DOD IT nominee lacks military experience, but does that matter?

Current California CIO Teri Takai awaits Senate confirmation

Despite Teresa Takai's lack of military experience, she can be an effective Defense Department information technology leader, according to industry and government officials. They say her experience as an information technology executive and expertise in large-scale IT consolidations will help DOD improve information sharing.

As Federal Computer Week predicted in early February, President Barack Obama on March 29 announced his intent to appoint Takai to the post of Assistant Secretary of Defense for networks and information integration, according to a White House release. Takai, now serving as California's chief information officer, still needs Senate confirmation.

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Defense Department chooses CIO

If confirmed, Takai will be the first woman to hold the position.

In her current role, which she has held since 2007, she advises the California governor on the strategic IT management. 

Takai’s background is unusual for the position because she previously worked in state governments and the auto industry, not DOD, said Dale Meyerrose, the vice president and general manger of Harris Corporation’s Cyber and Information Assurance practice and a retired Air Force major general.

According to her official bio, Takai worked for the Ford Motor Co. for 30 years before moving into state government. At Ford, she led the development of the company's IT strategic plan. She also held positions in technology at EDS and Federal-Mogul Corporation. In 2003, she became director of Michigan's Department of Information Technology and also served as the state's interim CIO.

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

Phil Bond, president and CEO of TechAmerica, said, “As California’s first CIO, Teri pulled disparate departments and agencies into one strong backbone for efficient, effective citizen service. In California and in Michigan, she has proven herself very adept at tapping the best and brightest from the private sector to help create smarter government on a large scale. Teri Takai is clearly a strong choice for turning DOD’s current integration efforts into a 21st century infrastructure capable of helping to strengthen our national security on all fronts.”

A fellow state CIO and former federal CIO for the Education Department, Steve Fletcher, also praised Takai’s skills and DOD’s choice.

“Teri is one of the most qualified CIOs out there right now,” Fletcher said March 29, citing her work on consolidation and her prior experience in the private sector, per a Government Technology report. “I think she could make a very large impact, if nothing else, just so that the different military organizations can talk to each other -- that's been the [DOD's] struggle for years,” said Fletcher, the CIO of Utah and president of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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Reader Comments

Wed, Oct 5, 2011 JG Ohio

The only skill she may lack or fully understand is the bureaucratic manipulation skills of her mid-level managers that can make or break her. She will need strong support from her superiors and congress to give her the freedom to do what needs to be done. The “this too shall pass” attitude inside the DoD has derailed many well intentioned projects. Unfortunately, I speak from being a DoD employee and see these actions first hand. Our Director called an “All Hands Meeting” and told us he had tried to ask managers to voluntarily trim their budgets, but received no results. He then announced mandatory cut backs and reorganization. The current belt tightening should actually help get things going in the right direction. There is less room for manipulation, but it will still be a challenge.

Thu, Aug 26, 2010

Sort of helps to understand where the military is coming from when you are running an IT service for them. I wonder if she has the nerve to stand up to situations where actuall lives are on the line when IT goes out in the intel side of the house or maybe a communicaiton line is offline and a unit out in the front line doesn't get that vital peice of info about the enemy.

Tue, Apr 6, 2010

As a current Active Duty IT professional working with mainly civilians, the retired military have such a different perspective and "big picture" understanding. Not just what will work in corporate America, but what will work when traveling to or interacting with people in a war zone. Military service DOES matter!

Mon, Apr 5, 2010

This is IT we're talking about, not combat commanding. She has experience in IT, that's all she needs. The DOD needs to stop looking at itself as a unique entity and realize that keeping outsiders out keeps good ideas and perspectives out as well.

Mon, Apr 5, 2010 LC California

When dealing with the military it's always an advantage having been there. Can the lady do the job? Who knows...maybe so, maybe no. I'm sure there are many qualified ex- military types out there first, which if I were the powers-to-be, would want to excercise that option before going to the non-military types. Having been in the military, it provides a perspective that civilians just can't understand. I had no idea she was the top IT for California...I'm not impressed, so that's another side to consider.

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