Takai qualified for DOD CIO post, say former leaders

Military expert says lack of active-duty career could be an advantage for expected nominee Teri Takai

Teri Takai is well-known and respected in government technology circles, and her expected nomination to be the Defense Department’s next chief information officer follows the recent history of appointees who did not have long careers serving in uniform, one military expert said today.

Takai, who is California's CIO, is widely reported to be the Obama administration's choice to be DOD's next CIO. A formal announcement is expected in the next week or so, FCW sources confirmed. If confirmed by the Senate, she would be the first woman to hold the position.

Two previous CIOs, John Grimes and John Stenbit, came to the job without long, active-duty careers, according to Dale Meyerrose, the vice president and general manger of Harris Corp.’s Cyber and Information Assurance practice and a retired Air Force major general.
Meyerrose, who did not have first-hand knowledge of Takai's nomination, was asked to comment on her qualifications. He was most recently the chief information officer and information sharing executive for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Meyerrose noted that Emmett Paige Jr., a retired Army Lieutenant General, was the last long-serving active duty person to hold the CIO position at DOD.

Though long, active-duty service may not be the norm, Takai’s background is still unusual for the position because she previously worked in state governments and the auto industry, not the Defense Department, Meyerrose said. Still, Meyerrose said Takai is a capable technology executive.

“She is well qualified to understand technology and to run a large organization,” he said.

If Takai is confirmed as the new DOD CIO, she will be well supported by two long-serving deputies in Cheryl Roby, the acting assistant secretary of Defense/DOD CIO, and David Wennergren, the deputy DOD CIO, Meyerrose said.

“Together they ought to be able to provide her the ability to come up to speed with the inside baseball issues within the Pentagon,” Meyerrose said.

Takai’s first priority will be to continue supporting military operations overseas, Meyerrose said. Then, she will need to establish her leadership role within the federal government’s entire CIO structure, including the intelligence and civilian agencies.

Specifically, Takai will need to work closely with Priscilla Guthrie, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence's CIO, and Vivek Kundra, the federal CIO, Meyerrose said. “Those relationships will be hugely important,” he said.

As the DOD ratchet ups its cyber warfare capabilities, the new DOD CIO will be responsible for creating and maintaining the infrastructure to support those efforts. "She won’t have an operational role, but she will have a funding, planning, architecture building, and standards setting role that will enable cyber operations,” Meyerrose said. “It will be similar to those same responsibilities for enabling combat operations, which is the most important thing she will do as CIO.”

Standardization where it makes sense is a key to creating interoperability among various organization, Takai told the Sacramento Bee in 2008 after becoming the CIO of California. “We need to get better at deployment of underlying technology, and [it] doesn't have to be unique every time we deploy a different piece of technology,” she told the Bee.

Takai, who also worked in the auto industry, said some business practices can work in government.

“Where it becomes more difficult in a public sector setting is that you have a legislative body which has so many different objectives and is so large,” she told the Bee. “It becomes difficult for them to understand where a particular technology is going. If you contrast that to a board of directors, it's a very different dynamic.”

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader Comments

Sun, Mar 28, 2010 Yosemite Sam California

Mr. Weiler: the last thing the DOD needs is a leader in focused on personal publicity, nor does being an articulate interviewee reflect leadership capabilities and management competence. True leadership must result in substantive outcomes, and there have been none in California under Takai. There have been lots of consultant contracts resulting in numerous planning documents and disparate, disconected efforts. But nothing substantive in two years. "Awards" for "web presence" do not get IT projects completed. (check the CA CIO website). I don't know what think tank you are associated with, but unless you have worked with the CA's CIO office, you are not in a position to testify to Takai's leadership outcomes.

Sun, Mar 14, 2010 John Weiler Alexandria VA

Representing one of the few Think Tanks not vested in protecting current rice bowls and status quo, I support bringing in someone with the diverse leadership and political skills of Ms. Takai. Running OSD NII is not about being tech savvy as John Grimes will tell you. It's being able to get people working together for a common cause. OSD NII's authority and ability to enforce the Clinger Cohen Act was stymied by the previous OSD ATL leadership when Mr. Young withdrew John Grime's acquisition authority, believing that ships and computers required the same skills and processes. However, well respected think tanks told a different story; DSB, CSIS, IAC/ACT, NAS, AF SAB, BENS.org and the new IT-Acquisition Advisory Council. Ms. Takai brings invaluable experience and no rice bowls. She will not allow your team to be strong armed by special interests who have failed to deliver in the past. A recent interview reveals a strong woman with the right stuff; http://techleader.tv/?page_id=586

Tue, Feb 9, 2010 femtobeam

Oh10101 said:"As a side-point, for the DoD manufacturing-base, many (maybe most) technology product on GSA (Buy USA) are not USA source materials a/o manufacture (GPS, computers, sewing machines...). How long could the USA (alone) sustain a global effort." femtobeam says: GSA is managed by Bechtel and the decisions are all related to what they decide to do. Manufacturing has been gone from the US for over 20 years now, sold for cigarettes and beef in unfair trade agreements. In the areas which matter, such as computers. Now, with the announcement by China to cut off the World's supply of Rare Earth Elements REE's, the US is faced with a crisis in manufacturing needs which goes way beyond jobs. The "hardwired" ability at the microscopic level and the loss of data already to hackers requires a dump heap of current equipment to be rebuilt from those materials and others into controlled manufactured items...without the DoD sharing arrangement. That was the huge mistake.

Tue, Feb 9, 2010 YosemiteSam California

Other than ensuring regular personal publicity blogs and tweets, just what has Takai accomplish during her two years in California? For years, as verified by innumerable web articles, Takai took credit for the consolidation of Michigan data centers, though the consolidations had been in process for several years prior her appointment as Michigan CIO. She finally admitted this in a 2009 legislative hearing when asked by a Senator if she had experience in consolidations, her answer revealing that the Michigan effort had been in process for about 7 years before she was hired and that she arrived at the tail end of the consolidation.

In California, the same "consolidation" quick-win was immediately initiated, resulting in the largest data center being brought into Takai's office. But did bringing the state data center under her management result in quantifiable "consolidation" efficiencies? No. It was simply an administrative reorganization, one that has done nothing to reduce the 150-200 separate data centers/computer rooms strewn over the state and managed by 100+ separate state departments. A 2008 Intel survey, conducted at the request of Takai's office, reported 100 separate state email systems, each managed by a different state department, with separate physical sites, infrastructure, and staff. What actions has Takai taken to reduce such duplicative systems? Intel estimated annual savings in the multi-millions of dollars, but Takai has done nothing to inititate such a no-brainer consolidation.

As in Michigan, I expect that Takai will have no problem taking credit for IT projects that were in process prior to her arrival. I also expect her to fluff up the value of the blog and tweet awards she's steered towards the state. Overall, based upon her performance in California, heaven help the country and our defense systems. That said, she needs to be kicked out of CA post-haste. The empress may wear Gucci, but she certainly had no clothes.

Tue, Feb 9, 2010 Outside the Beltway

Gee, she comes for the bankrupt auto industry from the equally bankrupt state of California. I seem to remember the last wizard the DoD saw from the automobile industry was Robert Strange McNamara who all but destroyed the DoD before going on to all but bankrupt the World Bank. I hope history is not about to re-repeat itself.

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