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CHIPS Articles: A Message from the DON CIO

A Message from the DON CIO
Adapting and Overcoming Resistance to Change in an Evolving IT World
By Terry Halvorsen - April-June 2013
In the 1986 movie, “Heartbreak Ridge,” Clint Eastwood plays the salty Marine Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Highway, an old-school Marine who realizes he must change some of his ways to succeed in a changing world.

His personal mantra — “improvise, adapt, overcome” — is also a teaching point he uses — relentlessly — with the Marines of his underperforming reconnaissance platoon. We, in the Department of the Navy, face a similar challenge. With budgets already cut and more austere times ahead, we must adapt to our new environment and overcome the obstacles that block our path to achieving greater IT efficiencies. In other words, we must change the way we think about data and how we use it.

For example, we recently established a new policy regarding the department’s copiers, printers, faxes and scanners and our move to multifunction devices, which eliminates the need to have a separate device to perform each function. The policy is a first step at a major change in the department’s mindset toward printing. On the surface, this may appear to be an effort to simply save paper, but it’s much more than that. It’s about reducing the number of stand-alone printers and going to multifunction devices; centralizing printing on a primary network; consciously determining when to print in color; and focusing on what — and when — we must print. Printing in color can cost up to 10 times as much as black-and-white printing, which can add up to millions of dollars in savings governmentwide. Furthermore, if a brief or an agenda can be displayed on screen, then there is no need to print a copy for each meeting participant.

Another example of adapting to our changing economic reality is rethinking how we store, display and host data. The DON Secretariat recently took the innovative first steps of moving unclassified data to a commercial hosting environment. The Secretary of the Navy’s public-facing information portal is now hosted in the Amazon Web Services cloud. The decision to host the data on a public Web server resulted from an analysis of several factors, including the type of data stored in the portal, the ease of access due to significantly faster response times, security and cost.

The DON first considered a government site to host the portal, but found that commercial sites are less expensive. Further, congressional guidance requires the department to evaluate and select commercially provided services that meet security standards and are less expensive than what it costs to perform those services internally. As a result, the DON has achieved a 50 percent reduction in cost to operate the portal.

The Amazon option is the first case of the DON placing low-risk, public-facing data on a commercial server to save money. The department will continue to explore similar savings opportunities.

Changing technology is only part of this “adapt and overcome” equation. The focus on budget reductions has made us more accepting of ideas that, in the past, we may have thought too extreme to consider. The next step is a more fundamental change to the way we do business and the way we act as a business.

And like Gunny Highway’s recon Marines, we will continue to adapt and overcome resistance to change to succeed in the department’s vital mission.

Terry Halvorsen
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