Leaders Speak - A Conversation on Human Service Delivery in New York City

Friday, February 5th, 2010 - 23:35
We are introducing a Special Edition of The Business of Government Hour -- Leaders Speak --     focusing on human service delivery: the challenges being faced and innovations being forged in our local communities.

Robert Hess interview

Friday, July 3rd, 2009 - 20:00
"Our mission is to support individuals and families that are experiencing homelessness in our city, and to help them move from the experience of homelessness back into the community with whatever supports they may need to support them in the community."
Radio show date: 
Sat, 07/04/2009
Intro text: 
Missions and Programs; Leadership; Technology; Innovation; Organizational Transformation; Market-Based Government; Strategic Thinking; Customer Focus/Case Management ...
Missions and Programs; Leadership; Technology; Innovation; Organizational Transformation; Market-Based Government; Strategic Thinking; Customer Focus/Case Management
Magazine profile: 
Complete transcript: 

Originally Broadcast December 1st, 2007

New York , New York

Welcome to The Business of Government Hour, a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. The Business of Government Hour is produced by The IBM Center for The Business of Government, which was created in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. You can find out more about The Center by visiting us on the web at businessofgovernment.org.

And now, The Business of Government Hour.

Mr. Morales: Good morning. I'm Albert Morales, your host, and managing partner of The IBM Center for The Business of Government. As we continue our effort to engage government executives who are changing the way government does business, we are here on location this morning in New York City.

All across America, small towns and large cities are facing the social realities of homelessness, and the steady increase in demand for homeless services. While providing shelter and services to those in need is critical, the national conversation is shifting from managing to ending homelessness, especially chronic homelessness. New York City has embraced such a goal, and has begun to reshape and expand its services to prevent homelessness in a more comprehensive and coordinated way than ever before. From a system that did little more than provide cots and meals to single adults and families, it is now recognized nationally and internationally for providing quality shelter and related services in humane settings, with a client-centered philosophy.

With us this morning to discuss his agency's efforts in this area is our special guest, Robert Hess, commissioner of the New York City Department of Homeless Services.

Good morning, Rob.

Mr. Hess: Good morning.

Mr. Morales: Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Shelley Mills-Brinkley, partner in IBM's public sector social services practice.

Good morning, Shelley.

Ms. Mills-Brinkley: Good morning.

Mr. Morales: Rob, let's start off by learning a bit more about your department. Perhaps you could give us an overview of the mission and history of the New York City Department of Homeless Services.

Mr. Hess: Sure. The Department of Homeless Services in New York was created in the early '90s. Before that, we were part of the Human Resources Administration in the city. And the mission is to support individuals and families that are experiencing homelessness in our city, and to help them move from the experience of homelessness back into the community with whatever supports they may need to support them in the community.

Mr. Morales: Rob, can you give us a sense of the scale of this operation? How is the New York City Department of Homeless Services organized? What's the size of its budget, and how many full-time employees do you have?

Mr. Hess: Sure. The Department of Homeless Services has a budget of just under $1 billion a year. We have over 2,300 employees within the Department, and we contract out for services that include about another 20,000 employees that we pay for through contracts across the city in order to support people experiencing homelessness.

Ms. Mills-Brinkley: With that big operation, can you give us an idea of your role as commissioner? And what are your official responsibilities?

Mr. Hess: We are very, very focused in the Bloomberg administration on the mayor's vision. And with respect to homelessness and the reduction thereof, it's the vision of the mayor that we reduce the number of people sleeping on our streets, and we reduce the number of people living in our shelters by two-thirds or more before midnight on December 31, 2009, so we're very clear in our mission and our vision. And everything we do in the Department is geared toward not managing homelessness, but ending it, and so we're very focused on those objectives.

Ms. Mills-Brinkley: So with such a big vision and mission, what are the top three challenges that you see in your position in getting those goals met?

Mr. Hess: I think the biggest challenge is to figure out the strategies that we need to actually get to the kinds of reductions we're talking about. So with respect to people living on our streets that are experiencing chronic homelessness, we've had to develop a whole new set of strategies on the street, to include much better access to housing directly from the streets, and the supportive services that supports people in that housing. With respect to the shelters, we've had to develop a whole new set of rental subsidy programs to help people move quickly out of the shelter system and back into the community with the support that they need. And so the strategies are a little bit different based upon the population, or where people are starting from, but the biggest challenges are really understanding what it will take to help create the reductions in homelessness that we're trying to achieve.

Mr. Morales: Rob, I understand that you've come to New York City via Baltimore in sort of your most recent role. Could you describe your career path for our listeners? How did you even get started in this field?

Mr. Hess: Sure. I spent five years in the Army, and then after that went to work for the Disabled American Veterans in Baltimore; ran one of the largest thrift stores in Baltimore in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Baltimore and did that for 16 years, and really had a thorough understanding and primer, if you will, on poverty and people who live in poverty, and how they're just so resourceful in so many ways, and we really were one of the largest employers of low-income people in Baltimore City, and we were very, very successful. And so went from that to looking at the issue of homeless veterans in Baltimore. And then created a program in Baltimore called the Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training that actually became I think the national model for how you could support veterans that were on the streets. And, you know, isn't that tragic that so many of our veterans serve our country and protect us and then end up on our streets? We really have to do better as a nation with respect to that. So we had some success with that.

And then I didn't like what I saw with respect to public policy in this country of managing homelessness, and so ran an organization in Maryland called Action for the Homeless, ultimately led an organization called the Center for Poverty Solutions in Maryland, and then moved to Philadelphia when Mayor John Street asked me to join his administration. And we had a lot of success there in reducing the number of people in the streets over a five-year period of time, at which point Mayor Bloomberg asked me to join his administration here in New York, and I've just been honored to do that.

Mr. Morales: Rob, tell me, how have these previous experiences prepared you for your current role here in New York City, and how did they shape your management approach and your leadership style?

Mr. Hess: Well, I think the number one thing it taught me is you really -- in order to understand a problem, in order to understand what's really going on with somebody living on the streets or living in a shelter, you can do all your research, you can look at all the data, but at the end of the day, you really got to sit down and talk to people that are experiencing that situation and better understand what their wants and needs and desires are, and then shape programs to support them and where they want to go, and there's just a lot of examples of that. So that I think has influenced my management style, my leadership style, my thought process in creating programs and policy.

Beyond that, I think in any organization, no matter how small or large, there are some things that are very clear. You know, the idea of empowering the experts, the professionals, within any organization, to be able to move toward a common vision and help them succeed by giving them a lot of support, a lot of communication, a lot of access. And the freedom to take risks is very, very important. Now, we try to take calculated, well-measured risks, but we're very clear that many, many people worked very hard over a long period of time to end homelessness and they haven't been able to do it. We've got to be able to think very differently, very creatively, take some risks, figure out what's working and keep doing what's working, figure out what's not and stop what's not working.

That stopping what's not working is not always easy, especially when you talk about people that have organizations, very good organizations, that may have contracts to do things that aren't working as well. Very often, we're hesitant to say we ought to stop funding that. Well, here in New York and in Philadelphia, we did that, and focused on strategies that worked, and it made a big difference over time.

And so I think it's a combination of all those things. I think at the end of the day, probably the biggest thing is support our staff, be very clear on our vision, our objectives, our timelines, and do everything we can to communicate that over and over and over again, and stay focused on where we're going.

Mr. Morales: You know, many times in government it's easy to take a safe position, but it sounds like you're really driving towards a culture of innovation and of risk-taking.

Mr. Hess: Absolutely right. The thing that comes with that, of course, is change. And any time you're driving change, you can't do that without creating a certain amount of stress or tension, and so you have to be willing to accept that. And then you have to kind of manage the change and the stress that it's creating in a way that it's productive stress and doesn't become counterproductive. And so that's a little bit of the management balancing act that we try to obtain as we move toward our vision.

Mr. Morales: Great.

What about Mayor Bloomberg's plan to end chronic homelessness in New York City?

We will ask Robert Hess, commissioner of the New York City Department of Homeless Services, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.


Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Robert Hess, commissioner of the New York City Department of Homeless Services.

Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Shelley Mills-Brinkley.

Rob, a typical perception about homelessness is that a homeless person is predominantly male, perhaps mentally ill, and living on the street. Perhaps you could shed some light and clarify some of these misperceptions by telling us what population represents the majority that your agency serves. Who's most at risk, and what events precipitate or cause individuals or families to become homeless?

Mr. Hess: There's no question that the largest majority of people experiencing homelessness we see are women and children, families with children. The second fastest-growing group are adult families, or what we call "couples." Actually, the smallest group, and the group that we're having the most success in eliminating homelessness, is single adults that you described.

Since we announced -- the mayor announced the five-year plan, we've seen a 19 percent decrease in single adults. And we're actually at the lowest level with single adults in our system that we've been since 2002, and we're continuing to go down. And so we feel very, very good about that. We've seen a 15 percent decrease in the number of individuals, primarily single males, living on our streets. But at the same time, we've seen a little bit of growth in families with children and adult couples, and so they are by far the fastest-growing and the majority of people that we see.

Mr. Morales: That's interesting. It must take much different strategies to address those three groups that you described.

Mr. Hess: It really does. And the other thing that you see is more and more young moms with a couple of children entering the shelter system. Part of that you can attribute to a tougher rental market, and part of that you can attribute to the really low-wage jobs that are available at an entry level. But the gap between what people need to earn in order to pay the rent has really gotten very, very large.

Mr. Morales: Could you give us a brief overview of Mayor Bloomberg's five-year plan to end chronic homelessness? Specifically, give us some background on its development, and a high-level outline of the nine-point action plan that seeks to reshape the city's approach to assisting homeless and those at risk.

Mr. Hess: Yeah, the mayor and Commissioner Linda Gibbs, who's now deputy mayor, really spent a lot of time engaging leaders across New York in order to bring them together on a very high level and think through the kinds of strategies we need to move from managing homelessness to ending it, and set some very aggressive targets. And in fact, the group came back and developed a plan that would get the 2/3 reductions, both the number of people in the streets and in our shelter system, within 10 years. And the mayor reviewed that plan and said the plan is great, it's exactly what we should be doing, but I don't have 10 years. We have term limits here in New York. I've got five years left.

So in the space of just a few very quick minutes, the plan went from a 10-year plan to a 5-year plan because the mayor said we need to make ourselves accountable for this and not leave this important work to any future administrations. And so all the points that were raised kind of accelerated in importance, and the timelines accelerated very quickly.

And so what we have learned with the support of all those high-level folks is that this plan needs to be dynamic. The strategies are changing by the month. I don't think that there's many of the initial strategies that we have not replaced with new-and-improved versions of those strategies or just very new and creative ideas that weren't even thought of by the initial group.

Let me give you an example. I was surprised to learn very early on in my tenure here that we had 800 individuals in the shelter system that had been in the shelter system in New York City for between 8 and 20 years. Can you imagine living in a shelter system in any city in this country for the better part of a generation? And yet many people were. And so once we recognized that, we then went to work in an aggressive way -- a 100-day initiative to place all of those individuals into permanent or permanent-supportive housing. And we did it. We then found that we had 46 families that had been in our shelter system for more than five years. In that same 100 days, we moved those 46 families into permanent housing.

And so we made a lot of progress, but that particular strategy could not have been foreseen by those developing the plan. It was only digging deep and drilling deep into the data to understand who was in our system that allowed us to identify those populations, develop strategies very quickly, enact those strategies, and then get that job done. The beauty of this kind of technique, however, is that we then learned a lot of things that we can apply to other families that are in our system.

Mr. Morales: That's just fantastic, and you've alluded to some of the great successes that your agency has had. So what are some of the big-ticket items that still remain to be done to meet the 2009 goal?

Mr. Hess: Well, I think most of them are in place. We recently created four new housing subsidies. We don't have a one-size-fits-all population, and so we've got four new strategies. We call them the "Advantage New York" suite of housing subsidies. We'll spend $129 million this year on those housing subsidies alone. But they will allow people to move out of shelters more quickly, move back into the community, get the support that they need to become self-sufficient or move towards self-sufficiency, and we think that's very important.

We have added a lot of money to community-based prevention sites. And so we'll soon be spending about $20 million a year to develop these community-based sites. And we'll be attaching Section 8 subsidies and other subsidies to those sites, that we'll be spending well in excess of another $100 million a year on community-based prevention. And so those are some of the kinds of big-ticket items that we've put into place to help move us toward our objective.

Ms. Mills-Brinkley: Can you tell us a little bit more about your new homeless outreach strategy? How does it represent a redesign of the street outreach services? And I understand that you've implemented a new point -- a single point of contact, if you will, in all five boroughs.

Mr. Hess: Yes. I mean, this is very exciting. I mean, one of the first things I did upon arriving in New York some year and a half ago was to spend a night a week for the first couple of months on the streets across the five boroughs of the city with various outreach teams, see what's going on, talk to people living on our streets, watch our outreach teams in action. And what I concluded is that we had a lot of well-meaning outreach teams doing the best they could with limited resources, without any ability to collect or share data in a meaningful way, without access to the kind of housing resources that they needed to help people move off the streets. And so it was clear to me that we weren't going to get from where we were to our target of reducing the people in the streets by two-thirds or more using the strategies that were in place. And I'll spend a minute just telling you what we did about that, because I think it's instructive of how we do business.

So I couldn't even figure out, because these contracts were across various city departments, how many outreach teams we had. So I decided to hold a meeting one morning and invite every outreach team to the meeting. The only ticket to admittance to the meeting was you were a line outreach worker, you worked on the streets. No supervisors, no managers, no executive directors. And I just went to see who was going to show up. It turns out 160 outreach workers showed up.

And so I said to them, look, our vision's very straightforward. There's 4,200 people living on the streets today. Before midnight on December 31, 2009, we need to get down below 1,429 people living on the streets. Tell me how to do it. Tell me what works, what doesn't work. What would you need to accomplish that lofty objective?

And we spent the next couple of hours listening to outreach workers tell us what worked, what didn't work, and what they would need; captured it all on flipcharts; sent all the outreach teams to lunch; reorganized all of those charts in priority order. And then when they came back from lunch, we did what everybody's had done to them: We gave them each three or four sticky-colored circles and said go vote for the things you think we should -- or the highest priority. They did that.

And then in the afternoon, we invited the outreach workers back in with all their bosses: the supervisors, the directors, the executive directors. And I said to the group this is what I heard this morning. In order to get from 4,200 to 1,400, we'll never get there doing what we're doing for these reasons that we heard, and so here's what we're going to do. I'm going to terminate all your contracts and we're going to put out a new concept paper and then a new RFP and have organizations apply. And we're going to have one single point of accountability in each borough with a plan. It can be a multidisciplinary plan. You can have as many subcontractors as you want. But we're going to fund a plan that will get us to the target by the specified time in each borough in this city.

And as you can imagine, there was a little bit of grumbling to start with. And once we got beyond that, a remarkable thing happened. Providers started talking together and working together to develop these plans to respond to the RFP, and many of these providers had not worked together before. And what came out of it was an amazing competition. And it took the better part of a year, but currently today in place in this city on the streets are very innovative, very cooperative, resource-rich efforts with absolute plans, with absolute targets in every borough, one single point of accountability. And so now we're organized in a way to get the job done.

While we went through that process, though, we couldn't lose any time, and so we did two additional things. The first thing we did is we began work on a handheld wireless device that every outreach worker can now have that collects and shares data in real time, so that nobody had to worry about when the last time somebody was contacted or tried to ask questions, you know, of somebody on the street for the thirtieth time. Can do it once, get that data in, and share it.

The other thing we did during that year was we looked around the city and we said we've got encampments in this city that are just a disgrace. We went around and took pictures of all 72 encampments. We found 72 across the 5 boroughs, went to the mayor and said, Mayor, this is the city today. And he said that's not good. What are we going to do about these encampments?

