Working the systems
GCN Hall of Fame inductee Retired Lt. Gen. Charles E. Croom Jr. put services in the fast lane at DISA
LT. GEN. CHARLES CROOM IS A SYSTEMS GUY. Scan
his r'sum' and you'll see a long list of systems-related
assignments since he joined the Air Force 35 years ago.
As a leader at the Defense Department, he also has been
at the forefront of DOD's efforts to amalgamate systems
and communications services under common technology
At the Defense Information Systems Agency, where he
recently retired after more than three years as director
and commander of the Joint Task Force for Global Network
Operations, Croom was a driving force behind the
agency's efforts to streamline and speed its services. For
example, DISA now offers computing and storage services
on demand to its DOD customers.
'Before, you would have to come in and state your requirements,'
Croom said. 'We would order the hardware
and three or four months later it would be delivered.
Then we'd put it on the floor, establish the operating system
and you would be up and running four or five
months later. Today, all that stuff has been prearranged
with a number of contractors. The hardware sits on the
floor ready to be turned on. If you need computing or
storage capacity, we can turn it on in average of 14 days.
We've done it as fast as one day.'
Croom, known around DOD as Charlie, has enjoyed
success by being a back-to-basics kind of leader, said
Harry Raduege, chairman of the Deloitte Center for
Network Innovation and Croom's predecessor as DISA
'He has an uncanny ability to review any problem and
bring attention to its foundational elements,' Raduege
said. 'In many ways, Charlie took DISA from good to
great by emphasizing fundamentals.' He stressed the
basics of the ABCs of developing IT products and services:
Adopt first. Buy if you can't adopt. And only create
as a last resort. He also insisted on testing new products
and services'to avoid delivering half-baked solutions.'
Once the fundamentals were in place, Croom stressed
speed of performance, Raduege said.
Under Croom, DISA also made collaboration tools '
which are vital to DOD's network-centric programs '
faster, easier to use and less expensive to buy by establish-
ing an innovative system that gives department users a
choice between two sets of services developed by separate
vendors. Pitting vendors against each other means
better deals for users.
'The great thing is that [vendors] can upgrade those
tools overnight while you sleep,' he said. 'The next day
you come in and your collaboration suite has been upgraded,
so you don't even have to go through a requirements
'Doing business differently always requires people to
change their views,' he said. 'I'm so very proud of my
civilian senior leadership. No matter what I've wanted to
do'they've adopted it and made it work.'
Croom entered the Air Force in 1973 after receiving a
bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Rutgers
University, where he was a member of the ROTC program.
Before joining DISA, he was director of information
services and integration and chief information officer
in the Air Force secretary's Office of Warfighting
Croom is modest about his accomplishments. 'Any success
I've had is'because of the people I've had the opportunity
to work with, particularly at DISA.'