System security is job one for new DOD CIO Grimes

Just two hours after he was sworn in as the new Defense CIO, John Grimes sat at a table in his Pentagon office, getting used to the constant rings of his BlackBerry.

Grimes said he never owned a BlackBerry in his last job as vice president of Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems in Washington. But as DOD's top IT leader, Grimes might get more traction from his personal digital assistant than his office phone and notebook computer combined.

'I show up here and in 30 seconds I have one and it has not stopped,' Grimes said, pointing to the new device. 'I have had continuous messages.'

In June, President Bush nominated Grimes to be CIO and as- sistant secretary of Defense for networks and information integration. The Senate confirmed him on Oct. 28 and he was officially sworn in on Nov. 14.

In his first interview as CIO, Grimes said if he had to pick the greatest challenge for Defense networks, it would have to be security.

'The information systems have to be secure. Probably of all the things we have right now facing us in the information world, security is key,' Grimes said.

'When someone uses the system, they believe in the integrity of the data and that nobody has unauthorized access to it. That's probably the most critical thing we have facing us because of the continuous threat to networks by those that want to be mischievous.'

But Grimes said securing Defense networks is an 'expensive proposition' and predicted that there would never come a time when DOD can claim that its networks are threat-free.

'There's no way we'll probably ever get 100 percent assurance of a fully protected system,' Grimes said. 'In fact, we call it the Achilles' heel right now, this information assurance of networks.'

He also applauded the work of John Stenbit, former Defense CIO, for pushing, and in some instances conceptualizing, the key net-centric transformational programs across the DOD'including the Global Information Grid-Bandwidth Expansion, Transformational Satellite and Net-Centric Enterprise Services initiatives.

Stenbit retired in March 2004 and currently sits on several boards. Linton Wells, dep- uty CIO, served as acting CIO until Grimes was confirmed.

'John Stenbit actually did a great job of codifying the net-centric enablers and those programs are somewhat institutionalized now in what we call power to the edge,' Grimes said.

Grimes previously served as deputy assistant secretary for counterintelligence and security countermeasures at Defense, and held the title of deputy assistant secretary for Defense-wide command, control and communications. He also worked for the National Security Council as senior director of the White House Situation Support Staff.

The avid golfer is a graduate of the University of Arizona and holds a master's degree from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania.

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