Navy creates elevated CIO office

A new, elevated department-level CIO role, formally the special assistant for information management, will lead a team dedicated to proactively improving cybersecurity and managing other digital priorities.
United States Under Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly speaks to Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard officers during the National Naval Officers Association (NNOA) symposium. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason Isaacs)

The Navy is planning to create a new, elevated department-level CIO role, formally the special assistant for information management, who will lead a team dedicated to proactively improving cybersecurity and managing other digital priorities.

The new CIO position will be filled by an unnamed candidate — the paperwork is still being worked out — who will oversee the Navy’s information management, cybersecurity, data, digital strategy and business systems, Undersecretary Thomas Modly said last week.

“What we don’t have at the senior level of the department is someone responsible for the portfolio of assets that we create in the information and data space, and that’s what this function is for,” Modly said.

Modly has been serving in the CIO role in addition to his duties as undersecretary since late 2017.


The position comes at the recommendation of a scathing cybersecurity review after the Navy incurred several large-scale breaches from contractors. The review stressed organizational problems in the Navy’s upkeep on cybersecurity, Modly said.

The idea for a Senate-confirmed special assistant/CIO’s office was rejected by Congress, so the Navy went to “plan B,” Modly said. The Navy will still elevate the role and place four directorates under its purview, but without the need of congressional approval. The four directorates will be led by a chief technology officer, chief digital strategy officer, chief data officer and chief information security officer.

The office will be in the Pentagon’s E ring, a part of the building generally reserved for senior officials. The Navy is recruiting both internal and external hires for the 15-to-20-person office.

“There’s just a lot more expertise outside this building than there is inside this building,” Modly said of bringing in outside talent.

Some of the work currently taken up by the chief management officer will migrate to the new CIO role. The four directorates will also absorb some of the work done in other parts of the Navy.


The CTO will focus on acquisitions and prorates on technical infrastructure. The chief digital strategy officer will be in charge of innovating and moving to a “digital era,” Modly said. The Chief data officer will be in charge of ensuring the mountains of data the Navy has can be converted into useable information and help advance technology like artificial intelligence. The CISO will be in charge of taking a more proactive approach to cybersecurity.

Modly said the new role will differ from the Department of Navy CIO role of years past. “The previous DON CIO billet from my perspective was more of a compliance shop and less of a proactive developing strategy for the department,” he said. “So it’s going to be far more strategic than I think the former DON CIO office was. I think also we’re trying to attract private-sector talent into this as well, and so we’ve got some authorities that we can use not just for hiring but also for compensation that the congress has written into law within the last couple of years that we’re going to try and leverage that as well.”

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