We said, well, we want to get all city departments working together that are necessary, and outreach teams, and go out and end the need for anybody to sleep in these unhealthy encampments. The mayor said do it; gave us a year to do it. We did it in six months. So there's no encampments left in the city of New York at the moment. Every now and then, one will spring up and we'll go address it very quickly. But we used that learning in how to kind of end these horrible encampments and house people in those encampments as lessons learned that now inform the new strategies that are occurring on our streets. And so that whole process really informs how we are creating the strategies to move toward our target.

Ms. Mills-Brinkley: And of course, preventive care is part of the whole strategy as well, because you have to prevent the whole incident of homelessness from continuing. The old adage, "An ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of cure." What are you doing in the prevention area, if you will?

Mr. Hess: You know, that's just really very exciting. What we did in prevention is we looked across the city and we said we've got six community districts where a very high percentage of people in our shelter system come from. And so we put what we call "home-based" or "community-based" prevention centers in each of those six community districts, and that was about two years ago. And we gave those providers wide range in how they would use the money we gave them to prevent people from having to enter the shelter system and help people stay in their home stably. And here's what happened: in those six community districts, the percentage of people entering the shelter system went down, while at the same time, the community districts that did not have prevention services available to them, sadly, went up.

And so what did we learn from that? We ought to have prevention all over the city. And so now, as we speak, we're ready to award contracts all across the city of New York to put home-based, community-based prevention in all of those locations across the city, so we can support anybody that needs it, and try to bring down the number of people entering a shelter from across the city. Much better outcome to intervene on the front end and help people stay in their housing.

Now, the other thing we decided to do with our prevention sites is attach our Section 8 priority certificates, our federal housing subsidies, to those sites. So historically, people, sadly, have entered the shelter system, in some cases, in New York City in order to try to get a housing subsidy, because they need it. We don't want them to have to go through that. So we've attached about 3,000 Section 8 certificates for access only by our home-based providers. And so I think that's making a big difference as well.

Mr. Morales: That's fantastic, Rob, and I love the enthusiasm here. Now, you mentioned earlier a little bit about Advantage New York. So what are the benefits of this program, and how does it differ from the city's previously rental subsidy program called "Housing Stability Plus?"

Mr. Hess: Well, I don't talk about Housing Stability Plus anymore. But if I did, I would tell you that that was a program that was well-intentioned, served our needs for a period of time, but had some unintended consequences associated with it. So if I was to talk about it, which of course I don't anymore, I would probably tell you that you had to be on public assistance in order to receive the rental subsidy. And so if you were out and in an apartment and you had any disruption to your public assistance, the rent didn't get paid that month. And that, of course, made landlords crabby when they don't get paid. And so that was one disincentive.

A second disincentive was, in order to stay on public assistance, you couldn't earn over $8.50 an hour. Well, that's a problem. We need people out working and earning, and we don't want to disrupt their rent because they're earning too much. And so there were some things in there that just didn't work as well as we'd like, and so we moved from that to our suite of Advantage New York housing subsidies, which we think are much stronger.

Now, the first premise we used -- and people told me this as I visited shelters all over the city and said what's working with HSP and what do you need that you're not getting and what would be the perfect housing subsidy and all the rest, what people told me overwhelmingly was they wanted to work. People want to work. They want to be able to pay their own bills. But they need jobs that pay enough for them to be able to pay their own bills, or they need a combination of being at work and a little bit of a housing subsidy to get that done.

And so the first Advantage New York program we created is called "Work Advantage." And here's how it works: you're in the shelter system for 90 days, you're working for 30 days, at least 30 days, at at least 20 hours a week at a minimum wage or higher job. Once you've accomplished just those basic criteria, we give you a letter that says you're eligible for Work Advantage. At that point, that family goes out and finds an apartment, tells us where that apartment is. We go out and inspect that apartment to Section 8 standards, the HUD standards, because we want to be sure people are moving into a quality apartment.

Once that happens, the family moves out into the apartment. We're going to pay the rent for at least a year and maybe two, but we're going to ask that family to do three things. Keep working, try to expand their hours and expand their earnings the best they can.

Second, open a checking account. We're paying the rent, so we want them to put some money in a checking account and write a check to the landlord every month for $50. Not much, but the experts tell us we're much better off if that family gets in the habit of making a rent payment every month. So even though it's 50 bucks, it's important to get into that habit.

The third thing we ask them to do is open a savings account. And into that savings account, again, because we're paying the rent, we ask folks to put the value of between 10 and 20 percent of that rent into a savings account every month. So if the rent's $1,000, put between $100 and $200 a month into a savings account. Why? Because there's going to be rainy day, and when that rainy day happens, we don't want people to have to run back to the shelter system. We want people to be able to weather that storm and stay in stable housing. And so those three things are very important.

Now, if toward the end of the year that family says to us thank you very much, this was great, we're fine on our own from here on, we don't leave it at that. We do two more things, and this has never been done in this country before, I don't believe.

The first thing we do is say to that family, okay, you paid $50 a month to the landlord. That's $600. We're going to write you a check for $600 so you can add to your savings account. We're going to reimburse you that money you paid your landlord.

The second thing, if you put $200 a month into your savings account, 20 percent of the value of your rent, and you've got $2,400 in savings, we're going to write you a check and match that. So at the end of that year, when you're ready to make it on your own, you're going to have you could have as much as $5,000 in the bank. We think that's very exciting. We think that will help many families. It gives them the hand-up that they need and supports the work that they've put into that first year, even at low-pay wage paying jobs in order to be moved towards self-sufficiency in a real way. Real hope.

Now, not every family's going to make it over a year. And so for families that are playing by the rules but still can't make ends meet, maybe there's been some fits and starts in the job market, maybe hours go up and down, who knows? We'll extend them for a second year, same deal. So at the end of two years, they could have up to $10,000 in the bank. And we think most families will be fine after that.

But there'll still be a small segment of families that'll need some additional help. And for them, we tie them into what? Home-based, community-based prevention sites to work with them, to move them to another program if, despite their best efforts and ours, they couldn't get to self-sufficiency after two years. We think this is very exciting. We don't want to see those families come back to the shelter system, because that's not a highest and best outcome for anybody. That's Work Advantage.

And you say, okay, so that's good, but what if you can't work? If you can't work, we have what we call "Fixed Income Advantage." If you're on SSI, SSDI, fixed income, can't work, never be able to pay the rent in New York City on that little bit of income, we're going to give you a letter and move you out. You go find an apartment; we're going to inspect it. You move out, we'll pay your rent for up to a year. But the day you move out of shelter, we give you a home-based after-care worker to work with you to get a Section 8 certificate with our priority, the top priority. The idea being you move out immediately, don't have to stay in shelter, we get a Section 8 for you. We flip the funding in place over the course of the year, even language in the lease so it can flip from our funding, local funding through Advantage, to Section 8 funding, so the family doesn't have to move. And they ultimately end up with a long-term subsidy because they need that. That's Fixed Income Advantage.

Two more. This is very exciting. One is Children's Advantage. We take the list of our families and give all that information to the child welfare system. In some families, the child welfare system comes back and says to us you know what? You know, some of these have got kids in foster care, there's other issues going on here. This family really doesn't need to be focused on work just yet. We need to focus on giving them the support they need to bring their family back together. So for that family, we give them a Children's Advantage letter. They move out, like Fixed Advantage; find an apartment; we inspect it; they move out. Child welfare system works with them to reunite their family, and we get them a Section 8 in place because they're going to need some long-term support.

Fourth group, Short-Term Advantage. Now, this is interesting and it's very sad in many ways. We have a significant number of families in our shelter system that have -- their income level's fine, but they ran into a little bit of a pothole in the road, maybe got evicted, have short-term problems, but they're still working, they still have good income. To those families we say go out and find an apartment. An apartment can be in New York City or it can be outside of New York City, but find an apartment with a rent level that you can afford to pay given your income, and bring us back a copy of the lease. And there, we recognize they need a little bit of a hand-up to make it. And so when they bring us back a copy of that lease, we'll pay the landlord the first four months' rent, we'll pay the security deposit, we'll pay the broker's fees, and we'll give that family a furniture allowance.

Now, we've moved over 300 families out of the shelter system in New York City using Short-Term Advantage when we started the pilot last summer, and not one of those families has returned to the shelter system. Not one. It's very exciting.

And, you know, you talk about the numbers and you say that's great, but when it's Mrs. Jones, who was living in a shelter system with two kids and now has her own keys and is out there doing so well in the community because of this, and was working all along, she just ran into a little pothole, we gave her a little bit of a hand-up. And she's just so appreciative, and that family is so much better off, it really makes a big difference.

Mr. Morales: That's fantastic. I mean clearly, this is a model of teaching and providing people the tools to help themselves, and you've tailored this to the individual needs as opposed to a cookie-cutter approach to your programs. That's fantastic.

What about delivering homeless and social services in the wake of a natural or manmade disaster?

We will ask Rob Hess, commissioner of the New York City Department of Homeless Services, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.


Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Robert Hess, commissioner of the New York City Department of Homeless Services.

Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Shelley Mills-Brinkley.

Rob, New York City has become synonymous with emergency response and the lessons learned from the 9/11 disaster. Could you elaborate on your efforts to plan and prepare for future emergency situations? Specifically, how is New York City preparing to deliver homeless and social services in the event of a natural or a manmade disaster? And what are some of the key lessons learned from previous experiences that are being brought to bear in your planning?

Mr. Hess: You know, that's really a loaded question in so many ways. I think in the post-Katrina era -- especially in the post-9/11 era, but more so the post-Katrina era, local jurisdictions have realized that we may not always be able to rely for initial response as quickly as we might like from, say, the federal government. And I don't mean that as a criticism of any federal agency.

Having said that, the mayor here, Mayor Bloomberg, has tasked us to be able to provide initial support to New Yorkers in the event of any natural or other disaster that might occur. And so our department has worked very closely with the Office of Emergency Management and other city departments, especially social service departments, to craft a plan whereby we could house in the worst-case emergency -- which frankly, I hope we never have to unveil -- but we could house up to 600,000 New Yorkers after an event. And we would do that by opening up to 65 evacuation centers, up to 511 shelters, and providing meals and support safely to over 600,000 New Yorkers. And I think if we did that, our shelter system would be the sixteenth or seventeenth largest city in America. And so again, we certainly hope that we never have to do that, but we are training city employees to be able to meet that mission should it ever become necessary.

And so what does that mean? That means we have to train about 70,000 New York employees. We would need 17,000 employees on every shift, and we would have 12-hour shifts for as long as an event were to last. We've had to begin stockpiling supplies, work very closely with the Department of Education to figure out what schools we could use, and with the police for security and all the rest. And so it is a huge, huge planning and logistical undertaking that the mayor has tasked us to do. And again, working with OEM and other city agencies, we're well on the way to getting there. We've trained thousands of city staff just in the last three or four months. And so we view it as a coastal storm planned response, but it could be rolled out for any emergency.

One of the interesting things that I learned in this process is that New York City is one of the three most likely targets to a major Category 3 or 4 storm. Who knew? I certainly didn't. After I guess Florida and New Orleans, New York City is the most likely place that such a storm could hit. And so we're preparing for that, but we also understand that we have responsibility in any other event, and so we're training now all the time. In fact, we'll be sending a contingent from DHS along with other New York City contingents to California to work on the sheltering system there around the -- on the wildfire that occurred there. And so we will continue to look for other training opportunities around the country, and benefit from that knowledge as well to inform how we will meet the mayor's goal of being able to house New Yorkers here in the event of a catastrophe.

Mr. Morales: Let's hope that we never need to activate that plan.

An independent research organization called Public Agenda recently released a report entitled, "Compassion, Concern, and Conflicted Feelings: New Yorkers on Homelessness and Housing." First, what are some of the key findings in this report? And second, to what extent does this independent research firm confirm that you're on the right track or need to go in a different direction?

Mr. Hess: Well, this is a very interesting report. I mean, largely what they found was that New Yorkers are with us. New Yorkers support the resources, the work that we're doing to help end homelessness. They think ending homelessness is the right approach. And they also think that people that are experiencing homelessness have to take some personal responsibility as well. And so if we create guidelines for coming in to apply for shelter and other things, the public supports that. But at the end of the day, the public, based upon this report sort of confirms, they're willing to put extra resources, extra time, extra energy into their neighbors that are less fortunate and provide great services that end homelessness, but there also has to be a balance, and the balance is on the side of some personal responsibility being accepted by those that are receiving those benefits.

Ms. Mills-Brinkley: Speaking about compassion and concern, I'd like to turn our attention here for a minute to the veterans, and I know you spoke earlier about what you did previously in working with the veterans population in Maryland. According to the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans, NCHV, veterans returning from active duty often face an array of problems during the transition from military to civilian life, which places them at risk for homelessness. Would you elaborate on the programs you have in place here in the city to address the homeless veterans?

Mr. Hess: Look, I am just so proud of our mayor and then-VA Sec. Nicholson, who came together last December and said we're going to end the need for any veteran in New York City to need to sleep on our streets or to enter our shelter system. The mayor asked me to co-chair a task force on this issue with Jim Farsetta, who is our VA regional director. And I have to say that Jim and his staff are just great partners; worked together with us very closely. We'll before long begin rolling out the strategies that we believe before the end of this mayor's administration will eliminate the need for any veteran to sleep on our streets, or any veteran to sleep in our shelter system. We can do better than that and we should. We owe it to those veterans. And I know the Veterans Administration is committed to that. I know the mayor is committed to that. And so this administration will work with the VA to get that done, and we're just very proud of those efforts.

What a tragedy that any veteran who serves this nation would now walk our streets. We just have to do better than that. We will in this city.

Ms. Mills-Brinkley: Thank you. When you're talking about any of these populations, a lot of times they need multiple types of services in order to end their homeless situation. Would you elaborate on your working relationship with other city social services agencies, such as the city's Human Resource Administration and Department of Social Services? You talked earlier about working with Child Welfare. That would be under the Administration of Children's Services. Can you talk about the collaboration and coordination of services?

Mr. Hess: Yeah, let me do that in kind of two ways. First, let me take you back to the encampment discussion we had earlier. What I didn't spend much time on was talking about I talked about the six months it took us to eliminate the encampments. What I didn't talk about is the three months prior to that, it took us to get 12 city and state departments working together to figure out how we were going to go deal with these encampments in a humane, social service-oriented way. But we did that: brought city and state departments as diverse as the Department of Transportation, Department of Sanitation, police, fire, parks, and others together in a coordinated way, and that effort continues to this day. And so we can be very proud of that in this city, and it's an example of how these really are intergovernmental efforts.

With respect to social services, we're very fortunate in this city to have a deputy mayor for social services, Linda Gibbs, who, under her leadership, all the social service commissioners report to. And we work very closely with each other as a result. And so there's really no issue that can't be talked about or dealt with or strategies created across departments.

For example, when we created our new Advantage subsidy programs, not only do our clients benefit from that, but the Human Resources Administration clients that are in domestic violence facilities can benefit from that. There are some families that are identified by ACS that benefit from that. And so we try to do things collaboratively across agencies in a way that you don't always see. And I really would say that the mayor creating a deputy mayor position for that purpose has really made a big difference in the city.

Ms. Mills-Brinkley: Wonderful. So talk to me a little bit about the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. Is that a tool that you use as well in ending homelessness?

Mr. Hess: It's a very important tool. Now, as you know, that's one of the primary funding sources for homelessness services across this nation, and so we use it well. I mean here, we use it to renew programs that are working in our community, but we also use any additional dollars we're able to scrape together out of that competition to fund supportive services for all of our supportive housing programs.

You know, the mayor here committed to adding 12,000 units of supportive housing across the city over a 10-year period. Well, the bricks and mortar is one piece to that, but then you need the service side. You need to be able to provide the service dollars to support all the families and individuals that'll be in that supportive housing. And we use the Shelter Plus Care portions of the McKinney funding in order to do that. And so it's a very important funding source for us.

