Special Commendation for Service to the IT Community: Kevin Carroll
2007 GCN Awards | Carroll gave support to improving DOD's IT systems
- By Jennifer Huergo
- Oct 07, 2007
“I’ll never have a job that’s as fulfilling and as much fun as this,” said Kevin Carroll, the Army’s outgoing program executive officer for Enterprise Information Systems. After 30 years of government service, 24 of them with the Army, Carroll retired on Sept. 30.
He was first introduced to government service when he was drafted in 1972. “One of the happiest days of my life was leaving the Army,” he said. “Little did I know that I would be coming back to it.” Or that he would one day be sad to leave it.
For the past seven years, Carroll has managed the Defense Department’s and Army’s business and combat service support system programs, in addition to Army communication and computer infrastructure programs.
“Kevin Carroll has moved PEO-EIS from an obscure acquisition agency to a main pillar of Army enterprise,” said Vernon Bettencourt Jr., acting Army chief information officer. “And he has done all this with a can-do attitude and an Irish wit.”
After completing his two years in the Army, Carroll used the GI Bill to earn his undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland, working part-time buying parts for the physics department’s particle accelerator. That experience qualified him for a position in contracting at the Transportation Department.
From there, he joined the Federal Highway Administration and then the Coast Guard, along the way earning his master’s degree in business administration from Maryland.
Carroll got into buying computers at the Coast Guard and liked it. Then he heard about Dave Borland’s reputation as a top information technology guy with the Army and sought him out. Borland hired Carroll for the Information Systems Selection and Acquisition Agency, where he rose to the Senior Executive Service and eventually succeeded Borland as the agency’s chief.
After moving up through several Army commands, he was recruited to the Army Materiel Command, where he gained experience in program management before joining PEO for Standard Army Management Information Systems, the precursor to EIS. Carroll saw three major challenges there: lack of communications, stovepipes and a lack of emphasis on security.
“Command and control, the warfighting systems, got all the communications,” he said. Carroll pushed for moving his systems to the Web, and, he said, “we put up a whole bunch of various small-aperture satellites and wireless LANs” that are now one of our biggest successes in the war. Even the warfighting guys have picked up our solutions.”
Carroll also sought to address logistics stovepipes. “The reason that’s been such a challenge is because of the way the Defense Department and Army work, both developing requirements and funding IT systems,” Carroll said. So he focused on bringing people together, pointing out what was obvious from the program management point of view “that a lack of coordination often meant a duplication of efforts.”
He also recognized the need for information assurance, which was not a priority when he arrived. “They just never thought they were going to be under attack like the weapons systems guys would be,” said Carroll. Such naiveté is long gone.
Looking back, Carroll said he’d grade himself with an A for improving communications, a B for security and a C for enterprise integration -- breaking down those stovepipes. But enterprise resource planning tools are on the way, and they will help the organization design its business processes in an integrated manner, he said.
Carroll regrets that he won’t be around to see the integrations completed, and he sounds genuinely sad to be leaving his post. “I loved being able to help make the G4, the head of logistics -- happy that we’re providing value.” During his tenure, the organization grew from approximately 170 employees to more than 650. It has the largest presence of any PEO deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, including soldiers, government civilians and contractors.
“We’ve really done so well there with our systems,” Carroll said. “[We’re] getting parts and products where they need to be to keep things operating. So I’m really gonna miss delivering, I guess you could say, results that are positive for people.”
Carroll’s Management Lessons
Kevin Carroll credits his success to promoting openness and honesty, involving industry and giving his staff the tools
and freedom they need to do their jobs. “If we’re honest and upfront with [our customers] when we have troubles -- that
really saves the day. And I think that would be a key factor in what made us successful in enterprise integration and in
communications,” he said. But that honesty extends beyond Carroll’s interactions with customers.
“He inspires confidence in his employees, customers and industry,” said Dave Borland, Carroll’s one-time boss and former
Army deputy chief information officer.
Carroll said one of the biggest mistakes government program managers make is to not engage with industry. He recommends
“opening your door and letting any company come see you, from large to small, all companies. The ones you like, the ones you
PEO-EIS is now “an industry-friendly and open kind of organization,” Borland said. “That’s what he’s made it.” And he’s
done so with “no ego, without self aggrandizement,” he added.
“My job is to make the program manager successful,” Carroll said. “And if they’re successful, then I’m successful.”
To that end, Carroll’s encouraged his staff to focus on how they can help their employees and remove any roadblocks.
“When things are going bad, my job is to get up and out in front of people,” he said. “And when things are good, I need to
stay in the back.”