INTERVIEW: Vice Adm. Richard Mayo, the Navy's IT frontiersman

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  • Richard Mayo

    Vice Adm. Richard Mayo, a native of Falls Church, Va., grew up not far from Ground Zero, the Pentagon.

    Today he is the Navy's chief information officer and director of space, information warfare, command and control'a post he has held for two years. Before he became director of SPAWAR, Mayo spent a year as its deputy director and fleet liaison.

    He was on tour abroad before this most recent Washington stint. From July 1995 through December 1997, he commanded U.S. Naval Forces Korea. He also served in Stuttgart, Germany, on the staff of the U.S. European Command.

    Mayo's interest in computers and communications began early in his military career. After graduating from Navy Postgraduate School in 1977 with a master's degree in telecommunications management, he was assigned to the Defense Satellite Communications Management Office in Washington and later held several other systems posts.

    But his first tours were aboard ship, including the USS Charles F. Adams based in Mayport, Fla., and the USS Fox based in San Diego.

    He began his military career after graduating from Brown University in the Navy ROTC program. He was commissioned as an ensign in June 1968.

    Some of the awards he has won include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and the Defense Meritorious Service Medal.

    GCN staff writer Dawn S. Onley interviewed Mayo at his Arlington, Va., office.


    GCN: Outline the Navy's top IT challenges and goals for this year.

    MAYO: The first is the continuation of the building of the afloat networks that began several years ago under an effort called Information Technology for the 21st Century, or IT-21. We are well down the road on getting good, high-speed, secure networks aboard most of our battlegroup ships.

    What we have done over the last year with the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet is to bring that same kind of secure network environment to the shore stations in the continental United States.

    So before NMCI, we had an amalgamation of different networks, different commands that purchased or leased services from many different contractors. And in all cases, they did not have the kinds of interoperability that we wanted.

    What we are really trying to do with NMCI is to gain that kind of interoperability and to get significantly better security in our network ashore. We're going to get significantly improved information assurance because of the implementation of public-key infrastructure and other security upgrades.

    The management of that NMCI shore network and that IT-21 afloat network needs to be run as one logical network, so the ships at sea can access the appropriate databases and talk to the right people ashore, and the people ashore can communicate with the ships at sea.

    Now, there's another significant step we're taking this year that our chief of naval operations approved. In April, the Navy created Task Force Web, and its responsibility will be to select a certain number of key applications and move them into a Web-enabled environment.

    As we Web-enable key applications, we then want to push them out for use by the whole Navy, afloat and ashore.

    GCN: What is the Navy doing to recruit and retain IT workers?

    MAYO: Well, IT workers are smart in the first place, that's why they succeed in doing the kinds of jobs that they do, be it in the military or in civilian life. We require these kinds of valuable people to run our networks, especially at sea.

    The IT-21 networks are inherently military, to be operated and maintained by military people. We do have to retain top-notch, smart, squared-away information systems technicians to run our networks at sea.

    With NMCI, we are going to turn over the running of our networks ashore to a world-class organization, the Information Strike Force, the winning contractor team headed by Electronic Data Systems Corp.

    Previously, we had government civilians and military workers operating portions of the ashore networks for different commands. As the Information Strike Force takes over those networks and makes them one network, our workers will be replaced by EDS employees.

    GCN: What will happen to the displaced workers?

    MAYO: We are taking steps to ensure that our civilian people who work on those networks are given an opportunity to relocate, to get another position at the commands they're in if openings exist or elsewhere in the Navy.

    Also, they have the opportunity to accept an offer made by EDS to leave the government and work for EDS. I think the offer comes with a 15 percent increase in the base pay they were drawing in the government, a three-year guarantee of employment, plus a signing bonus of 3 percent.

    It's a pretty significant opportunity. We've had a few people take advantage of it.

    On the military side, we are creating some opportunities for positions at our network operating centers that we will have under NMCI. We will have a certain number of military positions at those centers. So when our IT workers come ashore, there will be some opportunities [and] they may be able to get a job at one of the network operating centers.

    We see that as a big win for the Navy because we then will have smart sailors at the centers who know how the networks work afloat. We are really creating with NMCI a very smart, knowledgeable work force.

    GCN: Why is there still some discord within the Navy with NMCI? What do you attribute it to?

    MAYO: I'm not aware of discord among officials in the Navy. At the commands that we work with that are going to receive NMCI, the leadership is engaged and onboard.

    There have been instances where there have been some workers or some employees who have voiced questions or concern about NMCI. I think that stems from the fact that it's a pretty significant change.

    We're going from an environment where things used to be locally managed and run to a computing environment that's going to be Navy-wide. To do that, we need to break down the method that we were using where we had individual and geographically dispersed networks that were under the control of local commanders.

    In many cases, users have not been able to talk to one another or to share directories due to security vulnerabilities. That's a big change. In many cases, people are going have to get used to some new ways of operating.

    This is going to bring a lot of efficiencies to the Navy. It's profound. And because it's profound and because it's a change, I think it's natural that we're going to have some questions and some rumblings perhaps from some of our folks. That just means we have to do a better job of awareness and outreach.

    GCN: Do you see the Navy as a trailblazer for other military agencies?

    MAYO: There has been a lot of interest with other services about what we are doing with NMCI because we really are changing the paradigm. We're changing the way we do business.

    With NMCI, we have a contractual agreement with incentives or penalties based upon the performance that we get. That performance is measured with statistics and metrics, and there's a bottom-line result in money.

    So I think this is really a departure from the way the Navy and other services have done business in the past. I think the Navy is a leader.

    GCN: Explain your role as Navy chief information officer and how this position came to be.

    MAYO: The Navy CIO is different from the Department of Navy CIO, which is Dan Porter. That position has been established for some time in response to the Information Technology Management Reform Act, which required agencies to have CIOs.

    But I've been in the directorate of space, information warfare, command and control for more than three years now in various positions and for the past one and a half years as the director. And I've seen an increasing need for the Navy itself [apart from the Marine Corps and overarching Department of the Navy] to get more involved in CIO kinds of activities relating to performance, performance metrics, the value of networks, things like that.

    I felt it was important, and Navy leadership agreed, to establish a Navy CIO specifically with an eye toward the implementation and execution of IT policy and guidance.

    GCN: How does your post differ from Dan Porter's?

    MAYO: The Navy CIO is a uniformed officer, whereas the DON CIO is a civilian and that of course is how things are set up correctly in all of the Defense Department.

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