Mr. Morales: Now, Rob, you're obviously engaged in solving a very complex and multidimensional issue, and you spoke earlier about coordinating multiple city agencies and organizations, but perhaps you could elaborate on the kinds of public-private partnerships that you engage to improve outcomes. And in what areas would you like to perhaps either enhance or expand these types of public-private collaborations?

Mr. Hess: That's such a broad question. There are so many areas we could take that down, but let me to say to begin with that much of what we do, we do through contracts with nonprofit providers. And in New York City, we have some of the best nonprofit providers in the country, I think. That makes our job much easier, when you can reach out and contract with a provider you know is going to get the job done.

Those providers also have boards of directors that have high-level leaders from across our city, and so they're being informed through their membership on boards of directors of nonprofits. And that education is very important to us, because then as we reach out to the business community and others, they have a much keener understanding of what we're trying to accomplish and how they might be able to help us in a variety of ways. And so I think that's very important.

You know, in this city, the mayor has created a Commission on Poverty to be able to reduce the level of poverty across the city, and do some very creative things with respect to cash incentives. And so the foundation and the private sector has stepped up in a very big way to support this particular initiative of the mayor so that we can try some new and innovative things that have worked in Mexico and other places in order to reduce the poverty rate in our city. And so all of that helps us. And so there's just so many of these relationships.

I mean, government, the best of governments, can't do very much by itself. We really need the public support. We really need the nonprofit community working closely with us in support of our goals. We really need the business community, the foundation community, the academic community, all working toward common visions when you have visions that are as bold and aggressive as we have in this city.

Mr. Morales: That's fantastic.

What does the future hold for the New York City Department of Homeless Services?

We will ask Robert Hess, commissioner of the New York City Department of Homeless Services, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.


Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Rob Hess, commissioner of the New York City Department of Homeless Services.

Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Shelley Mills-Brinkley.

Rob, maintaining a highly skilled results-oriented workforce has got to be key to the success of any organization, especially yours. Can you give us an overview of your agency's human capital strategy? What are some of the steps being taken to attract and maintain a high-quality technical and professional workforce?

Mr. Hess: Well, we do a number of things. First, we are so fortunate to be in New York City, that when we have senior-level positions, we typically attract applications from around the country, and in some cases, around the world. And so the level of talent we're able to attract is just remarkable. And part of that is I think we're probably the largest department of our kind, certainly in our country and perhaps in the world, and so that helps us.

But we do do some other things as well. I mean, we have a summer intern program where we'll have we'll invite around 50 or 60 grad students and undergrad students from around the country to join us for the summer. And so we look for obviously the best and the brightest. I think this past summer, we had folks from 15 or 20 different states that came in and spent the summer with us in everything from my office through our law department, through policy and planning, to the operational divisions. And so we really have just a remarkable group of young people that are extraordinarily talented with us every summer. And not surprisingly, some of those folks actually come back as our staff. We recruit folks out of that pool on occasion.

We also have a variety of other programs that come to us from a variety of ways. So we'll have interns throughout the regular school year as well. And so we really have been able to attract a very high level of talent.

Mr. Morales: That's fantastic. It must be a wonderful experience for those students that come over for three months of their break.

Mr. Hess: You know, not just for them. It's a wonderful experience for us to have fresh eyes come in and kind of look at things and question what we're doing, and we give them every opportunity to do that. The only rule at DHS is don't come in there to punch a timecard and do your eight hours. We want your mind. You know, if you're not contributing by providing some intellectual capital, you're in the wrong place.

Mr. Morales: That's great.

I'd like to sort of transition now and look towards the future. What are some of the major opportunities and challenges that your organization will encounter in the future? And how do you envision your agency will evolve over, say, the next three to five years?

Mr. Hess: Well, I think the challenges are not unique to New York City. I think the challenges are the kind of challenges that we need to grapple with as a nation. You know, there is a growing divide between kind of the haves and the have-nots, and I think we just need to be honest about that. I think we have seen a shrinking pool of affordable housing across this country, and I think we need to be honest about that. I think we've seen a much greater gap between entry-level wages and housing costs in almost every city, if not every city, in this country, and we need to be honest about that. And I would hope that we will begin to see some real discussion on the federal level, a real national dialogue on some of these issues that will help us figure this out, because we can.

I mean, if we look back just over the last 40 years, we've seen things like the G.I. Bill. Well, when I left the Army, I didn't have much money, right, didn't get a high-paying job, did not have a college education. But because of my military service and the G.I. Bill, I could go to school at night while I worked during the day and get my degree. When I got married, I think using the VA benefits through the G.I. Bill, I actually put $500 down to buy our first house. Those opportunities aren't there in quite the same way they were for me a few years ago, and so I think we need to think about that as a country.

Things like the CETA program and other kinds of big-work programs that allowed employers to take a chance and bring employees in to see how good they could be just aren't as readily available. And so I think there's things that we could do with respect to federal and national policy that would make it much less likely that people would experience homelessness, and I think we ought to have that dialogue. And I'm not sure that we had enough of that dialogue over the last 10 or 15 or 20 years.

Ms. Mills-Brinkley: So earlier, you were talking about giving staff handheld devices to use in the field in order to bridge the conversation gap that may have happened if you don't have those. To what extent has technology advances enabled your agency to be more effective and efficient in meeting your noble goal? And what technology do you see as the most promising going forward?

Mr. Hess: Well, you mentioned the handheld, so let me stick with that for a minute, because this is very exciting. You know, it's an absolute tragedy to me when someone living on the streets dies in view, in public view, because of very cold weather, for example. I've always felt that we could do better than that, and we have to do better than that as a city. And so the handheld devices, in addition to doing the great data collection that we talked about, also now take advantage of GPS. So if you're an outreach worker and you see me sleeping on the streets and it's very cold weather and you check me to make sure I'm okay, I'm not a threat to myself in terms of the weather and what could happen to me, you automatically are pinpointing my location and date and time stamping your contact with me. And that then, by technology, can be transmitted to a command dispatch map and date and time stamped.

And so maybe it's green right after you contact me. Maybe our medical professional will say given the weather outside, we'd have to check on me again within two hours to make sure I'm still okay. Right? Maybe in an hour and a half that green dot turns yellow and a dispatcher knows he needs to get somebody back to me. And maybe if it's two hours, it turns red, and we know we got to get somebody back there quickly to make sure that I'm okay.

So my point is that utilizing the technology that we're developing, we will save lives on the streets of this city during bad weather conditions, and other times as well.

Mr. Morales: That's very exciting.

So given all the efforts that are underway, I have to ask, what can ordinary citizens of New York do to help contribute to your efforts within the agency? And perhaps you could tell us just very simply, what are three ways in which the average citizen could help overcome this issue of homelessness?

Mr. Hess: Well, I think there's a couple things that folks can do. I mean, first and foremost, if you see somebody on the street that looks like they need help and you're in New York City, dial 311. You know, take the time to let us know and we will dispatch an outreach team or other appropriate professionals and make sure that individual is okay and give him -- offer him support, offer him the ability to move indoors. That's number one.

I think number two, acknowledge people experiencing homelessness as human beings. Too often, you sit and watch and people just walk by and never even make eye contact with somebody that may be living on the streets, so make eye contact. If you're in the habit of saying good morning or good evening to folks, do that. That's a big step.

If you want to help with the issue generally, you can visit a shelter nearby, take a tour. If you feel comfortable, talk to people. Figure out what your own comfort level is and then push that a little bit. Maybe you go in once a week and sit down and read a book to a child that's experiencing homelessness living in a shelter. But somehow get engaged and better understand the issue and figure out what you can do and what you want to do to help become part of the solution. And if people would do that, I think it would make a huge, huge difference.

Mr. Morales: That's great advice.

Now, Rob, your career in public service has been marked by passion, which is clearly coming through in this interview, and your dedication to a very, very critical national issue. What advice would you give perhaps a person who was thinking about a career in public service, and in particular, someone who may be interested in ending chronic homelessness and working with those who are most at risk?

Mr. Hess: I guess the advice I would give is, first of all, find a career path that you can be passionate about. If you're not passionate about it and it's just a job to collect a paycheck, it seems to me that would be a terrible way to spend a career, so find something you can be passionate about. And then try to leave your preconceived notions to the side and learn as much as you can. And you're always better off listening than talking. If you can start there, even things that you hear that you may absolutely disagree with at first blush, give them a chance. Let it sink in and try to understand why that individual is saying whatever they're saying to you. Why are they saying that? Why do they believe that? What's going on with them that makes that real to them? And if you can do that, you can really then understand issues in a very different way, and figure out how to move towards solutions over time to complicated problems.

Mr. Morales: That certainly goes back to the story you told us when you allowed the 160 outreach workers to sit and just talk to you as opposed to having all their supervisors there and getting a different perspective.

Mr. Hess: Look, they're the experts. We just want to take the best experts we can get, bring them together, figure out the right strategies, and then we want to support them in those strategies.

Mr. Morales: That's great.

Robert, that's obviously great advice. Unfortunately, we have reached the end of our time. I want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule, but more importantly, Shelley and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to the great city of New York in helping to alleviate the plight of homelessness.

Mr. Hess: Thank you so much. And I just want to assure your listening public that we're going to do everything we can in the city of New York, under the leadership of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to move towards eliminating the need for people to sleep on our streets and our shelters. And we're going to drive toward that two-thirds reduction that we talked about, and we're going to work every day and every hour between now and midnight on December 31, 2009 to get this job done. We owe it to the citizens of New York, we owe it to those experiencing homelessness, and we're not going to waste a minute along the way.

Mr. Morales: Fantastic.

This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Robert Hess, commissioner of the New York City Department of Homeless Services.

My co-host has been Shelley Mills-Brinkley, partner in IBM's public sector social services practice.

As you enjoy the rest of your day, please take time to remember the men and women of our armed and civil services abroad who can't hear this morning's show on how we're improving their government, but who deserve our unconditional respect and support.

For The Business of Government Hour, I'm Albert Morales. Thank you for listening.

Voice-Over: This has been The Business of Government Hour.

Be sure to join us every Saturday at 9:00 a.m., and visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. There, you can learn more about our programs and get a transcript of today's conversation.

Until next week, it's businessofgovernment.org.

A Conversation with Kamal Bherwani: Chief Information Officer for New York City’s Health and Human Services and Executive Director of HHS-Connect

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009 - 10:13
Posted by: 
Local and state governments are under tremendous pressureto do more for citizens and to do it better. Technology hasenabled governments to do just that, and nowhere is this

David Wennergren interview

Friday, July 20th, 2007 - 20:00
Mr. Wennergren provides top-level advocacy in creating a unified information management and technology vision for the Department and ensures the delivery of the capabilities required to achieve the Department's transformation to net centric operations.
Radio show date: 
Sat, 07/21/2007
Intro text: 
Technology and E-Government...
Technology and E-Government
Magazine profile: 
Complete transcript: 

Originally Broadcast July 21, 2007

Washington, D.C.

Welcome to The Business of Government Hour, a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. The Business of Government Hour is produced by The IBM Center for The Business of Government, which was created in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness.

You can find out more about the Center by visiting us on the web at businessofgovernment.org.

And now, The Business of Government Hour.

Mr. Morales: Good morning. I'm Albert Morales, your host, and managing partner of The IBM Center for The Business of Government.

The Department of Defense is transforming to become a netcentric force. This transformation hinges on the recognition that information is one of its greatest sources of power. Information is a strategic component of situational awareness which enables decisionmakers at all levels to make better decisions faster and act sooner.

Transforming to a networkcentric force requires fundamental change in processes, policy, and culture. Changing these areas will provide the necessary speed, accuracy, and quality of decisionmaking critical to future success.

With us this morning to discuss this critical transformation and the role of IT is our special guest, David Wennergren, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Information, Management, Technology, and Deputy CIO.

Good morning, Dave.

Mr. Wennergren: Good morning, Al. It's great to be here with you.

Mr. Morales: Also joining us in our conversation is Linda Marshall, partner in IBM's defense industry practice.

Good morning, Linda.

Ms. Marshall: Good morning, Al.

Mr. Morales: Dave, perhaps you could begin by describing the mission of your office and how it supports the overall mission of the Department of Defense.

Mr. Wennergren: Absolutely. So the Department of Defense Chief Information Officer is responsible for all of the information management and information technology initiatives across the entire Department of Defense -- Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, defense agencies, a rather broad set of responsibilities. Three and a half million people deployed in rather austere conditions around the world, millions of computers, thousands and thousands of systems, hundreds of networks, about $30 billion a year IT budget. Probably about 170,000 of those 3-1/2 million people as IT professionals working in the organization.

And it's kind of fascinating to watch what's been going on, because for decades the Department of Defense, like all large organizations, has functioned very effectively as a very decentralized organization: lots of chains of commands with the thought about local organizations develop local solutions to meet local needs. But the Internet Age happened, and so now we're in a world where it makes much more sense to band together to develop enterprisewide solutions. So as the CIO team, you're in a sense responsible for charting the course, to do what we call our transformation to networkcentric operations. It's the idea about together, we could share knowledge instantaneously around the world to be more effective in our role as the national defense for our nation.

Ms. Marshall: Dave, could you please describe your specific responsibilities and duties as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Information, Management, and Technology, and as the Deputy CIO?

Mr. Wennergren: Yeah, it's rather a long job title, isn't it? So I work for John Grimes, who is the Assistant Secretary of Defense and the Department of Defense CIO, and I'm his deputy. So my team is responsible for the CIO portfolio. John is responsible for all of the command and control and communication systems for the Department of Defense, in addition to having the responsibilities of the Chief Information Officer. So my team, and my job as the Deputy CIO, is to take care of the CIO portfolio for DOD.

Ms. Marshall: So regarding those duties and responsibilities that you have, what are the top three challenges that you face in your position, and how have you addressed these challenges?

Mr. Wennergren: Well, front and center I think on everybody's plate is this idea about information sharing; that is, the world moved away from a world of decentralized organizations, local people making local solutions for local needs. There wasn't a lot of knowledge sharing going on. But the power of netcentricity is that the right person can get the right information wherever they are. So if you're a Naval Reservist stationed with Marines in Fallujah and you need to reach back to get to an Army system to get the knowledge that you need, you'll be able to do it in a networkcentric world.

Second, and probably front and center on everybody's plate, too, no matter whether you work in government or in industry, is the information security portfolio. The threats and attacks on our networks grow by the day, and people's privacies are in jeopardy, and information that the nation needs to defend itself is at risk. And so all of us are spending a lot of time focusing on security of our network and information assurance. And what it means to take care about information security changes as again you move away from a world of local networks where security tended to focus on defending the perimeter of your local network, to a world where everything's available on the web. And so now it's about sustainability and survivability of the internet, and the global networks, and being about to find the knowledge you need, when you need it to get your job done.

And third, and a little bit more challenging because it's a little bit more esoteric, is this idea about enterprise alignment. The very big organizations in this Information Age have to learn to work together. And so there's a lot of success stories, but there still are a lot of changes that have to be worked through as we learn to work together as a single DOD team across all of the services, and with our allies and coalition partners, with the rest of the federal government, with industry and with academia. So as you adopt to enterprisewide solutions that will service everyone, you have to behave like an enterprise, you have to be willing to use somebody else' solution, to take the test results of another organization, to use a system developed by another organization, and that gets into a lot of cultural chain stuff.

Mr. Morales: Absolutely. Now Dave, you've been in the information technology business within government for some time now. Could you describe for our listeners your career path, and how did you get started?

Mr. Wennergren: I probably have a non-traditional path for a CIO kind of guy, because I didn't grow up as an IT professional. I came to work for the Department of the Navy as a civilian employee directly out of college, and had a number of different jobs. At one point in my career, I did the public-private competitions of the OMB A-76 program. I did the base closure rounds of the '90s for the Navy. I was involved after the base closure rounds with installation, management, and logistics work, where one of my jobs was to go and reorganize the bases that didn't close.

Some people say that's like running from one program of hate and discontent to another, but I am a hopeless optimist, so I like to think that they're all programs that help people deal with change. And so I think I ended up then as the Deputy CIO because I had had a career of dealing with large-scale change management issues. And I became the Deputy CIO in 1998, so it was at the time when everybody was getting pumped up about Y2K. And I was the Deputy CIO for the Navy for about four years, and then became the CIO for the Department of the Navy for four years. And then six months ago, after 26 years, I left the Department of the Navy and came to work in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as the Deputy CIO for DOD.

Mr. Morales: So you've obviously had a broad set of experiences, both on the technology side and on the business side. So I'm curious, how have these experiences prepared you for your current leadership role, and how have they informed your management approach and your current leadership style?

Mr. Wennergren: Well, the good news, I guess, is that in assessing the world from my Department of Defense perch, we're working on the right side of stuff in the Department of the Navy. Our priorities then are still my priorities now, and I think I learned a lot. In the Department of the Navy, there are two services: the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps, so there were a number of cultural change management issues in getting those organizations to work together, of which I was a big proponent, and so now I'm getting to put my money where my mouth was, because now I'm going to help the Navy and the Marine Corps and the Army and the Air Force all work together.

In a large organization that's very decentralized, as ours is, there becomes great power in the idea of team, and so a lot of the work that I've done over the course of my career is to help organizations function as effective teams. And I think that the IT workers, probably before anybody else recognized that every problem that they faced crossed traditional organizational boundaries, and so the only way to be successful is to get the right sets of people from the right sets of disciplines to work together, and even if they had disparate views to begin with, could become engaged in a common solution to get to the future.

And so oftentimes, you have to use a lot of tools -- you beg, plead, borrow, cajole -- whatever it takes to get people to begin to function outside of the comfort zone that they had to become part of a new team. The other thing I guess I would notice that having worked in the Navy for a long time for some really great leaders, is that it's really apparent to me that there is a covenant relationship, that leadership really is a covenant responsibility between you and the organization. You're here to serve the organization and the people of the organization.

When you realize that, then you understand the obligation that a manager has to create the environment where people are supported, encouraged, and challenged. And so if you get the right people in the right jobs, then great things can happen.

And that's really what being a CIO team is all about, I think.

Mr. Morales: Excellent.

What is the DOD's netcentric vision? We will ask David Wennergren, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Information, Management, and Technology, and Deputy CIO, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.


Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with David Wennergren, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Information, Management, and Technology, and Deputy CIO.

Also joining us in our conversation is Linda Marshall, partner in IBM's defense industry practice.

David, DoD is transforming from platformcentric to networkcentric operations. And the CIO is providing key leadership to meet this netcentric vision. Could you elaborate on DoD's netcentric vision? What are the goals of netcentric operations that are driving this transformation, and how does the recent acquisition of netcentric enterprise services fit into this overall construct?

Mr. Wennergren: Sure, absolutely. Netcentric operations, or netcentricity, is the buzzword de jure for the Department of Defense, and sometimes I think for people, it can sound a little bit jargony. I'm a relatively simple-minded guy. I like to tell the story about tinkertoys and plasma balls, because I think it gets to the heart of the matter.

In the old days, people developed point-to-point solutions, communications systems and networks, and it was much like building with tinkertoys. And I'd build one and then I'd have to connect to you, and Linda would have one and I'd connect to her, and you can begin to see that as you grow and grow in terms of nodes on the network, that interconnections become unwieldy. And so much like a tinkertoy tower that's been built too tall, it begins to crumble.

The idea of netcentricity is much more like the plasma balls that we've all seen, where energy -- or in this case, knowledge -- is in the center of the plasma ball, and wherever I touch the outside of the globe, the energy gets to me. So no matter where I am in the organization, I can plug into the global information grid, which is basically our network and data structure, and get the knowledge that I need. It's really all about the flow of knowledge and enhancing the flow of knowledge across the organization.

There was a Gartner statistic from a few years ago about how, in any large organization, public or private, about 70 percent of the knowledge of that organization lived on people's hard drives, which of course mean it wasn't really actually knowledge that you could share.

So this netcentric idea is really all about the flow of data, sharing of knowledge, and once again, knowledge management being a relatively new discipline, it begins to take on this academic aura of tacit knowledge capture and a lot of other jargons, and so we can actually simply that too, if you want. Because I'm a firm believer in the John Wayne School of Knowledge management theorem. There's a great movie clip where John Wayne's a Marine sergeant, he's talking to the young Marine and he says, "Son, life is tough. It's tougher if you're stupid."

And if you think about it, that's what knowledge management's all about. It's about the power that happens when people that work together learn together, it's what happens in the ward room or in the chief's mess on a ship when people who deploy together train together, that together we can be much smarter, much more agile, much more creative than we might be individually.

So netcentricity is really about making that happen. So it's not the sexiest thing around, but it really is all about the data. Making data visible, because the three problems I often face is I can't find it. And if I can find it, I can't access it. And if I can access it, I can't understand it. So working on those three sets of things are sort of crucial.

And you mentioned netcentric enterprise services, which is a series of core enterprise services. If you move to a netcentric world, there are some things that need to be provided by the corporation or the enterprise for the benefit of everybody, and that's what the NCES program is all about. There's no need for people to buy separate collaboration tools, federated search and discovery. We could have global directory services, we could have an enterprise portal. And so all these things that will be provided by the enterprise for the rest of the organization are what comprise the NCES program.

Mr. Morales: Now, this is likely related, but you've been quoted as saying that the world is not about separate networks. Could you elaborate a little more on what you meant by this statement?

Mr. Wennergren: That was probably a little bit more philosophical than practical, because it clearly does involve different networks now, but I think it is that idea about what does the word "enterprise" mean to you? Because different components of the Department of Defense are very big. In my Navy life, the Naval Sea Systems Command is a $30 billion a year organization. If I yank them out of the Navy and put them in the Fortune 100, they'd be way up the list. But if they're only building things that work for the Naval Sea Systems Command and the people that buy and maintain ships, they're missing the point, because the Naval Air Systems Command buys and maintains airplanes, and they're part of a broader Navy-Marine Corps team, they're part of a broader DoD team. They're part of a team with our allies and coalition partners, and on and on the list goes.

And so you have to have your mind firmly focused on -- you may be part of an individual organization, but you better be buying and building for the broader team. As a classic example, when a aircraft carrier leaves San Diego on its way to the Persian Gulf, it's got equipment and training to go do the job of being part of a carrier strike group. But halfway through the journey, they're diverted to do humanitarian relief because of a tsunami. Completely different partners, non-governmental organizations, different types of collaboration tools -- what we would call the unanticipated users. If you're not thinking about how to be connected to the rest of the world, you won't be able to be part of the network solution.

Ms. Marshall: What is the Department of Defense's data and information strategy for delivering timely, relevant, critical information to the warfighter in this new digital era, and how does this strategy seek to make data identifiable, accessible, and understandable throughout the entire enterprise?

Mr. Wennergren: It's a really exciting thing that's going on. We have a lot of folks that are working on this. Mike Krieger is one of my directors, and he's just been a true champion for change in this space. We have a netcentric data strategy, and then the corresponding directors and guides that tell you how to do it, and it focuses on what we were just talking about, about if you could make data visible, accessible and understandable, then you could share knowledge quickly.

And the way that it gets manifested is in what we call Communities of Interest, COIs. Communities of Interest are formed when people from different organizations that have a common problem or common issue get together to create a solution. There are lots of great examples of COIs. The one I thought I'd talk with you about for a moment is maritime domain awareness. So what kind of commercial vessels are out at sea? What are their crews, what are their cargos?

Interestingly, that kind of knowledge exists in databases that of course in the old days were stovepiped and owned by different organizations. So Community of Interest forums involves the Navy, the intelligence community, the Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Transportation. And in a matter of months and a few hundred thousand dollars, instead of what we would have done in the past, when we had a penchant for saying, I've got existing legacy systems, they're not quite fitting the bill, so let's go buy the multi-gazillion dollar new system that takes year to deploy. So instead of doing that, they got together, they found the data, they used the commercial state of the art technologies like XML to make the data available to be served up, and in a few short months, everybody is able to see this information.

So whether you are the captain of the Coast Guard cutter or the Navy vessel, you're able to see the information that you need on the commercial vessels. It's fabulous and it happens really fast, and there's lots of these COIs going on. There are COIs about blue force tracking, keeping track in the battlefield of all the people that are on your team, strike missions, which are all about planning targeting but use the basic issues of what, when, and where that are equally applicable whether or not you're planning a Tomahawk missile strike or you're trying to do disaster relief at FEMA, and the list goes on and on and on.

And it's a wonderful thing because it brings together people quickly to find the solution and deliver results in a few short months. I'm just so excited about it, because it's changing the way we do business. It's much like the model of weather. Everybody contributes local weather data because they'd like to know what weather is like in the rest of the world. So everybody's publisher serves up the stuff that they have for the benefit of being able to use the information that the others have too.

Mr. Morales: So it's really about a collaboration. That's sort of the key component to all this.

Mr. Wennergren: Yeah, absolutely. You know, we focus on the technical side of it at this point, but there are other aspects there, too. And so the technology exists to make data strategies happen, but there are other parts of it, too, because of course, there are process changes and policy changes and educational opportunities. So hand in hand with our netcentric data strategy, we have an information sharing strategy, and now we're working on the corresponding implementation plan that actually lays out the other kinds of changes that need to take place in order to break down the impediments to sharing of the paths.

Ms. Marshall: So Dave, what role does service-oriented architecture play in making your data strategy, as well as your overall netcentric vision, a reality?

Mr. Wennergren: Yeah, SOA is at the heart of the matter. There's a fascinating philosophical change that's going on right now. For years, we've had this systems view of the world. It's the way programs are designed, it's the way architectures are built, but the world really is now all about services, and this idea that you could develop a service and serve it up, I could do it as a self-service transaction. I could be standing, waiting for the bus, go to the enterprise portal from my little wireless device, and do a transaction because it's service-oriented, rather than standalone monolithic systems of the past. And so the document that we'll be publishing is called our netcentric services strategy, and it's the companion document to the data strategy that tells how SOA will be used to make this vision a reality.

Mr. Morales: David, how do you balance the need to procure best-of-breed technology with the security of DoD's information technology infrastructure? So for example, how do you deal with the reality that almost all commercial off the shelf software has at least some components of it that were developed in other countries?

Mr. Wennergren: Yes. I would say that the top two issues for me are information sharing on the one hand and information security on the other. And the challenge that we have is people often refer to them as a balancing act. How do you balance information sharing and information security, which is not the analogy that I like, because I think it pits one against the other. And it implies that advances in information security come at the expense of the ability to share, which are of course the simplest kinds of information security solutions.

And so one thing that's happening is the information security professional is viewed as the knucklehead that just wants to shut down access. The information sharing zealot is viewed as the crazy person that doesn't understand that it's a dangerous world out there and they shouldn't just be opening the door. And so it really has to be something that we focus on together, and so using a nautical analogy about the high tide rises all boats, we need to be extremely successful at both information sharing and information security.

And if you think about it that way, then you will choose for a different set of information security solutions, because the easy information security solutions are always about isolation, right? The more I wall myself away, the less bad things can get in, but of course, the less collaboration can go out. And so this idea about we must be extremely successful about sharing and security, that's what's driving the set of security solutions and secure collaboration solutions that we're looking at now.

It is a challenging time. Globalization happened, and things are built around the world, and so it is really important that people understand what they're buying and what they're using it for, and the pedigrees and the security of the different solutions, and one size never fits all. What's important for speed in an unclassified environment might be different than what's needed in a highly classified environment. So software assurance, what's made where, and the pedigree of it and the security of it are all things that people need to take into consideration, but there is a continuum about using this kind of technology for this sort of answer, different kind of technology for a more secure solution.

Mr. Morales: So let me expand on this theme, if you will. You've called for innovative partnerships with industry. Could you elaborate on what kinds of partnerships you are currently developing to improve operations or outcomes, and in what areas would you like to enhance or expand this public-private collaboration?

Mr. Wennergren: Absolutely. Gone are the days where people can go their own way. The government shouldn't be in the business of building their own stuff. There are wonderful commercial solutions that are out there, and government needs to leverage those. Gone also have to be the days where the government person built this really detailed spec and threw over the transom and expected a vendor to just deliver on it. It would seem to me in this information world that it's the height of arrogance to imagine that you as the government person trying to get a solution know all the answers.

And so what I'm a big fan of is performance-based contracting and managed service, and this idea that my relationship with industry ought to be one about a strategic partnership, where I talk about the results that I need to obtain and I talk about the service levels that I expect, and perhaps I have some kind of fixed price contract vehicle with incentive payments so that if you can exceed my expectations, you'll be rewarded for your innovation and performance, and then all of the great minds at your company are able to be brought to bear.

In my Navy life, when we did the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet, which was a large seed management contract, it was done as a performance based contract, we didn't tell the winning contractor that he had to buy Dell computers and use Windows 2000. We told him about latency and refresh rates and security and customer satisfaction, and then gave the company the freedom to pick the right products to deliver it for our behalf, and that's the future. You can't do this alone, and you need to leverage the fact that industry has this huge set of great brains that can help you find the path to the future together.

Mr. Morales: Great.

What about the DoD's IT innovation? We'll ask David Wennergren, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Information, Management and Technology, and Deputy CIO, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.


Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with David Wennergren, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Information, Management, and Technology, and Deputy CIO.

Also joining is in our conversation is Linda Marshall, partner in IBM's defense industry practice.

David, in your previous role as the Department of the Navy's Chief Information Officer, you led the Identity Protection and Management Senior Coordinating Group. Could you tell us about your efforts to oversee and coordinate DoD's biometrics, Smart Card and PKI initiatives? And what is the Department doing to better its performance on the Security Scorecard in accordance with the Federal Information Security Management Act, otherwise known as FISMA?

Mr. Wennergren: Yeah, I'm really fortunate that as I change jobs, I continue to get to chair of the Identity Protection and Management Senior Coordinating Group. That's a long acronym, IPM-SCG. It's been a wonderful adventure. I think we often underestimate the success of the Department of Defense's Smart Card and PKI, Public Key Infrastructure initiatives. Over the course of the years, we've issued 12 million Smart Cards with PKI credentials on it.

We have a workforce of 3-1/2 million people walking around with the Common Access Card with their PKI credentials on it. It's one of the largest smart card PKI implementations in the world, and certainly one of the most successful. And you know, 10 years ago, we would have been on a path for 50 or 60 different PKI solutions, where everybody that wanted to do something via the web and needed to do SSL or something like that would have gone out and bought its PKI solution and none of them would have worked together. And to have one card that's your military ID card, that's your physical access badge -- well, let me tell you a little bit about how it works.

So I have my Department of Defense Common Access Card, I can use it to do physical access to get on to the base. I can use it when I get into my office to do cryptographic log on onto my computer network, which is much more secure than doing user IDs and passwords. I can use the PKI credentials on the card to launch myself to secure websites. So once again, rather than having to remember 40 or 50 different passwords for different secure websites, I can use my PKI credentials to get to secure websites.

Passwords really need to go away. Passwords are not a secure way of doing business, user IDs and passwords. It's easy to crack passwords, and so that's why people keep wanting to make them more complex. They tell you they have to be longer, special characters, capital letters, and they're still easy to break, so they want you to change them. And so how many passwords do each of you need to remember? You probably write them on a yellow sticky, put them on your computer -- security professionals go crazy when I say that because of course I don't do that, but people do, right? And so this idea about being able to use the Smart Card with its PKI credentials has been a huge improvement to our security.

The number one attack vector against our networks a year or so ago was people cracking passwords, which we have dramatically reduced by having everybody in the Department of Defense use their card for cryptographic log on, but it doesn't just stop there because it's not just about physical security, physical access, and it's not just about cyber-security. So it actually is a key, forgive the pun, to doing e-business. So now I have a Defense Travel System, I put my card in, the hardware token, the card itself with the PKI credentials allows me to do a digital signature. So rather than having to do paper processes with wet ink signatures, I can do digital processes and speed up transactions, improve customer service, get paid in a couple of days now on my travel claim rather than the weeks it took to process the paperwork. So it's been a real accelerator for the transformation to e-government for us, too.

Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12, HSPD 12 has sort of said, well, this idea about a common card that you would use for physical access like we're doing with the Common Access Card, the DoD needs to be standard across all of government, and so we're a real leg up on implementing HSPD 12 because of what we've done with the card.

Biometrics are another fascinating area, because biometrics have the added advantage of telling you about somebody's history. The power of the PKI and the Smart Card is about I am who I say I am, and I'm still a valid member of the community. So this is Wennergren, and he's putting his card in the slot, and we have not revoked his certificate, so he's still a valid member of the community. The power about biometrics, like fingerprints, is that they connect you to your history. So a biometric of somebody trying to enter a base can be compared to the biometric that's in a database about a criminal activity, and allows us to connect people to problems. So biometrics work is a real growth industry for us, too.

And at the moment, fingerprints and iris scans and voice recognition and facial recognition are some of the big ones, but the number of biometric technologies that are being looked at grow by the day. It's really exciting to see. The interesting thing that's happened is that, as I mentioned earlier in the interview, what security means to us changes as you move to a web-based world. And so it's kind of fascinating now, a lot of the effort is being spent on what we call continuity of operation planning, because in this new world, it's all about being able to get to the knowledge that you need.

So a continuity of operation plan that you had a few years ago about how to protect the boundary of your network and what you would do if the server was down locally may not be the same kind of continuity of operation plan you need in a world where you're relying upon this single authoritative data source.

So there's a lot of work that's going on in addition to the things we've already done like the identity management work to improve our FISMA scores. There's a lot of work being done to make sure that we really understand the survivability and the sustainability of the network and the internet. How would you function if part of it's not available to you, and the fact that we're all in this together. I can do the best job in the world of securing my DoD computer, but I don't do this alone. I do this with partners in industry, I do this with partners in academia, and we're all sharing data together. So the security level of each of my industry partners, and the academic institutions that I do business with, has to rise with my security levels, too, or else they now become the weak links in the network.

Mr. Morales: David, I want to take us back to something that you said in our first segment. As the Deputy CIO, a big portion of your job is to put in place the policies, cultural change, strategies, and educational outreach to help staff recognize that they are part of this broader enterprise that you described. To this end, what are some of the common push-backs that you encounter in this role?

Mr. Wennergren: Push-back? People don't like what the CIO does? There is an interesting dynamic tension that happens. Because -- not to be clich�d, but I think the C in CIO actually should stand for "Change," because a majority of my time -- as a CIO, you have to understand technology because you have to be able to describe it to others, but I do spend the majority of my time focusing on cultural change issues. Not surprisingly. So we survey our workforce and our leaders and we understand who they are and -- so we're a bunch of type A personalities, and not surprisingly, we're a bunch of control freaks, right?

People want to have the -- give me the money, tell me what you want done, and I'll go get the job done, leave me alone. And we become very expert. And so now I'm an expert that wants to own it myself, because that's when I feel most comfortable. And yet in this Information Age, it's often about me relying upon somebody else to do something for me. So this shift that says it's time to step out of your comfort zone and begin to rely upon somebody else to do something for you or you're going to lose some personal control, it's a huge part of my job.

And so whether it's about the duplicative legacy system -- you build a time and attendance system, Linda -- Albert, you build a time and attendance system, how many time and attendance systems do I really need? So as the CIO, it's my job to tell you, Albert, that --

Ms. Marshall: That Linda's is better.

Mr. Wennergren: Exactly. Right. That maybe your baby's ugly, right, and doesn't need to be around for us anymore -- those are hard conversations, right, and so they often smack on the -- but I understand my business better than you because you're the IT guy, and I'm the -- fill in the blank, the doctor, the lawyer, the financial management specialist.

And so part of the job of the CIO is to help point out that there's a business case, right, and there's actually ways to measure. And so you can let these things be your guide to help you understand that there is a future path that might be more effective if you could come with us from where you are today in your comfort zone and be willing to step out of it.

Ms. Marshall: Dave, I think it's fair to say that information technology is an area sometimes noted for its turf battles and proprietary views.

Mr. Wennergren: Everybody has an opinion, don't they?

Ms. Marshall: Would you elaborate on your efforts to foster an enterprise view and to break down silos, and how does the Department's Enterprise Software Initiative support that effort, and how does it enable your organization to operate more like one enterprise as opposed to in those silos?

Mr. Wennergren: The DoD Enterprise Software Initiative is a wonderful example. There are lot of things that are going on, because you're absolutely right. The beauty of moving to the web, the beauty of having enterprise portals, the beauty of web services is that all those things help -- allow us to move from the world of local solutions to the world of functioning as an enterprise. So there are these great technologies that are forcing functions.

The DoD ESI initiative is focused on this idea about leveraging your buying power and being aligned in what you do. And so it's a great example about moving to an enterprise. And it's been so successful for us that it spawned the idea of the federal governmentwide smartBUY initiative. So they're sort of co-branded now, the DoD-ESI effort and the federal government led smartBUY.

It began as this idea about if you buy in bulk, you get a better deal. So if I need 10,000 copies of a software license and you do it, rather than each of us buying separately, we could band together. But it really grew into so much more, and we have Enterprise Software Initiative agreements with dozens and dozens of companies. And I think if you had them in here, Oracle would be a great example.

In my Navy life, we created a single enterprise licensing agreement for Oracle database products. It was great for me, because I knew I had an ever-increasing base of people that were using Oracle database products, and so how is it going to stay ahead of the licensing costs? I got one fixed price for the entire Department of the Navy to use the Oracle database parts, but it was a win for them, too, because it reduced them from having hundreds of separate contract vehicles and administrative overhead to one vehicle, one bill, one payment, and it allowed them to say, you already have my database product, may be you'd be interested in other products that I sell, too.

And so they really can be win-wins. And the efforts just continue to grow. We estimate that over the last seven, eight or nine years, we've probably helped the Department of Defense avoid spending about $2 billion in licensing costs by having done these agreements. The one that we're about to unveil is for data at rest, encryption technologies, which of course is a pressing concern of everybody now -- what happens if a laptop is stolen or lost. Was the data encrypted to protect any sensitive information on it? And this one's going to be incredibly groundbreaking for us. Again, it's a co-branded SmartBUY federal government DOD-ESI initiative to buy encryption technologies.

And so we will pick the two or three products that are the ones we want to buy and will not only be available to all of DoD, it will be available to every federal agency, and for the first time for one of these agreements, it will be available for every state and local government agency. So we'll be able to help make more efficient use of our resources and raise the bar of security not only across the federal government, but across federal, state, and local governments. That's what the power of working as an enterprise together does for you.

Ms. Marshall: Related to this discussion and regarding IT portfolio management, DoD-IT investment decisions need to be aligned to your strategic goals to improve combat capability, warfighting readiness, and mission performance. To this end, would you elaborate on DoD's capital planning process? What sorts of budget constraints are you dealing with now that you didn't have to face several years ago?

Mr. Wennergren: You know, people often don't fully appreciate the power of portfolio management. It often begins as an exercise that sounds like, well, it's about being good stewards of the taxpayer dollars, which is really important -- it's about what are you spending money on and how can you change the way you spend money. But it really is so much more.

So for us, it began as this idea about what you have, what have you got, tens of thousands of legacy systems and applications and hundreds of legacy networks, and do you really need those? And so which are the ones that are really part of your future? But what it really became was the forcing function to move us to netcentric operations, because you're able to have a preference. I choose four solutions that will be, and then fill in blank about what your future needs to be.

So for us, at the risk of far too much IT jargon, it's going to ride on an enterprise portal, it's going to be a web service, it's going to use the DoD Common Access Card to gain access. Those sets of things that help allow us to be netcentric. And so now you can choose in preference of those solutions. You can help move the organization from what they had before to what they need to have for the future, but it doesn't stop there. Because as we move away from the legacy networks, we move away from the networks that are less secure. And so the new solutions are improving security. So this portfolio management process, which helped me understand what I owned and what I was spending money on, and reprioritize and being more effective at how I spend money, has also helped me to achieve my vision of netcentricity and helped me to raise the bar in security.

Ms. Marshall: Would you tell us about your efforts to establish a standard IT product configuration to be used across the federal government and not just in DoD? What are the benefits and critical challenges to this effort, and what's the status?

Mr. Wennergren: If you want to be netcentric, you have to be aligned, and you have to be interoperable. And so the more that you can be aligned to commercial off the shelf solutions -- the more you can be aligned to standards, the better off you'll be able to be. If you have to build a solution for 28 different versions of an operating system, there's a lot of nuances there that go into what happens. And so the DoD team, the Air Force, the National Security Agency, a lot of folks have worked really hard -- the Army -- putting together a partnership with Microsoft to develop what the secure configuration of Vista looks like that every DoD computer will have, and it will be available through all the hardware sellers. And the secure configuration of Vista has been adopted by OMB and will be used by all of the federal agencies now, too.

So again, this idea about if you get together and talk with your industry partners, you can understand what you need and where they're headed, and you can create a partnership that will raise the bar on security and product conformance for everybody, and so it's a wonderful example.

Mr. Morales: David, I want to come back to this theme of partnerships and collaborations and focus now inwards again to the organization. As you've described, government work is accomplished by teams of employees. Could you elaborate on your approach to empowering your employees, and how do you lead change and enable your staff and those within the organization to accept the inevitability of change and make the most of it?

Mr. Wennergren: Change happens, get used to it. It's one of my favorite subjects. It smacks on human nature and psychology and all sorts of interesting disciplines. It really is at the heart of everything that we do. Organizations are often the last thing to change. It takes a long time to shut down an organization -- as they say, tear down the flag pole, move buildings and those sorts of things, but the challenges have spanned organizational boundaries. So getting people to function as a team is hugely important.

When I was the Deputy CIO for the Navy, we cared enough about this, we actually wrote a book called The Power of Team, and it was geared to help organizations create effective CIO organizations, and the only way to have an effective CIO organization is to have an effective team. And so this idea about being a positive force for change and being able to work with rather than work against others is hugely important. It doesn't have to be a case of my victories at the expense of your defeat, right? We really can find ways if we work together that it will be better than if we went our own individual ways.

There's lots of great leadership books about this. One of my favorites is Max DePree's book, Leadership Is an Art, and it's just fascinating to read. It's one of those great books with big print, lots of white space, a few number of pages, a great easy book to read.

Mr. Morales: Pictures, too?

Mr. Wennergren: No pictures, but every time you read, you will get something more out of it. And he has this great quote about, "Great leaders see opportunities where others see challenges or problems." And that really is the key, are you going to be a cynical voice for change or a positive voice for change? I think people fail to recognize that if you're an IT professional, whether you're in government or industry, you are viewed by all of your peers as knowing more about the subject.

And so your level of cynicism, your level of reticence, your level of reluctance or fear becomes like a magnifier for them -- it's a resonator, it's like the ripples in the pond, a little bit of perturbation on your part creates great angst in the rest of the workforce. It's not to say that you want to endorse things that are bad ideas, but to the extent that things are a good idea, you have to be an avid vocal storyteller about why they're a good idea.

It's no surprise that if you drew a bell curve of an organization, the majority of people are not like early adopters of change; they're change-neutral or change-averse. And so if you want to get an organization to move from where it is to where it will be, you have to help the organization have courage and be willing to understand the new idea. We often underestimate the power and importance of storytelling. You can't do it alone, right? Everybody has to be a good storyteller and everybody has to work together as a team.

There's another great book that I love -- forgive me, I have lots of books that I love. Another great one is the book Execution by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan. And in it, they have a fabulous quote that says, "Leaders get the behaviors that they exhibit and tolerate." And it is so true. If you're going to be a positive force for change, if you're going to be a leader of teams that are empowered to do great things, wonderful things will happen. If you're not, then you'll fret and fear and things won't get done.

Leaders help others find their gifts and find their talents and help create a better future. If you empower smart people to get the job done, amazing things will happen. If you feed their creativity and don't be an impediment in their way but support them as they go, fabulous results will happen.

Mr. Morales: So David, not to add more challenge or complications to this equation, could you tell us then how federal managers can effectively manage an ever-increasing blended workforce, which is composed of both contractors and federal employees? And can you tell us a little bit about the intrinsic differences to these two groups?

Mr. Wennergren: Yes. It's a fact of life. Workforces are blended workforces. In the Department of Defense, we use a term called "total force." It is a recognition that an effective warfighting team is composed of active duty military personnel, selected Reservists, government civilian employees, contractors, we're all in this together. So clearly there begins with this conversation about what are governmental functions that have to be performed by government decisionmakers, what are functions that don't have to be performed by government people. Get yourself past that and get yourself to this idea about we're all in this together. Because I find organizations of the past often have like a class system, where contractors are like vendors or they're somebody that I'd just like feed things to, and they're not equal participants.

The successful organizations that I see recognize who needs to do what jobs and then function as a fully integrated team to get the job done. Once you understand who has what set of responsibilities, you need to be able to use the great ideas of everybody on the team. Offices that have large numbers of contractors in them are very effective, because companies are able to bring the right talent to bear quickly. And so there's this partnership of government decisionmakers with understanding of the organization and continuity, contractor teams that are agile and flexible and can help augment the knowledge of the organization quickly.

And that's the key recipe for success in my mind.

Mr. Morales: Great.

What does the future hold for DoD's IT efforts?

We will ask David Wennergren, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Information, Management, and Technology, and Deputy CIO, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.


Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with David Wennergren, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Information, Management, and Technology, and Deputy CIO.

Also joining us in our conversation is Linda Marshall, partner in IBM's defense industry practice.

Dave, you are the vice chair of the CIO Council. Can you tell us about the Council's role and responsibilities and its initiatives to address federal IT challenges?

Mr. Wennergren: Sure. In our last segment, we were talking about a couple of books, and the role of the federal CIO Council reminds me of another one, The Power of Alignment by George Labovitz and Victor Rosansky, and it's a powerful book about the key issue that faces us all today, and that is, how are you aligned as an organization?

And in the book they talk about what's the main thing that you do. And understand your main thing, then you can work on issues of alignment, both horizontally and vertically.

And in a sense, that's what the federal CIO Council is all about. It is the forum where CIOs from every federal agency can get together to achieve alignment and sustain alignment, to share ideas, to share best practices, to not go it alone. There's a healthy amount of stealing of each other's ideas, and that's what it's all about. So I've been really fortunate to be involved in the federal CIO Council. It's the way that we implement the President's Management Agenda. It's the way we collaborate and share ideas. I have this great opportunity working with Karen Evans, who's the OMB information technology leader and the chair of the Council with me.

It's all about strategic use of information. We have three committees. We have a committee that focuses on architecture and infrastructure issues. We have a workforce committee which has done an outstanding job, and then we have a best practices committee. It's wonderful, because the group meets regularly, and so as issues emerge, like pressing issues that we have today about privacy and security, CIOs are able to volunteer time and resources to help resolve those kinds of issues.

Mr. Morales: With the evolution of the global threat environment, and the many challenges associated with it, how do you envision DoD and its information technology efforts evolving in, say, the next five years to meet these challenges?

Mr. Wennergren: You know, I do a strategic plan. I try to get the team to focus on the next two years, because the farther out you go in the IT world, the world becomes fuzzier and fuzzier. Five years doesn't seem like much when it comes time for doing Department of Defense budgets, but it's a great length of time in terms of all the wonderful innovations that take place. But as I look in my crystal ball, the importance of the web is huge, and we will continue a rapid migration -- rapid migration to portals and web services. And again, that speaks to the security issues then that we've already touched on about the sustainability and survivability of a global enterprise network that relies upon the commercial sector, and it speaks to the issues of can I trust the data; is there integrity of the knowledge that I'm using, because not being able to trust the data is as bad as not having the connection.

The other idea is of course we're all in this together. And so we've got to keep looking for ways to raise the bar in collaboration, to raise the bar on security, across government -- with industry, with other governments, with academia. And I guess the last part is that people need to keep their eyes on the innovations of the future. What often begins as something that seems recreational only actually fosters collaboration. I'm intrigued by YouTube, I'm intrigued by Second Life.

Second Life, which seems like a game to most people my age, is really like this virtual reality that companies like IBM have been huge users of. I understand they have like 2000 accounts to do virtual online collaboration. I think that's a fascinating example of the kind of thought leadership that IBM has had in this business. There is a hotel chain that uses Second Life to do virtual floor plans and see how the six million inhabitants of Second Life traverse. Two countries have embassies on Second Life now; Maldives and Sweden, and Reuters has a news desk now. If you're an old fashioned guy, you might look at that and say well, Second Life is this video game. But Second Life is actually this innovative new way to collaborate, and so we have to keep our eyes focused on the non-traditional ways of helping to get to the future quicker.

Ms. Marshall: So Dave, with innovation and transformation, these things create new competitive areas, new competencies, new ways of having to do business. What qualities will be needed in the warfighter of the future and those IT staff who provide support? And to that end, what steps are being taken to attract and maintain a high quality technical and professional workforce that are willing to take on that change?

Mr. Wennergren: It really is all about the people. Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England, who was my boss before when he was the Secretary of the Navy as well, he used to point to an aircraft carrier and say, "You see that aircraft carrier, big, giant, massive thing, it's not worth anything until it's manned by a crew of 5,000 men and women who are trained and equipped and ready to go." If you don't have the right workforce, you'll never be able to be an effective warfighting force of the future.

The interesting thing is that we survey the workforce extensively, and the common wisdom was that -- the number one issue facing us was the graying of the workforce, the workforce is about to retire. But we find that not to be true for the Department of Defense workforce. The much more pressing issue for us is the need for retraining, that people came into a job and they want to stay. But the skills that they developed initially are not maybe the skill sets they need for the future. COBOL programming, not such a big thing anymore. Being a knowledge manager, being an information security professional, being a website developer, so it's this retraining of the workforce that's really front and center for us. It's all about being a learning organization.

Peter Drucker was one of the great leadership minds of 20th century and he said a lot about the importance of continued learning, and I'm taking that to heart. He said that good management is all about making people's strengths effective and their weaknesses irrelevant. And that's what a continually learning kind of organization does. And so we are expending a lot of energy helping people to get professional certifications, which doesn't sound like a big deal, but it's something that the government wasn't so good at doing a few years ago.

Helping people understand that if you want to attain these competencies, this is the career path that you ought to go on and these are the kinds of training that you need to do and those sorts of things. Second and related to that is it's not just about the IT workforce, it's about the entire workforce and their expectations. You know, the average age on an aircraft carrier is 21 or 22 years old. People that are coming into our organization at that age, what are their expectations? What do they have as the technologies and advantages that they have in their life at home or at school, and are we going to provide them that kind of technology.

In my Navy life, our commercial of the day is about accelerating your life, which is a fascinating message, because accelerating your life implies that come and join us and you can be part of something better faster. And so we better make sure that we're staying abreast of the kinds of technologies that they're used to be using and using very effectively, and having them available for when they work here.

Ms. Marshall: Dave, you are the recent recipient of a Federal 100 Award, which goes to individuals who have made a difference in government technology, and as well, you have been a previous John J. Frank Award recipient. Given that peer recognition, first, would you tell us a little something about these awards? But more importantly, what emerging technologies hold the promise for improving federal IT?

Mr. Wennergren: You know, both being an Eagle Award Winner, the Fed 100 this year, and the John. J. Frank Award last year were really great honors for me. It's kind of humbling to be recognized by your peers for making a difference in the IT space, and especially humbling when these people who have been mentors and friends of yours have received these awards in the past, and to be able to join their ranks has really been a wonderful experience for me, and it's a nice feeling to be recognized for whatever work you do.

And you know, the fascinating thing is of course that the hard work that I do pales in comparison with the people that I do the work for. And so what motivates me everyday is the fact that there are tens of thousands of young men and women who are deployed far from home in harm's way defending the nation, and they chose careers of service and sacrifice. And so if I as the IT guy can help make that life more effective and better for them, then that's great motivation to come to work.

And so what are we going to give them to have them have a productive future? And I think that's the heart of your question, and I think we've sort of touched on it. You know, this idea about it's a web-based world is really at the heart of it, that if I'm a Naval CC officer and I'm stationed in Fallujah with the Marines, and when they reach back to get knowledge from an Army organization, can I do that? And we're saying yes, you can. And it requires all of us to be really vigilant about adopting these enterprisewide solutions, buying the right stuff, being interoperable, making the right choices about when's the right time to buy the one big system versus when's the right time to just ensure interoperability, to allow people to go do things with speed and agility, but have them do it in a way that's interoperable.

So portals, service-oriented architecture, web services, the security portfolio will continue to be a growth industry for us. We've made a big difference with Common Access Card and PKI, but there is much more to be done, much more to be done about attribute management, that is this combination of my identity and attributes about me that ought to give me access to data and the world of biometrics.

So there's lots of opportunities for growth.

Mr. Morales: Dave, you've had a very interesting and highly successful career within public service. What advice would you give to someone who is out there perhaps considering a career in public service?

Mr. Wennergren: Well, it's been a fabulous opportunity for me. And I think people choose one of two career paths. Some people have very organized career paths, where they plan they're going to do this for two years and do that for three years and plan out their whole lives, I kind of have managed my career by chaos. You know, one adventure has led to another, and I've been very fortunate in where those adventures have led.

I think working for the federal government has been great. It's a wonderful opportunity. You know, you get a chance to get leadership experience very early. In the military and in the civil service, you're a leader of large groups of people at a very young age, and so you learn leadership skills quickly and you get to work on some things that are very big stages. The scope and size of the military departments in the Department of Defense is unrivalled pretty much anywhere.

And so you get to be part of something really big. It does take the right blend of patience and impatience. Large organizations are like large ships, they sometimes turn slowly. You need to be impatient because you need to keep pushing for the next thing to happen. You need to have a certain amount of patience though so you don't become too frustrating where sometimes you have butt heads or don't make progress as fast as you like. But I think it's been a really rewarding experience for me, and I think it's an opportunity for somebody to be a positive force for change and make a difference quickly.

Mr. Morales: That's fantastic. We've unfortunately reached the end of our time here together this morning. So I do want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule, but more importantly, Linda and I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to our country across your federal career.

Mr. Wennergren: Thank you. Thank you, Albert. Thank you, Linda. It's been great being here with you. I guess I would offer to the audience that I'm easy to find. If you have questions, david.wennergren@osd.mil, and if you're interested in any of the things we talked about today, we do have a website; it's www.dod.mil/cio-nii. And all of the documents that we talked about today, you can find there.

Mr. Morales: That's fantastic.

Mr. Wennergren: Happy hunting.

Mr. Morales: Thank you.

This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with David Wennergren, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Information, Management, and Technology, and Deputy CIO.

My co-host has been Linda Marshall, partner in IBM's defense industry practice.

As you enjoy the rest of your day, please take time to remember the men and women of our armed and civil services abroad who can't hear this morning's show on how we're improving their government, but who deserve our unconditional respect and support.

For The Business of Government Hour, I'm Albert Morales.

Thank you for listening.

This has been The Business of Government Hour. Be sure to join you every Saturday at 9:00 a.m., and visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. There, you can learn more about our programs and get a transcript of the day's conversation.

Until next week, it's businessofgovernment.org.

David Wennergren interview

Friday, September 26th, 2003 - 20:00
Mr. Wennergren provides top-level advocacy in creating a unified information management and technology vision for the Department and ensures the delivery of the capabilities required to achieve the Department's transformation to net centric operations.
Radio show date: 
Sat, 09/27/2003
Intro text: 
Technology and E-Government...
Technology and E-Government
Magazine profile: 
Complete transcript: 
Friday, July 18, 2003

Arlington, Virginia

Mr. Lawrence: Welcome to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, partner in charge of The IBM Center for the Business of Government. We created The Center in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness. You can find out more about The Center and our work by visiting us at www.businessofgovernment.org.

The Business of Government Hour features a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. Our conversation this morning is with David Wennergren, Chief Information Officer of the U.S. Department of the Navy.

Good morning, Dave.

Mr. Wennergren: Good morning, Paul.

Mr. Lawrence: Joining us in our conversation is Tim Connolly.

Good morning, Tim.

Mr. Connolly: Good morning.

Mr. Lawrence: Dave, let's start by talking about the military. Could you tell us what's the role of the Navy?

Mr. Wennergren: The Department of the Navy is a large organization, and of course it includes both the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps. Its mission is to project force and protect the sea lanes around the world, which makes it a very unique organization to work in: 800,000 people deployed in virtually every time zone, tens of thousands of them literally on mobile offices, ships, deployed Marines, and to be able to be connected around the world in real-time is one of the great challenges of that organization.

Mr. Lawrence: Tell us about the activities and the programs of your office.

Mr. Wennergren: As the chief information officer, I am responsible for information management and information policies across the Navy and the Marine Corps. It's a fascinating opportunity because it's a very big organization. We have an information technology budget of over $6 billion a year, and as I mentioned, hundreds of thousands of people, and to try to bring those people together to work your way through the entire range of information technology work, networks, knowledge management, e-business, security transformation, is a wonderful opportunity.

Mr. Lawrence: What types of skills would your team have? You just described a whole range of functions, and I would have thought they would have all been computer science folks doing that sort of stuff.

Mr. Wennergren: We certainly have some excellent computer scientists in the mix, but it is really a broad range of people, because a CIO's responsibility spans the gamut from making sure that you're giving the right oversight to your systems, all of your systems, weapons systems, information systems, because of course, they all have to work together. To the other end of the spectrum, caring about your work force, making sure your work force is changed and IT proficient. So we need people with lots of different skills in the IT business.

More and more, we see folks with a strong bent towards business, towards management, towards understanding the missions of the Department and how those missions could be improved. Business process reengineering is a very important element of the work that we do in the CIO organization. We have a small cadr� of folks that actually work in the headquarters organization. CIOs have to report to the Secretary of the agency, or in our case, the Secretary of the Navy. So we have a small team there, but then we draw upon the resources of technical experts from throughout the Navy and Marine Corps teams, so there are literally hundreds of thousands of folks who are really adept at being network engineers and being software developers, and then all the other skill sets that you need to actually run a business as big as this.

Mr. Lawrence: When people ask about the budget for technology in the Navy, is there a way to describe it to give people a sense of the size?

Mr. Wennergren: Yes, it's big, and the way that we track the budget the way that OMB and Congress asks us to is kind of interesting because it covers a very broad range. So the Department of the Navy's information technology budget is $6 billion, with a B, and that's a lot of money. The biggest single initiative that we have is our Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, which is over a billion dollars a year.

It also includes a lot of very significant national security systems, the E-2C Hawkeye and other programs that are heavily IT-oriented that make up that bill. So it is not just $6 billion spent on back office functions, it's $6 billion spent on command and control systems and command support systems and all the things that go into running the business of the Navy.

Mr. Connolly: Dave, can you tell us a little bit about your roles and responsibilities as chief information officer of the Navy?

Mr. Wennergren: I work directly for the Secretary of the Navy, and my job is to provide advice and counsel on the mission of the Department. I'm part of the leadership team for the Navy and the Marine Corps, where, of course, my responsibility would be making sure that we do our information systems and our information management correctly. So I have a responsibility for policy development, for oversight, for ensuring that we have a trained work force, ensuring that our systems are operable, that we have a robust enterprise architecture structure, that we're complying with the President's management agenda, and working your way through that whole portfolio of IT initiatives that happen in the world today. We are big proponents of electronic business and the web and wireless technologies.

Again, it's about having a small team of change leaders that can work with all of the commands across the Navy and the Marine Corps to help them as they do their jobs, because one of the things that we learned early on in this adventure as we were walking through the Y2K days is that IT is everywhere. It's embedded in every plant floor, every weapons system, and almost nothing works by itself anymore. So it really is all about the difference business lines of the Navy and the Marine Corps, and we view our job as intergrators.

What we want to do is to help you understand that you can use technologies in the work force, but in the end, it's your business process, your mission area, and so the E in e-business is just get people excited that there is a need to change away from paper processes to electronic processes, but the key part of that word is business. It's not about me doing your business for you; it's about me helping you to see a way to reinvent your business to take advantage of the digital age.

Mr. Connolly: So it sounds like you have pretty broad responsibilities on both the business side as well as on the technical side. Can you tell us a little bit about your previous career and how that prepared you for your roles and responsibilities today as the CIO?

Mr. Wennergren: I've had a varied career, I guess you'd say. I've spent my entire government career with the Department of the Navy, right out of college into the Navy as a young management analyst and kind of worked my way up through the organization.

I've had a lot of different kinds of jobs. I used to do outsourcing work, the A76 program, private-public sector competitions. I was involved in the base closure rounds of the 1990s. After the base closure rounds, I had the job of working in the installation management world and restructuring all of the shore establishment that didn't close.

Then I came to the CIO world, and my first adventure was Y2K there. So sometimes people say you must wander from one program of hate and discontent to another, but I'm a hopeless optimist. So I think that the thread there is complex organizational issues, so I think both me and my predecessor, Dan Porter, the last CIO of the Department of the Navy, shared this r�sum� of having worked complex issues and having to work issues that require integration and a good understanding of the mission of the organization.

So while I have had some technology-related responsibilities in my career, clearly my selection as CIO was driven by the idea that we need people that can lead change and integrate it across complex organizations.

Mr. Connolly: Based on that, how do you see that those experiences have really brought you to today to the visionary role of CIO of the Navy?

Mr. Wennergren: The common thread, again, I think is integration. The Navy and Marine Corps is very big and very decentralized. In fact, we have a culture of over 200 years of independent ships at sea and being the captain of the ship and the captain of your destiny. That presents tremendous opportunities for innovation. Having the wherewithal to manage your own resources and go make your own choices gives smart people great opportunities to think of new ideas, and our organization is just full of smart people.

The challenge that comes in this world of being so connected is that pieces have to work together. So the premise of sending a ship out and it will come back some day and you'll have entrusted the captain to have done the right mission is a little different in a world where you're constantly in contact from sensors to shooters to logistics support and those sorts of things. So now there's a great need to take this very decentralized organization and make sure that it's integrated. Integrated doesn�t always necessarily mean centrally controlled or centralized, but that the pieces work together.

One of my responsibilities is the critical infrastructure assurance officer, of the CIAO. I always get a kick out of that acronym. The critical infrastructure assurance officer is responsible for critical infrastructure protection, so physical security, security of our key infrastructures. It's not a job that you would necessarily have associated with being a CIO, the information officer, but we're finding more and more organizations starting to get their CIO that responsibility because protecting all of our physical infrastructures has a lot to do with integrating the efforts of numerous organizations, in our case organizations like our force protection people, our antiterrorism people, our investigative service people, our computer forensics types and those sorts of organizations. So bringing all these pieces together to actually work towards a common good is the resounding theme that we see in CIO work.

