US Military undergoes shift in CIO ranks

The US Military is undergoing major changes in its CIO ranks as it finalizes its joint warfighting cloud platform.

On Feb. 10, US Army CIO Dr. Raj Iyer concluded his two-year contract and was awarded the Distinguished Civilian Service Medal, the highest honor that can be granted to a civilian employee, for his efforts to build a data-driven army via digital transformation and the cloud

David Markowitz is currently serving as acting US Army CIO while the Army recruits for a new CIO to fill the role for a longer term, a Pentagon spokesman said.

The CIOs of two other major military branches who served longer terms are also stepping down.

US Department of Air Force CIO Lauren Knausenberger announced she will leave that post in June after a six-year tenure. The process to select the next US Air Force CIO is expected to begin this month with the goal to identify the new CIO before Knausenberger’s departure, a US Air Force spokesman says. 

Meanwhile, Navy CIO Aaron Weis, who led the U.S. Navy’s IT and security services for five years, submitted his resignation, effective March 17. Weis’ successor for the Navy CIO post has not yet been named.

In the interim, Principal Deputy Department of Navy CIO Jane Rathbun will serve as acting US Navy CIO until a permanent successor is named, a Navy spokesman says.

Iyer told CIO.com that such changes are typical for the military, if not always coordinated at once.

“No conspiracy here,” says Dr. Iyer, who was this week announced as ServiceNow’s first global head of public sector. “We have all done our time at the Pentagon. We all came from the private industry on term assignments and are leaving the DoD in a much better shape than we found it.”

Lt General Matthew Glavy, CIO for the US Marine Corps, has no plans to leave at this time, according to a Marine spokesman. Glavy is also Head of the Intelligence Community Element (HICE) for the Marine Corps and Deputy Commandant of Information (DCI) at Headquarters Marine Corps.

The CIO leadership changes follow the completion of a 17-month Defense Department project to develop a Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC).

In December, the Department of Defense awarded contracts to four technology companies — Amazon Web Services, Google Support Services, Microsoft, and Oracle — to provide an integrated cloud platform for the DoD.

Tom Temin, host of the podcast “The Federal Drive with Tom Temin,” agreed that it is typical for the military to award short-term contracts to civilians for such posts — and they are often extended.

Temin says these CIOs in particular helped modernize much of the DoD’s entire technology infrastructure in just the past few years.

“It’s very fast. These [CIOs] did a lot,” Temin said, alluding to the new cloud platform, a DevOps platform, and delivery of Office 365. “You’re talking about organizations with a million people and a lot of competing interests for money and attention.”

The top priorities for federal and national CIO investments in 2023 are digital transformation (19%), technical modernization (15%), and leveraging data more effectively (19%), according to a Gartner survey of roughly 2,200 officials published last October.

More specifically, 76% of responds reported they intended to invest more in cybersecurity technologies, 56% indicated they will spend more on cloud platforms, and 51% expressed an intent to invest more in application modernization, the Gartner report noted.

John Sherman, who was appointed to the post of CIO of the Department of Defense by President Biden in 2021, also has no plans to depart, according to a Pentagon spokeswoman.

In an e-mail to CIO.com, Sherman applauded the efforts of the three outgoing CIOs for their progress on top digital transformation goals.

“They have been exceptional leaders with the foresight needed to take on hard challenges such as the implementation of Zero Trust, cloud migration, agile software development, the Department’s rapid transition to remote work during COVID, and cyber talent management,” DoD CIO Sherman wrote.

“They have built lasting organizations that I’m confident will continue the momentum they began. I look forward to working with the acting leaders in each of the military departments on these and other challenges as we work to improve cybersecurity, transform the Department’s IT and cloud capabilities, and enhance user experience,” Sherman wrote.

CIO, Government IT