Defense's IT guard changes

Defense's IT guard changes

Marvin J. Langston, deputy CIO, is one of several top-level managers who have left or plan to leave their DOD posts.

But losses at the top won't disrupt acquisition reform plans, officials say

By Bill Murray
GCN Staff

With the recent departure of top managers, Defense Department leaders will need to depend on seasoned staff members to keep acquisition reform and systems projects on track, several DOD observers cautioned.

Among the senior officials who have announced plans to step down are deputy Defense secretary John J. Hamre; Lt. Gen. David Kelley, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency; Marvin J. Langston, deputy chief information officer; and Carla von Bernewitz, CIO for the Defense Logistics Agency.

Other departures are imminent.

Lt. Gen. William Campbell, the Army's CIO, will probably retire this year, and Lt. Gen. William Donahue, the Air Force's deputy CIO, is due 'for a change or possible retirement,' said Anthony Valletta, vice president at SRA International Inc. of Arlington, Va.

'This is a major changeover, a changing of the guard,' said Valletta, a former senior Defense official. 'It will be interesting to see who's picked' to replace the departing officials, he said.

Taking a hit

Acquisition reform in the systems area could suffer, Valletta said. 'You're losing major, qualified people who received three to four years of intensive training' after passage of the Information Technology Management Reform Act, he said.

Who's moving on

' Marvin J. Langston, DOD's deputy CIO, left last month to become chief operating officer of Salus Media
of Carpinteria, Calif., an Internet

' Carla von Bernewitz, Defense Logistics Agency CIO, left last month to be-come northeast region client delivery executive for information solutions at Electronic Data Systems Corp.

' John J. Hamre, deputy secretary of Defense, will leave March 31 to be-come president and chief executive officer of the Center for Strategic
and International Studies.

' Lt. Gen. David Kelley, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency, will retire in June. He has not yet announced where he plans to work next.

Despite the challenges, if DOD officials select deputies to replace the departing officials, there should be minimal disruption, Valletta said.

But Chip Mather, senior vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc. of Chantilly, Va., predicted that outsiders would likely move into a postions.

'When you get to that level, it's pretty political,' said Mather, a former Air Force procurement executive.

He attributed some departures to the job market's vibrancy and the high valuation of Internet start-ups.

It is also common for senior position changes at the Cabinet level to occur near the close of a presidential term.

'Marv Langston's leaving for an Internet start-up [Salus Media of Carpinteria, Calif.]. You know how that goes: If you hit it right, you become a multimillionaire, and the company doesn't even have to be that good,' Mather said.

He agreed that there could be a hiccup in acquisition reform efforts. 'But acquisition reform is really based on good business practices, such as having a strategic plan and funding against that plan and determining return on investment,' he said.

The new officials will need to rely on their staffs to help wade through the bureaucracy and resistance to change, Mather said.


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