INTERVIEW: Carla A. von Bernewitz, former DLA systems chief

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After serving for more than two years as the Defense Logistics Agency's chief information officer, Carla A. von Bernewitz this month left government for a job with Electronic Data Systems Corp.

At EDS, von Bernewitz will work with commercial clients on data center and infrastructure outsourcing projects.

She joined DLA in 1997 as executive director for information systems and technology. The agency, which has 45,000 employees, spends about $12 billion a year on providing combat support to users throughout the Defense Department.

Previously, von Bernewitz was DOD's year 2000 project manager and worked in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence. She also worked at the Defense Information Systems Agency as director of its Data Administration Program Management Office.

The native Washingtonian began civil service in 1993 after managing projects for many DOD and military offices while working for Defense contractors.

A graduate of the Advanced Management Program at the National Defense University IRM College, von Bernewitz has a bachelor of science degree from George Mason University and a master of business administration degree in information systems management from George Washington University.


GCN staff writer Bill Murray interviewed von Bernewitz by phone just before she left DLA.



GCN:'Why did you decide to return to industry after six years of government service?

VON BERNEWITZ: I could have easily stayed a couple more years. I originally made the commitment to myself to go back to industry after five years in government, and I stayed a year longer than I originally intended. I stayed the extra year to help the Defense Logistics Agency modernize systems and get ready for year 2000.

GCN:'Do you feel as though you have more responsibility working in government, as opposed to a similar job in industry?

VON BERNEWITZ: There's a different type of responsibility in terms of the dollar volume, since we're entrusted with more in government. The trust relationship is different because of the fiduciary relationship with the public.

My first 'Aha!' experience was on Dec. 6, 1993, at the Defense Information Systems Agency, where I was responsible for managing an organization right away and I started reading up on government personnel regulations. I understood right away why people have opinions on that issue and saw what a major issue it is for a manager to deal with personnel.


GCN:'What was the scope of your work at DLA?

VON BERNEWITZ: In addition to headquarters, there are three inventory control points in DLA, in Richmond, Va., Philadelphia and Columbus, Ohio. DLA is also part of the in-process review for the Joint Electronics Commerce Program Office. DISA has primary responsibility for JECPO systems oversight.

In terms of systems, DLA has an annual budget of more than $500 million. The agency does a lot of work with other Defense Department agencies. Some of the systems oversight is handled by DISA. You can't have too many eyes on [the systems], and you don't want to split hairs [over roles].

DLA also has mixed or shared systems with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. And DLA, the DOD Health Affairs Office and DISA all participate in one another's in-process reviews.


I don't know any other way of making sure that everyone sees eye-to-eye except to invite everyone to the table.


GCN:'Did DLA retire any systems as part of its year 2000 readiness effort?

VON BERNEWITZ: The agency manages 34 mission-critical systems and 52 non-mission-critical ones. During the year 2000 testing and remediation process, DLA retired a number of systems and replaced or rehosted some.


Retirement or replacement wasn't an option for many of the systems. Because DLA isn't even 10 years old, some systems aren't very old.


GCN:'Could you give us an update on the Standard Automated Materiel Management System, or SAMMS, project?

VON BERNEWITZ: That was an important modernization effort that I worked on, and I'm glad that DLA was able to sign letters of intent in December to replace the 34-year-old system. I had begun the initiative in 1997.

It was no longer appropriate to put duct tape or bandages on the system. DLA officials considered rehosting SAMMS to a more modern environment because it was running on an IBM Corp. mainframe with some assembler and Cobol code. Instead of building it in-house, we decided to look to industry for best industry practices to make DLA more efficient. The hardest thing was to get buy-in for the plan among DLA users.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense will include details about the project in its March report to Congress on major systems.


GCN:'What kind of electronic commerce work did you do at DLA?

VON BERNEWITZ: It's hard to draw the line between e-commerce and e-business. The Web is giving us more cost-efficient ways of doing business. With the electronic funds transfer that we do with DFAS, is that electronic commerce? Maybe.

GCN:'Does DLA have any plans for using seat management?

VON BERNEWITZ: I have found that seat management is an ill-defined term. DLA did a total-cost-of-ownership survey, using a TCO survey by GartnerGroup Inc. of Stamford, Conn., as a guide. I think everyone should do TCO studies. DLA is trying to come up with a per-user cost, hence the term seat management.

DLA is recompeting a LAN contract that's currently held by NCI Information Systems Inc. of McLean, Va., under a contract extension. We are going to award a blanket purchasing agreement using schedule contracts. The recompetition does not include hardware, so that's where it's different from a typical seat management contract. It does include network management and help desk services.


In the statement of objectives, DLA identified schedule contract holders as potential bidders and asked vendors to present their capabilities.

The BPA calls for the continued migration from Novell NetWare to Microsoft Windows NT. DLA has been migrating to NT for two years running, and most sites are now on NT 4.0.

GCN:'How is the migration going?

VON BERNEWITZ: I don't think any migration is easy. It will continue to be a challenge, particularly if the agency goes with another vendor for the LAN services. DLA will have to have more metrics [to measure contractor performance]. The agency has been holding quarterly in-process reviews with the current vendor, NCI.

The agency's systems projects require monitoring because DLA has some pretty important customers.

GCN:'Has the use of in-process reviews been an important part of your work in implementing the Information Technology Management Reform Act?

VON BERNEWITZ: The Clinger-Cohen Act is much bigger than the in-process reviews, which take more of a short-term view on measuring investment control and management.

In information assurance and security, DLA is trying to use Clinger-Cohen for certification and accreditation. The agency is also looking at setting rules for investment in legacy vs. new systems.

DLA has been very forward-thinking in how it manages Clinger-Cohen implementation. DLA leaders are to be commended for that and for how they handled year 2000 readiness.

GCN:'What are you doing to train and retain IT workers?



What's more



' Age: 43


' Car: BMW 325 convertible


' Last book read: Gardens Are for People by Thomas D. Church


' Favorite Web sites: www.
danspapers.com and www.cio.gov


' Leisure activities: Sailing and
gardening



VON BERNEWITZ: Retention is something that everyone in government and the corporate world is concerned about.

It doesn't do any good to put something on somebody's desk if they don't know how to use it. We are using computer-based training, both via the Web, CD-ROM and other training mediums.


GCN:'What will be the effect on the DOD Chief Information Officers Council after you, DOD deputy CIO Marvin J. Langston, deputy Defense secretary John Hamre and DISA director Lt. Gen. David Kelley have left?

VON BERNEWITZ: I would look at it positively. There will be new faces on the council and new ideas.

I would like to see more cross-fertilization in government. It's not that hard to move around in DOD, but it would be interesting to work in civilian agencies such as the Commerce Department or the Office of Personnel Management.

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