Thinking Tech

In the Navy, the CIO blogs

Posting in Architecture

It seems few CIO bother to blog these days, but one of the most robust is Navy CIO Robert Carey's. He just outlined his top 10 priorities for 2010 and candidly discusses a range of other IT topics.

I don't know what surprises me more: that Robert J. Carey is the Navy's sixth CIO and that there were five before him or that he has written his CIO Blog for more than two years.

In November, Carey's CIO Blog turned two years old upon the occasion of his 32nd post. His posts, which he says he writes himself, tend to be pretty beefy and well in excess of 500 words. In fact, last Thursday, he posted his 10 top priorities for 2010. More on those in a bit. Let's examine the phenomenon of CIO blogging first.

Navy CIO Robert J. Carey

Definitive stats on CIOs who publicly blog are hard to find, but one impromptu search in 2009 turned up a mere dozen and sure enough, Carey's CIO Blog was listed among them. Several were academics and one CIO was well-known IT thought leader and gadget freak John Halamka MD with CareGroup Health Systems in Boston.

While the CIO Blog from one of the nation's top sailors is intended to open a dialog within what has long been considered the most change-resistant branch of the military, the comments to his posts tend to be five here and five there. That's not a lot of feedback: after all, this is the Navy where such behavior hasn't exactly been encouraged over the centuries.

The blog's mission?

"The CIO blog is a forum for the Department of the Navy CIO to discuss matters related to information management and information technology and how they impact the Department."

Carey's top IT initiatives largely speak for themselves (below), but number two about the Navy's next generation network jumps out at me for the network's sheer size. And several priorities embrace the Internet instead of taking the prevalent military view that it's a threat and the Navy's use of it should be limited.

The overhaul of the current Navy Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) with a "Next Generation Enterprise Network" or NGEN for short is the Navy's biggest IT project. Before I explain what NGEN is, here's a few 2008 stats on the Navy's network from the CIO's "What is NGEN" web page:

"NMCI consists of more than 660,000 user accounts at more than 300 bases in the continental United States, Hawaii and Japan, making it the largest intranet in the world. NMCI plays a vital role in information sharing, transmitting 3.4 terabytes of data each day and over 100 million email messages per month. NMCI has significantly increased network security; each month NMCI thwarts 1,200 unclassified intrusion attempts, blocks 9 million spam messages, and detects an average of 60 viruses."

That's not just a gigantic network. It's one of the world's largest!

NGEN is part of a strategic initiative known as Naval Networking Environment or NNE that is slated to be in place by 2016. In short, NGEN promises to be a better network: more "reliable, adaptable, secure and supportive of the warfighter."

There's a surprising amount of information online about the Navy's IT initiatives. And Carey's blog, a mix of cheerleading and candor about the Navy's IT challenges, is a good read. I especially liked his "What Keeps me Up at Night" post (a standard reporter's question to every mover and shaker).

His top ten for 2010 can be a tad windy and acronym-filled, but his blog is a good read. That the Navy's CIO has an active blog is commendable. It's surprising to me we know what the Navy's CIO priorities are at all. Here goes:

1) Decision Making and Governance: We continue to work toward a more agile decision-making model while ensuring proper alignment across resources, requirements, acquisition, policy and operations. We are striving to perform like an enterprise, so we can leverage the buying power of the DON or DoD where appropriate. This will ensure that we maximize the value of our IT budgets using Enterprise Architecture as the main tool to drive interoperability and cost management.

2) Networks/NGEN: The Department is forging ahead toward closure of the current NMCI contract and moving closer toward NGEN. In addition, the legacy environment is shrinking and being enveloped by the present NMCI environment.

3) Cybersecurity/Investment Model: We are also working toward a Cyber Capability Model combined with the appropriate metrics and investment guidance to ensure that our resources are placed where they are absolutely necessary.

4) Enterprise Mobility: The power of the smart phone and our ability to securely connect to the network and information needed to perform our jobs is expanding exponentially. This is freeing our workforce from the Industrial Age model of the "desk" and allowing us to securely work from anywhere.

5) Web 2.0/Social Media/Collaboration: No longer are social media tools a new phenomenon, but rather standard ways to share information. We will continue to look for ways to leverage these tools to make better decisions more quickly and efficiently.

6) Privacy: With so much of our sensitive information being used to conduct everyday transactions, we must be even more vigilant about protecting personally identifiable information (PII). Deployment of data at rest encryption continues to help mitigate the impacts of lost and stolen devices.

7) NNE/Cloud Computing: We are marching toward the Enterprise User concept where we can engage the network (the Global Information Grid) from any device and access our information.

8) Cyber/IT Workforce Skills: Everyone is a cyber warrior and as such will require better and different training. The Cyber Age is here, and we must accelerate our knowledge of the network as a tool to perform our work.

9) Identity Management: We are striving for an identity-based physical and logical access standards-based model that is interoperable across the Federal Government and with our coalition partners.

10) Critical Infrastructure Protection: We are working to operationalize a new model that will provide for leveraging assets from the Navy and Marine Corps to ensure that the Naval mission can be accomplished when tasked.

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John Dodge

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor John Dodge has written for the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, PC Week (now eWeek), EDN, Design News, Electronic Business, Bio-IT World, Health-IT World, Lowell Sun, Haverhill Gazette and Newburyport Daily News. He is based in Massachusetts. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure