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FCW : August 30, 2013
August 30, 2013 FCW.COM 19 CIO for six years, making him one of the longest-tenured CIOs at NASA s 10 centers across the country. Hav- ing overseen 100 civil servants and 500 contractors at the center, which is the Houston-based home of the space shuttle and International Space Sta- tion programs, Sweet gured his back- ground and expertise might at least put him on the short list. His awareness of NASA s IT prob- lems --- the IG s of ce sought his input during its audit --- might have helped put him at the top of the list. Now he and his wife, Cheryl, are looking for real estate in the Washington area --- a challenge in itself, he said --- and sell- ing the family home in Houston, where they raised four children to adulthood. "I applied knowing it would take somebody who understood NASA, the federal government and IT trends, and somebody who has managed a large organization," Sweet said. "There was nothing in the [IG] report I was sur- prised to hear about, and anybody in [this space] for more than three years would make the same comment. We --- the CIOs and NASA headquarters --- have been trying to improve IT governance for years. I m very excited." So is his predecessor. "NASA made a great selection in picking Larry," said Cureton, now CEO of an IT consulting company she founded called Muse Technologies. "I m pleased, and it signals con- tinuing collaboration among centers. It also signals contin- ued improvements in enterprise service delivery." Sweet s challenges are legion. For starters, although NASA s headquarters is in the nation s capital, its 10 cen- ters are dispersed across the country, each with its own programs, objectives, culture and funding pro le. In recent years, the NASA CIO has been the agency s IT chief in name only. The IG audit attaches a dollar amount to NASA s decen- tralized IT operations: Of approximately $1.5 billion allo- cated for IT spending in scal 2012, the agency s CIO had direct control of $159 million. In other words, for every dol- lar NASA spent on IT, its CIO had control of about a dime. The IG audit estimated that NASA spent $400 million more than necessary on its IT budget in scal 2010 because of the lack of centralized decision-making. "You have multiple programs across multiple centers. It s a complex environment from an IT perspective and more complex to get your arms around the governance of IT spending," Sweet said. "I would say that most centers and center CIOs managing IT spend signi cantly better than what was done a few years ago, but I admit from an agency perspective, we have to do a better job." As the new CIO, Sweet is charged with carrying out the IG s recommenda- tions. Most of them come with a dead- line of six months or less, so Sweet wasted little time getting started. He has already completed one: Instead of reporting to department administrators, the NASA CIO now reports directly to Administrator Charles Bolden. Other recommendations include hav- ing the CIO approve IT procurement expenditures above a certain thresh- old and consolidating IT governance in NASA s Of ce of the CIO. Each proposal requires Sweet to create a plan to which he ll have to adhere. But the efforts are a clear signal that IT decision-making is changing at NASA. Sweet will be the agency s rst CIO with some semblance of full authority. He is aware that his new position will put him in the public eye to a greater degree than he was at the Johnson Space Center. He will be a sought-after speaker in the federal IT community, as Cureton was before him, but he said he plans to put the agency s priorities before any other activities. "You have to nd the right balance," Sweet said. "You don t meet challenges well by speaking out in the public for conferences." And though his position isn t a political one, of ce politics at an agency the size of NASA are a given. For instance, if NASA s IT Infrastructure Integration Program --- perhaps the most important IT initiative at the agency --- runs into prob- lems, people will talk. Now in its second year, the program is designed to reduce costs by consolidating and integrating NASA s IT contracts. Even after year one, Sweet said, some aspects of the initiative are still proving to be a challenge, but of cials are aggressively tackling any issues that arise. At the same time, NASA s IT budget isn t likely to grow much. Sweet has worked in tight budget environments (he once faced a 12 percent cut at the Johnson Space Center), and he will have a smaller staff at NASA s D.C. headquarters than he had in Houston. "The staff is smaller up here, but the responsibility is much bigger," he said. Nevertheless, Sweet is excited to take on the challenges. Despite 26 years at NASA and nearly a decade as a contrac- tor in the eld before becoming a civil servant, he might nd that getting the IT ship steadied at NASA is his tough- est challenge yet. "I love this work. I m excited about it, and I want to make the commitment to do this job well," Sweet said. "IwanttostayhereaslongasIcan---aslongasNASA would like me to." ■ IT'S A COMPLEX ENVIRONMENT FROM AN IT PERSPECTIVE AND MORE COMPLEX TO GET YOUR ARMS AROUND THE GOVERNANCE OF IT SPENDING. --- LARRY SWEET
August 15, 2013
September 15, 2013