Mr. Connolly: Have you seen that the role of the CIO in the Navy has evolved then over the last 10 to 15 years from being much more technically focused to being much more organizationally focused and focused on taking the Navy to the 21st century?

Mr. Wennergren: Yes, I would have said it just slightly differently, because CIOs are kind of a new concept for us. With the Clinger-Cohen Act passing in the 1990s, the first Department of the Navy CIO only arrived on the scene in the late 1990s, the 1996-1997 time frame. If we look at the last 10 or 15 years, I think your point is right-on. While they weren't called CIOs, the CIO predecessor organizations were clearly focused on technical- and acquisition-related issues, and as we stood up a CIO organization through the Clinger-Cohen Act and a lot of the other pieces of legislation, the E-Gov Act, the Federal Information Security Management Act, the Paperwork Reduction Act, and the list goes on and on, there's a recurring theme in both the intent of Congress and the intent of the administrations that CIOs are there because information, knowledge, the intellectual capital of the organization, has to be managed effectively so that it's available.

As the most classic case, a statistic from Gartner, I believe, about how over 70 percent of an organization's information lives on a C drive, and in a world where you're imagining people thousands of miles away from each other trying to get work done together, that just doesn't cut it. The intellectual capital, the wonderful knowledge and learning that we each have and can bring to the table, has to be available for people to share.

Mr. Lawrence: That's a good point, especially about the C drive.

What's NMCI and what lessons have been learned? We'll ask David Wennergren of the Navy to tell us about this when The Business of Government Hour returns.


Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, and this morning's conversation is with David Mr. Wennergren, Chief Information Officer of the Department of the Navy.

Joining us in our conversation is Tim Connolly.

Mr. Connolly: David, the Department of the Navy has been pretty much a pioneer in outsourcing. With the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, affectionately known as NMCI, can you tell us a little bit about the background of this effort, and what is NMCI?

Mr. Wennergren: NMCI is a fundamentally important part of our transformation. It is the foundation of much of the IT transformation that's going on in the Department of the Navy.

I sometimes tell folks a story about a place called the Winchester Home, which is out in San Jose, California. If you're familiar with it, you know the story about it, but you've probably near heard it as an IT analogy. The Winchester Home was built in the late 1800s by the heir to the Winchester Rifle fortune. There's a whole story about why she built this monstrous house, but she built it for 30 years. It has hundreds of rooms and tens and thousands of square feet. It's one of the biggest houses in the entire United States. There were hundreds of builders involved in building it and no architect, no orchestra conductor, if you will. Lots of builders with lots of money to spend built lots of really cool stuff. There are patents associated with this house, innovations in the 1800s that had never before been seen in homes in America. If you translate the $5-1/2 million price tag to today's dollars, it was a $160 million job building this house.

But because they each worked independently, some odd things occurred. There are doorways that open into a wall; there are stairways that lead to nowhere; there are skylights embedded in the floor of the ceiling above; there's a chimney that starts in the basement and rises up four stories, only to stop three feet short of the roof. So without that common infrastructure, architecture, enterprise vision, big organizations tend to build lots of little things. Each little thing might be innovative on its own, but they don't work together so well, and that was the environment that we found ourselves in in the Navy and the Marine Corps team.

We found two apparent problems. We had organizations that were haves, and organizations that were have-nots. Some organizations, because of the way money flowed, had pretty robust networks, and some of our organizations had pretty pathetic networks. Unfortunately, a lot of the organizations that were not wired properly were our operational commands, which clearly needed to be.

We also found ourselves with a problem of not being able to refresh technology well enough. It takes government sometimes a long time to buy stuff, and of course you know the way technology is. I remember several years ago buying myself a 450 MHz computer and thinking that was a real hot machine there, and six months later it was who cared because technology changes so fast, and having refresh rates that take years and years and years will leave you always behind.

So we reached the point where we imagined in our minds that it was probably a couple billion dollar job to actually bring the Navy's infrastructure up to a level where you could be a really seamless enterprise network. So we have a hundred disparate networks, they didn't talk together very well, they had different security structures. We had a work force of network managers and network engineers that we were having trouble retaining. They come and they'd get trained by us, and they'd go for more lucrative salaries in the private sector. So we had to do something different.

So we landed upon the concept of the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, which is a performance-based contract approach to buying IT as a service. This was basically a big seat management contract. There are lots of seat management contracts in industry, but this was a big deal for the government. It's the largest IT contract in federal government, it's the largest seat management effort in federal government history. So it really was a change of course as it was this basic premise that said electricity, the outlet here in this room, I plug my plug into it and if the light comes on, I get billed for the electricity of using that light. If the light doesn't come on, I don't pay a bill for it. I don't really care about what kind of transformer, what kind of stuff is on the other end of that power line out there, Virginia Power or something.

I care about service being delivered. I care about performance. So that was the path we embarked upon. It really was a novel path, because the beauty of the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet contract is that the services that it provides are the computer on your desk, the software that runs that computer, the help desk support, the long haul connectivity, to bring that enterprise network together for almost 400,000 people, 400,000 seats. It basically encompasses the entire United States and a couple of our overseas locations. Bringing that together into a performance-based contract has provided us with a world of wonderful change management experiences that we'll probably talk more about in a few minutes.

But getting that basic premise across that you could have somebody do this work for you and do it by providing a service, and the best way to take care of that would be to have a fixed price contract in terms of seat price. I'll have a menu, I'm a command and I'd like a laptop, I'd like a desktop, I'd like these kind of additional services and those sorts of things, and I understand the price and I'm willing to pay that. Then the contractor team is motivated for success by a lot of incentives. So the contract is really a wonderful novel contract vehicle because it's based on the premise of numerous service level agreements that are measured. So what I want is lots of access; I don't want latency. I want a good refresh rate, I want good security, and I'm going to measure you on that. If you exceed my expectations, then you get incentive payments.

Over half of the potential incentive payments that the contractor can get are based on customer satisfaction as measured by the individual users. What a novel concept for all of you that have relied on help desk support before, that you actually get to grade your help desk team, and that's part of how they get paid is that they've responded well to your needs.

It was an interesting adventure to go on. We're a couple of years into it now and we're making great progress now, but the early days were really a challenge because we had a fascinating dynamic. We were able to explain to people that this idea of seat management and this idea of performance-based contracting was really important and the right way to go. But you'd have this interesting dynamic when you would explain this to members of Congress, the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. We would almost consistently get back the answer that would say, yes, this sounds like a really great idea. You'll want to do this very quickly. You'll want to do this over a two-year period. Isn't that like awful fast for something this big and this different?

Then we would go to audiences like the Naval Postgraduate School, where we have young officers who are working on their master's degrees and are really savvy on technologies, and of course the postgraduate school is out in Monterey, not far from Silicon Valley, so they had a lot of exposure to the Internet age, if you will. So they would go, this really sounds like the right thing to do, but you're going to take two whole years to do this? Why can't you do it in months?

So it was an interesting set of dynamics, and it took us a long time to get the project actually started. We awarded the contract, and EDS is the prime contractor. Then there's a pretty august group of subcontractors: Microsoft, Dell, Raytheon, MCI. So it's a robust group of teams. But again, the important point was that we didn't say we wanted Dell computers, we didn't say we wanted Windows 2000 as the operating system. What we said to the bidders was we want good service, we want to be able to measure it, and we want service delivered well to all of these places with these service level agreements, and then you pick the teaming arrangements that you want to have to make that happen, so I don't have to be the one that goes out and buys all the servers and routers and worries about every computer and every help desk, every network operations center. I worry about getting service delivered well to me and being able to measure that service being delivered well to me.

Mr. Connolly: Tell us about the timeline. The idea began in the mid 1990s. Walk us through the big things. We're two years into it. Then what's out there?

Mr. Wennergren: We did a lot of thought work about this in the late 1990s. The contract was awarded at the end of 2000. From there, it took time. Again, it got back to this idea about seems like a good idea, but we're very nervous, it's very different. I probably shouldn't say this, but we tested this thing like it was some nuclear submarine. We were talking PCs. They only cost hundreds of dollars each now. We're talking about Microsoft Office. We're not talking about nuclear power plants. So there was a lot of initial testing and a lot of initial turmoil to get the thing up and rolling.

This year has really been the year that made a difference. You go through a two-phase process, of course, as they come in. The first thing that happens is the team comes in and assumes responsibility for your existing network. Of course then, after they assume responsibility for the network, they cut over to the new equipment and the new processes. So you assume responsibilities and then you cut over.

We've cut over about 88,000 seats at this point. We have assumed responsibility for over 200,000 seats, we, the contractor team, and our hope is by the end of the year, we're up to about 300,000 seats, assume responsibility, and a couple hundred thousand seats cut over.

So this is the year now that we're actually seeing the power of it. So had we all been having this conversation a year or so ago, I would have told you about this vision about interoperability, access, greater security, but now I can actually talk to you about the results, and there are some wonderful examples of the results.

After September 11th, in addition to the tragic loss of life at the Pentagon, the Navy also lost 70 percent of its office space there. So we had literally hundreds of people that had no place to go to work. We were able to leverage this information strike force, this EDS team, to help us reconstitute that capability literally over a weekend. By Friday after the event on Tuesday, we had found an office building in Crystal City that had been vacant. It was pretty gutted, and the EDS team had tractor-trailers full of Dell computers and Sisco routers and everything on the road. They arrived in town, and virtually over the course of the weekend, put together the network and the infrastructure inside that office building for hundreds of people. If you think about it in the old view of the world what would have had to have happened, we would have had to have people buying computers, buying software, buying telecommunications services, buying servers, and installing all those things, and integrating all those things together would have taken days, weeks, months.

The other place where we've seen dramatic improvements is because you're moving away from this idea of a hundred disparate networks with different kinds of security strategies, seeing a significant improvement in our security posture, it really is beginning to pay dividends. But it also really is the foundation of transformation, and that's the thing that oftentimes confuses people, because they think NMCI is the whole IT game for the Department of the Navy, and it's really not. I often use the description of a highway system, local story right here, just interstate 95. I've got a great superhighway now, and NMCI is that superhighway. On the interstate heading down to Richmond, I don't have to get stuck in traffic. Maybe I picked a bad example. I don't have to stop at stoplights all along the way. But all the cars and all the drivers of those cars are still fundamentally important to the success of your organization. So imagine NMCI as the big superhighway we just built, so that where you are is connected to where you need to be, and wherever you are, you have the power of reaching back to the intellectual capital of the organizational team. But you also have to then focus on all the things that have to ride on that highway system if you're going to be successful.

Mr. Lawrence: The Department of the Navy includes both the Navy and the Marine Corps. How does the CIO make decisions for the entire department when it consists of these two unique groups? We'll ask David Wennergren of the Navy to tell us about this when The Business of Government Hour returns.


Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, and this morning's conversation is with David Wennergren, the chief information officer of the Department of the Navy.

Joining us in our conversation is Tim Connolly.

Mr. Connolly: David, we spent the last segment talking a lot about NMCI. Now as we look forward, if you had a choice of starting over again, what would you change about NMCI to make the process more effective and more efficient?

Mr. Wennergren: I wouldn't change a thing about the performance-based contracting concept, and I wouldn't change a thing about the team that we have. We have a great team working with us on the project.

How we began the implementation both from our side and from the contract's team, we learned a lot, because it really was something different for us. People really enjoy personal control, and federal agencies don't always do a good enough job of public relations work. So I think we probably could have done a better job of selling the value proposition to our individual organizations so that when they went through the pain of having to give up something that they used to control, to allow somebody else to do the work for them, although I don't know how much you could ever stop some of those cultural change issues from happening. So there was a lot we learned about how you could do the implementation smoothly. But I think that's really the only place that you probably could go back and have done it better.

What I really have seen happening out of this is that it was an amazing opportunity for us because it proved to be this wonderful forcing function. If you don't build yourself an enterprise network, you have no idea how many applications you own. I remember in the Y2K days, we were keeping track of our mission-critical and mission-essential applications and systems. We were looking out for a couple thousand of them. Then when we put into place the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, we said to these hundreds of commands that had their own local area networks and had built the stuff to run on it, just give us your applications, identify them by name, we'll check them out to make sure they're complying with security rules and they work on Windows 2000 and we'll put them on the network, and those couple thousand mission-essential applications grew to almost 100,000. A hundred thousand applications, what could you possibly do with that many? Somebody told me they were at the Gartner conference last year in Orlando, I think it was somebody from Disney was there, and they were talking about their 4,000 legacy applications that they were trying to work their way through. Somebody from the audience stood up and said, how could you have allowed that to happen? I thought I'm glad I wasn't the one up on stage there. I would have had a hard time explaining tens of thousands of them. But because you didn't have that central visibility, that ability to do configuration management, you didn't know.

So NMCI has been a wonderful forcing function to get us to do things like designate functional area managers, functional leaders for business lines in the Department of the Navy that are now responsible for looking at all the logistics applications that these different commands have built and says this is the supply chain management program we're going to use, this is the online purchasing solution we're going to use, and we're going to get rid of these other ones. It's a phenomenally complex problem. We've done a great job of working our way down from that first initial list of 100,000 to several thousand now. But you wouldn't have been able to do that, nor would you have been able to achieve the significant cost reductions that you will get by not having to build each one of these solutions over and over and over again unless you have built this enterprise network.

We used the NMCI as the fulcrum point for bringing on board infrastructure and SMART card technology. Every computer is going to show up with a SMART card reader and Middleware. You'll be able to use your PKI digital certificates. Those kinds of changes wouldn't have happened if you didn't have this forcing function of building the enterprise network to get you going.

Mr. Connolly: You talk about NMCI as a transformation, and transformations are about change. What change would you say occurred in your own roles and responsibilities as CIO, and how do you see that continuing to change going forward with the implementation of NMCI?

Mr. Wennergren: I think we've greatly benefited from a really strategic leadership team in the late 1990s as this whole vision got created that recognized that there is a road map of transformation that you had to do, and you had to start with your infrastructure. If you couldn't get your infrastructure right, you had no hope of doing things like digital marketplaces and knowledge-sharing and those sorts of things. But having the NMCI network now being implemented is allowing the Navy and Marine Corps team to turn attention away from those network tasks, to focus on the rest of that transformation agenda.

The NMCI contract is a really big contract. Like I said, it's over a billion dollars a year, but it is just that superhighway system. There is a whole bunch of other really important work that is being focused on, and that needs industry participation and working together, creating knowledge management structures, business electronic government, web enablement of our legacy applications, building of an enterprise portal, greater security, all those pieces of work are the rest of that transformational agenda that actually gets you to be that interconnected organization that's secure and a learning, knowledge-sharing community.

Mr. Lawrence: The Navy includes both the Navy and the Marine Corps. How are decisions made for the entire Department?

Mr. Wennergren: We've gone through a significant restructuring over the last year, and I think that one of the great benefits of that restructuring was a tightening of those organizational relationships. So in our new vision of the world, as the CIO, again, I report directly to the Secretary of the Navy, I have a deputy CIO for the Navy. That's Rear Admiral Tom Zelebor, who is the command and control leader for the Navy chain of command. I have a deputy CIO for the Marine Corps, who is General John Thomas, who is the director of C4 for the Marine Corps. So there's this wonderful match-up now of the person who is responsible for the command and control and computer systems for the operational chains of command now has a working relationship with me and a very close relationship in terms of dialogue and problem-solving together to make sure that the information management agenda is working in synch with those chains of command. I then have a third deputy, Rob Kiery, who works in my office, who is the deputy CIO for policy integration, who works with me to help shape and integrate those transformation efforts along those two chains of command.

