Navy CIO trims apps, hails NMCI

What's more

Age: 45

Family: Wife, Sandra; 22-year-old daughter, Heather; and newborn twin girls, Kaelyn and Skylar, adopted in early March

Hometown: Camp Hill, Pa.

Last book read: Leading Minds by Howard Gartner

Last movie seen: 'The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers'

David M. Wennergren, naval systems chief

David M. Wennergren's professional life changed in December when he became CIO of the Navy. Last month, his life changed again, this time in the personal area: Wennergren and his wife adopted newborn twin girls.

'My life has changed dramatically. I'm a new CIO and about to be a new dad again,' Wennergren said shortly before the adoption.

One of his biggest projects as Navy CIO is the $8.82 billion Navy-Marine Corps Intranet. He called NMCI a true transformational initiative and said the project'to link more than 400,000 users at 300 shore sites via a common voice, video and data portal'rates a high grade. He said he's also optimistic about many of the other projects on the Navy's IT agenda as well.

Before becoming CIO, Wennergren was deputy CIO for enterprise integration and security, a position in which he worked to further Navy e-business, knowledge management and information assurance initiatives.

Wennergren has a bachelor's degree in communications and public relations from Mansfield University of Pennsylvania and a master's in public-sector financial management from the University of Maryland.

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

GCN: What are your top priorities as the new Navy CIO?

WENNERGREN: The Navy has really taken a leadership role in IT issues. There are a number of areas where we've been first.

The Navy-Marine Corps Intranet is the largest seat management contract in federal history. We were the first agency to do an online reverse auction. The service is leading the Defense Department's rollout of Common Access Cards, the largest smart-card deployment in the government.

We like being in the leadership position. And we're going to continue our transformational agenda. What I want to continue focusing on is the idea of a digital transformation in the Navy'the idea of being able to put the power of the intellectual capital of the entire Navy and Marine Corps into the hands of our deployed sailors and Marines.

It's the idea of putting into place the enterprise network to work well with the set of applications that we have.

A lot is going on right now with legacy application rationalization, taking literally tens of thousands of apps and weeding down to the best solutions and then making those available by the Web.

I would say another priority is people'having our sailors and Marines trained to use the power of information.

There are other issues such as making sure you have secure wireless solutions in place so that people can be a nomadic work force.

Of course, security is also a priority. We took all the pillars of security and built them together into a single integrated process that we call full-dimensional protection.

GCN: How do you define your job?

WENNERGREN: I think the primary job of a CIO is to lead change. Technology is important, but it is just a small part of the answer. I'd hazard a guess that any new ideas are about 10 percent technology and 90 percent process and change, and how you manage that change.

I spend the majority of my time helping organizations embrace change.

GCN: How will the war with Iraq change your job?

WENNERGREN: There are areas of emphasis that rise to the fore in times of war. Over the course of years, IT has become so embedded in every process, every mission capability, every warfighting capability that we truly have moved ourselves to network-centric warfare.

So this whole idea about the importance of technology in the way we work, how we fight and how we play is sort of crucial to mission effectiveness.

The role of a CIO continues to have the same set of priorities because in the end your priority is the same in war or peace. It's about bringing technology to bear in a way that allows us to have an effective warfighting team.

GCN: How is the Common Access Card deployment going?

WENNERGREN: In addition to being CIO, I lead the DOD Smart Card Senior Coordinating Group, the body responsible for deployment of Common Access Cards across all of DOD.

The Common Access Card is really a great example of how large organizations can work together.
As with any large change management initiative, it hasn't been without its fits and spurts and bumps. But what's been really great about it is that Army, Navy, Air Force and Defense agencies have all come together for a single approach.

If you work with industry and develop a best industry-type solution and then apply it consistently across your organizations, you can improve performance and reduce costs. You can open doors for collaboration and interoperability that you haven't had before.

I think we're up to 1.5 million cards that have been issued now. We have more work to do. We imagine a population of about 4 million folks across DOD will use the cards.

GCN: What is the status of e-business in the Navy?

WENNERGREN: The E-Business Operations Office is doing a wonderful job for us. We had the idea of creating an innovation center for the Navy that our commands could visit.

The innovation center would serve as a clearinghouse of good ideas, so officers would know what is going on inside the department, what is going on in other agencies and what the private sector is doing. They wouldn't have to invent e-business stuff on their own.

The center offers consulting services. Its consultants will come to any command and help work through an e-business problem.

The center has a pilot fund. If you have a great idea and you're willing to commit to do it but just don't have the money to start it, you can go to the center and they'll give you money and provide a private-sector partner.

One example of how the pilot process works: The CIO and a neonatologist at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego had this great idea to revamp the process of getting specialist appointments. If you went to see a general practitioner who said you needed to see a specialist, the process to get that appointment with a specialist was very cumbersome, very labor-intensive for the patient, and the physician never knew whether or not the appointment had been kept.

Using simple Web-based wireless technology, they developed a system that would let the general practitioner say, 'You have a problem, and I know Mary would be very good to see about your problem. I'll check my device here. I see that Mary has an appointment next Wednesday at 9 a.m. Can you make that appointment?'

They estimated it would cost $100,000 to do a pilot. The E-Business Operations Office approved and funded it.

GCN: How would you grade the integration and rollout efforts of the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet so far?

WENNERGREN: I'd give NMCI an A. I'm grading NMCI as a true transformational initiative. We've learned a lot from all the things that have transpired in getting it going.

We've had a lot of help. We have tested and tested this thing. I don't know what kind of grade I would give the rollout so far because I don't think it's fair to judge the rollout yet.

I think what you see happening is that initial wave of change. You have to deal with the human dynamics of 'I used to control this thing. I used to own it myself, and now I have to let somebody else do it.' That's a challenging thing.

The fits and spurts that you go through are painful. The reason I'm reluctant to grade the rollout is because there are so many things that we were able to uncover by doing NMCI that we just weren't aware of. Are those the fault of NMCI? You'd have to say no.

We had no idea'and I guarantee that no other agency that has not gone down the path of something like NMCI would know'how many apps we had. They just pop out of the woodwork. I think NMCI has taken heat for things the contractors helped bring to light. I would say, let's talk again in six months.

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