Smart change of heart

Accountability often gets mangled in complex or bureaucratic organizations.

That's why Defense Secretary William Cohen was smart to restore the Office of the
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence and
to keep the ASD(C3I) as the Defense Department's chief information officer.

Cohen initially had recommended breaking the Office of ASD(C3I) into two pieces and
shifting CIO responsibilities to the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and
technology. He reversed the decision, although only after the seemingly tireless Tony
Valletta, acting ASD(C3I), decided to retire.

Systems of people, like systems of things, become more prone to breakdowns as the
number of interrelated parts increases. That's why it's so hard to pin down single causes
of events such as plane crashes. Usually, it turns out to be a string of trivial failures
that feed on one another.

In carving up the responsibilities of the ASD(C3I), as recommended by the Defense
Reform Initiative, Cohen might have chopped down a big and difficult job, but he would
have muddied the chain of command and reduced accountability for DOD's many pressing
systems issues.

With a CIO, a command and control systems chief and an intelligence systems official,
exactly who would be responsible for date code fixes? For departmentwide interoperability
and standards? For information technology acquisition reform?

The ASD(C3I) job is no piece of cake. Even the redoubtable Emmett Paige Jr. expressed
regret at not finishing everything he wanted to during his tenure in the post. Yet he and
a Bush administration predecessor, Duane Andrews, now with Science Applications
International Corp. of San Diego, both urged Pentagon brass not to break up the office.

Paige, with typically blunt humor, speculated that even God almighty told Cohen the
breakup would have been "a lousy decision" [GCN, Feb. 23, Page 62].

Assuming his nomination goes through, Arthur Money will take the ASD(C3I) mantle.
Money, currently the Air Force's CIO, appears to have the tools for the job. He'll have
the dual responsibilities of the work itself and of vindicating his boss Cohen's visible
reversal. Even so, he might want to keep the beeper numbers of Andrews, Paige and Valletta
in his Rolodex.

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