It’s been less than a month since Terry Halvorsen, formerly Navy Department CIO, was named acting Defense Department CIO, but he already has plans for how he wants to do things differently to push ahead in defense technology.
According to Halvorsen, it’s all about the data and being transparent with that data. He plans to use data to streamline defense IT, save money and improve network speed and security, and he also wants to increase trust with between the military services and the Pentagon’s upper echelons of decision-making. He believes those goals go hand-in-hand with broader DoD-wide efforts to move toward enterprise IT operations and increased focus on joint capabilities.
“Developing trust with the [military departments] and DoD and across the DoD agencies – how do we trust? One of ways you have to do that is to be transparent,” Halvorsen said June 11 at AFCEA’s Navy IT Day in Vienna, Virginia. “Initially transparency and data can cause some hiccups; in general I would say we are not a culture that wants to be transparent with our data, sometimes for good reason. But we’ve got to fight that. Transparency is going to be critical to success.”
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A former Army officer who has spent decades in the federal civil service – mostly within the Navy – Halvorsen remains focused on the military departments, an ethos he is taking with him to the DoD CIO office. He credited a former Army superior with emphasizing the idea of ‘powering down,’ or delegating decision-making to the lowest level where it can be made effectively, quickly and with the right level of risk. Doing that not only allows trust, but improves visibility into trends that can define strategy going forward, he said.
“The services and the [military departments] want the exact same thing: They want transparency in all of the data,” Halvorsen said. “I do believe if you show people, ‘hey, two groups doing the same thing, this group’s getting this performance at this cost,’ and you can truly show that with data, most people will say that’s a good thing and let’s go there. But you have to show them the data – you can’t just say, ‘give me all your money and this will be better.’”
Fostering trust and using data to inform strategy will be critical as the department presses ahead with enterprise strategies, including the Joint Information Environment, that will centralize IT, communications, cybersecurity and more. But Halvorsen acknowledged it won’t happen overnight.
“I think we have to be realistic. There are a lot of examples when we said let’s all do enterprise solutions [and they] didn’t work. They did not turn out to be better in terms of cost or performance,” he said. “So we’ve got to show that that can be the case. We’re listening to the [military departments], making sure they get a chance to show us what they’re doing while holding them to the same level of data standards.”