We then said that each of our major commands, or what we call echelon 2 commands in the Navy and major subordinate commands in the Marine Corps, imagine business units under the Chief of Naval Operations and the Commandant of the Marine Corps, each must have a command information officer, and that command information officer must have a working relationship with Admiral Zelebor and General Thomas. We sort of leveraged some of the things that we learned from visits to GE about the way that they managed IT, this idea that if you're a business unit or a command information officer, you really need to make two people happy if you're going to be successful. You need to make that business unit leader happy, and clearly our command information officers in the past did that. They worked for the commander of the Naval Air Systems Command, and if you didn't make the Naval Air Systems Command's mission work, then you weren't getting a good CIO for that command.

The second piece of that puzzle that the folks at GE realized a while back was you also have a reporting relationship with the agency CIO, because otherwise, you'll suboptimize because you'll build great systems for -- I need an online small purchase system at NAVAIR and so I go out and build one. But I'm over here at the Naval Supply Systems Command and I say I need an online small purchase system so I go build one, and I'm out at the Pacific Fleet and you see how it goes, and each one of those cost me millions of dollars. So if you only focus on that command, you miss the important point, that we are an enterprise. Up until a couple of years ago, enterprises for us were organizations like the Atlantic Fleet, the Pacific Fleet, because that's the way the money flowed and that's where your responsibility flowed. So this new set of organizational relationships really kind of helps everybody think a step up, to say that the enterprise is the Navy and Marine Corps team, because if you don't think that way, you can't build a Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, you can't build a Navy-Marine Corps enterprise portal, you can't align yourself about interoperable single authoritative data sources, et cetera.

Mr. Lawrence: One of the things driving management is the President's management agenda, and it calls out specific items. One of them is e-government. What are you doing in the area of e-government?

Mr. Wennergren: Absolutely. E-government is so crucially important to us. There were some terminology things we had to work our way through first. I have a PowerPoint slide whose title is �a constantly changing world� that goes e-commerce, e-business, e-government, e-war fighting, because you go out and talk to an audience in the Navy and they go we're not business. What do you mean e-business? We don't do that kind of stuff. We're not selling products. And you're like absolutely, you're a business. Your business is national defense and you still have labor-intensive, cumbersome paper processes that you do and that's eating our lunch, and you need to find ways to leverage technology and get with it, and get with the web, and get with wireless technologies and develop E kinds of solutions. So we have done a lot of work to really take the President's management agenda, and even before the President's management agenda, to build ourselves organizations that will help us achieve that goal.

We established a Department of the Navy E-Business Operations Office that is a single innovation center for the Navy and Marine Corps team. There's a small cadr� of government folks with a number of private sector partners that basically helps you. If you're a command and you say I need some help trying to figure out how to do this e-business stuff, they'll bring out consultants, they'll come work with you and help you develop solutions.

They actually operate a pilot fund. We put aside $20 million and say let's go find great ideas and pilot new ideas. What classically happens in large organizations in I think government or the private sector is that you have this great idea, it's going to save us a million bucks a year, I need $100,000 to make it go. The controller says feel free to use your savings. I don't have those yet. Well, I don't know, I guess you're going to have trouble getting started. So we have found there is tremendous power in planting these small seeds of change.

I can tell you one quick story. A hospital, the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, California, a neonatologist and a CIO for that hospital came up with an idea regarding a very cumbersome process about how a patient goes from visiting a general practitioner to getting a specialist's appointment. It was bad. It was just really cumbersome. You didn't know whether the person actually made the appointment or whether they kept it, your general doctor didn't know if the person was getting treatment, whether he was well until he saw the person again in six months. They said what a great way to leverage web technologies and wireless devices to change this experience. So they developed this wonderful solution where the doctor sits in the room with the patient, he's got a little wireless device in his hand and he's saying you have a problem but Mary is really good at this and she has an opening next Wednesday at 9:00, can we lock you in for that, and he just pushes a button on his wireless device and locks the patient in for the appointment right there. Here come your lab results, and all the while maintaining that face-to-face contact as they work through this issue; $100,000 they needed to do this.

I have to tell you, $100,000 is not a lot of money for the Department of the Navy, but it's an incredibly large amount of money for a hospital. So the e-business operations officer comes and brings the $100,000, brings the private sector partner in for the solution. The neonatologist and the CIO, which I get a kick out of because when they both talk, you really can't tell who the IT person is because the neonatologist can talk babies, he can walk web. They build the solution; they love it so much. They, not us, they the hospital folks, take it to the Department of Defense Health Affairs Board, the surgeon generals for the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force, and say you can implement this solution DoDwide for $2 million. The surgeon generals say we were about to do something like this that had less functionality and was going to cost $20 million. We can take this idea and put it across DoD and avoid spending $18 million. That's a powerful example about how planting that $100,000 seed will help the Department of Defense avoid spending $18 million.

I have the benefit of being the best practices co-chair now for Federal CIO Council, so I'm able to start to take these ideas and the ideas that are going on in lots of other federal agencies and build this portfolio of best practices that are going on that tie directly to all parts of the President's management agenda.

Mr. Lawrence: That was an interesting point about the collaboration between the doctor and the CIO.

What role does IT play during a military conflict? We'll ask David Wennergren of the Department of the Navy when The Business of Government Hour returns.


Mr. Lawrence: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm Paul Lawrence, and today's conversation is with David Wennergren, the Chief Information Officer of the U.S. Department of the Navy.

Joining us in our conversation is Tim Connolly.

Mr. Connolly: David, we spent a lot of time this morning talking about change. The real question I have is, what do you see as the CIO's role in not only delivering change in programs like NMCI, but really in creating and leading change as the Navy progresses toward the future?

Mr. Wennergren: I think the measure of an effective CIO is the ability to lead change. You have to understand technology, but I believe firmly that technology is only a percentage of the answer. I may spend 20 percent of a day worrying about some technology issue and 80 percent of the day worrying about the cultural change issues that go along with actually making an organization transform. There is so much that you can learn from that. I could have spent the whole hour talking about that, but there are some important nuggets that you pick up.

Change takes on two forms. There are evolutionary types of change. When we go and do knowledge management, it's a real grassroots kind of thing. You go to a command and you say you could do this kind of stuff, you'd be a learning organization, that's great. They all get excited about it and they go off and do it. The beauty of evolutionary change is that it has great consensus and support. You can build a great little solution there. The problem is that evolutionary change on its own doesn't do sweeping enough change. So while we've embraced this theory of teaching people to fish, we've developed tools. We have tools about how you do knowledge management, how you develop a work force, how you do critical infrastructure protection/vulnerability assessments, CDs or web-based tools, and we give these tools to commands.

If you think about it, if each command takes that tool and uses it to do knowledge management, they all end up doing knowledge management in a consistent way, and I get the same kind of answer that I would have gotten if I had just mandated that they all do knowledge management, but of course, they all did it willingly.

The problem is they may not all do it, and so sometimes in order to get broad, sweeping change, you have to embark on a revolutionary change. We would not have a Navy-Marine Corps Intranet if we had not just said you will do it. We would not have 2-1/2 million access cards, SMART cards, in the hands of DoD people if we had not just said we're going to go to a single SMART card. So you have to couple these evolutionary change approaches with revolutionary change approaches.

Of course, the challenge with revolutionary change approaches is I didn't get each of your buy-in. So I have to then deal with the personal/cultural issues of change is coming to you, and there's a book about managing transitions that's out now. Or the guy makes an interesting point about we don't like change, we don't like transitions because in order to have a new beginning, you must have an end, and people tend to not like endings. So every time I do something that's sort of forceful, you have to worry about how you're going to deal with those cultural change issues. But you have to embrace them, because the world is changing at such a fast pace, if you don't think about change which means accepting some risks, you really do risk irrelevancy. So we've learned a lot.

We've learned about moving with speed. The solutions that are working best for us right now are those that we do in months. Take an e-business pilot like the one we talked about, put it in a place in three months, leverage industry best practices and go. The things that are not working well for us are the things where we try to build this perfect solution, build it to death, and two or three years later try to deliver it. Because in our world, over two or three years, technology changes, military people rotate in and out, political leadership comes and goes, and you never quite close the deal. You have to move with speed. You have to look for forcing functions. You have to say if you're going to change a little, you might as well change a lot. There is no point in just getting a few computers. At the moment that you're going through that stress of a change in a computer, I'm also delivering you new processes and those sorts of things.

You need to think about how you change the status quo. We had a culture where once you're in the budget, I'm a legacy application, I got approved, and now I get $5 million a year, and next year I want $6 million. So people go why do you need an extra million, but you're basically in the game. Of course, with those legacy applications that are the old mainframe client-server kind of solutions, they're not my web services view of the future of the world, so it's the new stuff that is going to be wireless and web-based that really is where we need to focus, but of course they're new and so they get tortured to death. Where is your testing plan? Where is your business case? Where is your this, where is your that, before you ever get to the place where you say let them go or let them try because that's where I want to spend my money.

That's why our legacy application process is so important, because that's where we're going into each of those people with the baby and saying that's not a web-based thing, that's not PKI-enabled, that's not available on the enterprise portal, you are not part of the future vision. The status quo stuff needs to go in favor of the new path.

I think finally and most importantly, it's this idea about the Indiana Jones movie, "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," and he's on the search for the Holy Grail. This is another IT analogy, because he's got the little book and he knows what his vision is. His dad has been shot and he has to find the Holy Grail to save his dad. He gets to that chasm and he has to get across and the book says it's a leap of faith. His reaction is don't you hate that? But of course, he eventually takes the step and there's a pathway and he gets across. That's what this is about for all of our commands. There is that moment when you do have to take that leap of faith. So you need to give people as much confidence that they should be trusting to take that leap of faith, but in the end, you have to find some way to encourage them to take it or you'll never get this change in.

Mr. Connolly: Can you tell us a little bit about web enablement means to the Department of the Navy? And can you expand on the role of the Department's new portal policy in achieving this objective?

Mr. Wennergren: We've been getting it for a while. We have a senior leadership course that we teach at our Naval Postgraduate School where we send our senior flag officers and general officers, and they go spend a couple of weeks talking to folks in the Silicon Valley and elsewhere about what's going on in the world, and they come back very energized. They get it. They understand the power of the web, the power of the web in terms of access, the flow of information, better security structures, all the things that go into being web-enabled. But then you turn around and look at your organization and you still have a lot of old legacy systems that aren't that kind. So we've embarked upon a lot of work to try to change that.

We created a task force web team whose job was to go encourage and push for web enabled solutions, and Monica Sheperd and her team of folks that have been doing that for the Department of the Navy have been doing an outstanding job.

In order to have a web strategy work though, you have to have a place for that stuff to hang. So we've just released our policy for the Navy-Marine Corps portal, our enterprise strategy that says we're going to have a constituent portal structure where you really will have a single front portal that you get to do work whether you're aboard ship, you're ashore, you're in a hotel, you're at your wireless device waiting for the bus, whatever kind of channel delivery you need, you have a common access to the intellectual capital of the Department. That will again be like the legacy application process where we have hundreds of portals. Portals became cool, so everybody wanted to build one. I don't really need the Surface Warfare Officer's School in New England to be the 505th place to build another portal. What I need them to do is to focus on content. They may have content they want to deliver to students. You find that content, we'll give you the portal to hang it on as a database, as a transaction. I don't need you to be the next person to worry about a customized look and feel.

So with this portal strategy linked with the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, linked with this web-enabling path, what you see is this change now. In the past, you were the aircraft maintenance technician out on an aircraft carrier thousands of miles from home in the Pacific Ocean and all you had to go by was your knowledge, your tech manuals, your engineering drawings, the knowledge of your supervisor, and you had to fix the plane. Now through a distance support portal, you can reach back to the engineer in Crane, Indiana who actually designed that part that you're trying to work on and have like a voice/video/data whiteboard exchange with him. So now these young men and women that you would be so proud of deployed far from home in harm's way have the power to reach back to the literally hundreds of thousands of people that are back here in the United States. And all that expertise, all that knowledge, all that intellectual power is now available to them, and that's compelling.

Mr. Lawrence: Could you tell us about your role as the chair of the Defense SMART Card Senior Coordinating Group?

Mr. Wennergren: I have a lot of great jobs, and that's another wonderful one, being the chair of the SMART card effort across the Department of the Navy. We talked about NMCI being a big change management issue because it's going to touch 400,000 people's lives. The SMART card program is touching 4 million people's lives across all of DoD. So everybody has an opinion about that.

We're really thrilled. I think there are great kudos that go out to Mary Dixon, who runs the access card office for the Department of Defense and is my partner in crime in this adventure, and the folks at the Defense Manpower Data Center who actually do the programming and such that makes this program happen, because this is truly a testimony to the power of industry/government partnerships. We knew we needed a SMART card. We knew we needed them for millions of people. We couldn't afford to build some government-only solution, and we really did get it. We worked with industry and we came up with standards where there weren't any and we leveraged standards where they were, and we did the right things. PKI digital certificates were going to live on this card, x509 version 3, standard base certificates, Global Platform, the security structure that Visa and others use, JavaCard, using all the common approaches that would make this thing be affordable and that we wouldn't have to build all the things that make it work. The x509 version 3 certificate is recognized by Microsoft Outlook. I don't have to build special stuff into every commercial product that I want to have touch this SMART card. So I think we really got it right, and we got it right because of the work of people like Mary, Ken Shefflin, Robbie Brandaway and all the other folks who do this kind of work.

We have 2-1/2 million SMART cards out there now. It is one of the largest SMART card deployments in the world, and it really is changing the way we work and live. So if you followed me around today when I go back to the office, I'll use this SMART card to get into my office as my physical access badge. When I get up to my computer, I'll use the PKI digital certificates on the computer chip on the card to get on my computer and do a cryptographic logon, much more secure than user IDs and passwords. I'll use the digital certificates to launch myself to secure websites, again getting past the idea of about 50 websites I need to go to, so I have 50 passwords I'll keep on a yellow sticky. I use the digital certificates to do digital signatures, which of course are the key to electronic business. So I'll file a travel claim this afternoon and digitally sign it. Then when I leave to go to lunch, I'll pull the card out of the computer, the screen will lock up and nobody else can be me, and off I go. So this power of having a digital key in the hands of every sailor, every Marine, every airman, every soldier, every civilian, every contractor that works on our facilities is really a key part of this vision. It's the way that we'll get PKI in the hands of everybody, and it's the way that we really get this idea about e-business and digital signatures in place.

Mr. Lawrence: What advice would you give to someone considering a career in public service?

Mr. Wennergren: I think it's a wonderful calling, and you have to want that. As I said before, I look around the nation and I see young men and women doing phenomenal things on behalf of all of us in defending this nation, and it just makes your heart glad and you feel really proud.

There's a wonderful team spirit. I think it's particularly true of the military departments. There's a wonderful team camaraderie about being part of this together. So there are some great opportunities, great opportunities for public service, and it is that idea about service to the nation that is so important. So if that's the kind of stuff that turns you on, there's are such opportunities now. The work force is aging. People are retiring. The skill sets that are needed are different. We need people who are web-savvy. We need people who are Internetmeisters. So the skill sets that we need are the skill sets that the people coming out of high school and college have and live this kind of multitasking kind of work. So there are phenomenal opportunities for those that feel that calling to help serve the nation.

Mr. Lawrence: Dave, thank you very much for joining us today. That has to be our last question, but Tim and I want to thank you for squeezing us into your busy schedule.

Mr. Wennergren: Thank you, Tim. Thank you, Paul. It's been great being here with you. I guess I could point out that if you liked anything you heard today, www.doncio.navy.mil is our CIO website and has more information about everything we talked about today. So thank you again.

Mr. Lawrence: Thank you.

This has been The Business of Government Hour featuring a conversation with David Wennergren, chief information officer of the Department of the Navy. Be sure and visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. There, you can learn more about our programs and research and get a transcript of today's fascinating conversation. Again, that's businessofgovernment.org.

This is Paul Lawrence. Thank you for listening.

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