With Army’s top IT official exiting, service has two key modernization roles to fill

With Army’s top IT official exiting, service has two key modernization roles to fill
DoDIIS Worldwide Conference Day 2

U.S. Army Chief Information Officer for Information Technology Reform Dr. Raj Iyer speaks during a J2 panel at the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Department of DoDIIS Worldwide Conference, Dec. 14, 2022, at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center in Texas. (Myles Scrinopskie.)

WASHINGTON — The Army’s first chief information officer plans to step down from his position over the next few weeks, a little more than two years after he took over the role and promised to deliver aggressive digital transformation to the service.

The decision by Raj Iyer to step down from his post will leave the Army with acting officials for both the CIO and the service’s Enterprise Cloud Management Agency (ECMA), two key offices for the Army’s attempt at digital modernization. But in comments, Iyer expressed confidence that the work would not hit any major speedbumps.

“With the completion of my contract with the Army, it is now time for me to return to industry where I can take on the next big challenge,” Iyer wrote in a Jan. 4 LinkedIn post. “I will watch the fruits of our work for many years to come from the outside with pride. While so much of what we accomplished is visible now, the biggest accomplishments will not be seen for a few more years.

“The Army is on a strategic sustainable path to transform for the Army of 2030,” he continued. “If I felt that the blood, sweat and tears that we have poured into this could be at risk I would stay on, but as I noted, the current change in our Army is irreversible. My job as the CIO is done when Army senior leaders can explain the Army Digital Transformation Strategy just as well as I. Our Army gets it at all echelons and there is no stopping us now.”

Iyer, who came into the Defense Department from industry, was sworn in as the Army’s first CIO on Nov. 16, 2020 during a time the service was “ages behind the commercial sector but even quite a bit behind the rest of the DoD,” he said.

It’s unclear exactly when Iyer will be leaving his role or whether the Army’s deputy CIO and Chief Data Officer David Markowitz will be acting CIO.

“As I plan to transition over the next few weeks, my priority is to ensure that I support the Army’s efforts to find the next CIO,” Iyer said.

The Army last October publicly unveiled its updated cloud plan, spearheaded by Iyer and Paul Puckett, director of the Army’s Enterprise Cloud Management Agency (ECMA), responsible for all of the service’s cloud activities.

Puckett, who was hired by the service in 2019 from industry, left his role in November after his three-year term ended, DefenseScoop reported. Gregg Judge, deputy director of the ECMA, is currently acting director of the agency. 

Both Iyer and Puckett’s offices are spearheading a new multi-award, multi-vendor contract together this fiscal year worth up to $1 billion to support moving the service’s systems to the cloud that will be quick and cheap and also help the service move toward its goals outlined in its cloud plan.

Iyer announced the new contract, dubbed the Enterprise Application Migration and Modernization contract, during last year’s annual Association of the US Army conference.

“This is going to become the easy button for the Army to actually move to the cloud,” Iyer said Oct. 11. “Because right now, what’s happening is even when we have commands that want to move to the cloud today, there is not one contract that they can go to move to the cloud. So they’re doing a lot of shopping. They got to go to multiple contracting centers to go find the right vehicle and then when they go there it takes them nine months before they actually get on contract.”