine Fox, director of DoD's Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, with overseeing a process that will culminate with the shuttering of the Pentagon's Networks and Information Integration (NII) directorate on March 31, 2011.

Closing NII is part of Gates' push to eliminate $101 billion in unnecessary organizations and costs and transfer those savings to weapon programs over five years. He also wants to shutter U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM), the Pentagon's Business Transformation Agency and the Joint Staff's Command, Control, Communications, & Computer Systems (J6) directorate. The Business Transformation Agency and the networks and information shop both are part of the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn, Pentagon acquisition executive Ashton Carter and Cartwright are slated to testify tomorrow before the Senate Armed Services Committee about Gates' so-called efficiency initiative. Defense officials also will field lawmakers' questions about the cost-cutting proposals during two other hearings this week.

The secretary's desire to shutter JFCOM is expected to get most of the attention during the sessions, especially from Armed Services Committee member Sen. James Webb, a Democrat who hails from Virginia, home of that organization. The commonwealth's lawmakers are attempting to block JFCOM's closure.

The networks and information shop likely will have few defenders.

"The problem with NII is that it was given responsibility but no real power or budget authority, and therefore has little influence," Todd Harrison, chief budget analyst at Washington's Center for Strategic and Budgetary Studies said recently. "This is exactly the kind of office that is ripe for elimination."

In a Sept. 1 memo, Rangel orders a Fox- and Cartwright-led team to identify by Dec. 15 all functions currently carried out by NII and J6 they believe should be retained, and draw up a plan to transfer those to four entities: the office of the Pentagon acquisition chief; the DoD comptroller's office; the Defense Information Systems Agency; and U.S. Cyber Command.

This summer, Gates tapped Rangel with overseeing the implementation of his budget-cutting proposals.

The Defense Information Systems Agency will get all "command and control functions" now carried out by J6, Joint Forces Command's C2 directorate and NII, states the memo. The agency also will be the eventual home of a revised Pentagon chief information officer; Rangel has charged the Fox/Cartwright team with determining just how to enhance the chief information officer's office.

One former senior Senate defense aide questions moving any NII functions to the Defense Information Systems Agency, asking: "Why would you move parts of the most ineffectual office in OSD into DISA, which is the most inefficient organization in all of DoD?"

The Pentagon will transfer to Cyber Command all of NII's "information assurance functions."

All of NII's "resourcing responsibilities" will move to the comptroller's office.

And the DoD acquisition executive will be handed "select information technology and command, control and communications acquisition functions," the memo states.

Any functions the team determines cannot be lost must be "relevant to current DoD missions and provide management value," according to the memo.

"NII and J6 functions identified for retention and transfer should be scrubbed and streamlined in a manner that constrains the growth of unnecessary overhead," Rangel wrote.

Fox and Cartwright will submit to the Office of the Secretary of Defense an update of their work by Oct. 15, with its final plan due two months later.

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