DOD's standards bearer
GCN Defense IT Executive of the Year Ken Heitkamp's vision helps give government a common desktop configuration
IF ANYBODY IN GOVERNMENT KNOWS STANDARDS, it's Ken
Heitkamp. He spent his entire 42-year career in the Air Force
establishing standards for information systems.
Recently retired as the Air Force's assistant chief
information officer for life cycle management, Heitkamp reached the
pinnacle of his career when he spearheaded the effort to
standardize desktop PC configurations governmentwide. The
initiative began as an Air Force program, was later expanded across
the Defense Department and was then extended to the entire federal
government, becoming known as the Federal Desktop Core
FDCC is designed to improve security, reduce costs and eradicate
application-compatibility issues by furnishing a single
enterprisewide environment for desktop and laptop PCs that run on a
Microsoft Windows operating system. In a March 2007 memo, the
Office of Management and Budget mandated that agencies adopt
commonly accepted security configurations for Windows operating
Under Heitkamp's leadership and in partnership with
Microsoft, the Air force developed FDCC's progenitor, the
Standard Desktop Configuration, from 2004 to 2006. That
standardized configuration has been deployed on more than 500,000
Air Force PCs, Heitkamp said.
In the beginning, his biggest barrier was getting the Air
Force's senior leaders to support the project.
'My entire career has been involved in standards for
information systems in the Air Force,' he said. 'So I
realized from a software development, maintenance, implementation
and acquisition perspective, it was critical to have standard
platforms be used across the Air Force and then to manage those as
enterprise configurations. That helped me convey to senior
leadership within both the Air Force and the DOD that standard
configuration standards [are critical] for improvements in security
and from a cost-reduction perspective.'
David Wennergren, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for
information management and technology and deputy CIO, said
'it's a time when federal agencies have to work
together to develop smart solutions that leverage our collective
buying power and raise the bar on the security of our information
and information systems,' he added.
Heitkamp 'was up to the challenge in leading the DOD
effort to implement a standard security configuration for Microsoft
[Windows] XP and Microsoft Vista operating systems,'
Wennergren said. 'His dedication and perseverance led to the
effort being adopted federal governmentwide. Ken's efforts to
make this vision of standardizing on secure versions of operating
systems are a testimony to his exceptional leadership skills and
his ability to work collaboratively across government.'
But Heitkamp is quick to give credit to other people and
organizations for moving the FDCC program forward.
'It was a team of people from OMB, the National Institute
of Standards [and Technology], the Defense Information Systems
Agency, the National Security Agency, as well as the Army, Air
Force, Navy and Marines,' he said. 'This is an
important case where the collective understanding and wisdom of
those agencies'made it successful.'
Heitkamp, who began his Air Force career in August 1966 at
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, has held a variety of
systems and applications programming positions in the past four
decades. From 1990 to 2004, he was technical director of the Air
Force's Standard Systems Group, where he directed the
900-person software factory from 1998 to 2003 and was responsible
for developing and maintaining the Air Force's combat support
software applications and network control center operations.