Originally Broadcast February 9, 2008
Voice-Over: Welcome to The Business of Government Hour, a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. The Business of Government Hour is produced by The IBM Center for The Business of Government, which was created in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness.
You can find out more about the Center by visiting us on the web at businessofgovernment.org.
And now, The Business of Government Hour.
Mr. Morales: Good morning. This is Albert Morales, your host, and managing partner of the IBM Center for The Business of Government.
Today, U.S. Department of Energy stands at the forefront of advancing the national, economic, and energy security of the United States, while promoting scientific and technological innovation. In doing so, it relies heavily on the use of advanced information technologies.
With us this morning to discuss the Department of Energy's IT strategy is our special guest, Tom Pyke, chief information officer at the U.S. Department of Energy.
Good morning, Tom.
Mr. Pyke: Good morning, Albert.
Mr. Morales: Also joining us in our conversation is Pete Boyer, director in IBM's federal civilian industry practice.
Good morning, Pete.
Mr. Boyer: Good morning, Al.
Mr. Morales: Tom, I always like to start by providing our listeners some context about the organization, in this case, the Department of Energy. Can you take a few minutes to give us an overview of Energy's history and its mission?
Mr. Pyke: The Department of Energy's mission is to advance the nation's energy and nuclear security. We also work to strengthen the nation's capability to make scientific discoveries. And as a result, we strengthen economic competitiveness through scientific and technological innovation.
As a part of this mission, we ensure that our nation has reliable nuclear weapons as a deterrent if we ever need them, and we lead international nuclear non-proliferation efforts. We also protect the environment by providing a responsible solution to the environmental legacy of nuclear weapons production.
The Department recognizes that energy helps drive the U.S. economy, as well as the global economy. Energy has a significant impact on our quality of life and the health of our people. So the Department is focused on diversifying America's energy supply, improving our energy efficiency, modernizing our country's energy infrastructure and addressing environmental and climate change.
Our programs support the diversification of energy supply, moving toward alternate sources such as nuclear and hydrogen, as well as renewable resources such as biomass, wind, and solar energy. We do this by supporting the development of economically competitive fuels and technologies.
Much of the Department's mission requires cutting-edge technologies and world-class science, both of which are important to U.S. global economic competitiveness. DOE makes major strategic investments in the nature of future competitiveness by providing over half of the federal funding of physical sciences research. This includes support of basic energy sciences, biological and environmental sciences, and advanced computational sciences through its leadership-class high performance computing.
A key part of DOE's nuclear security mission is our nuclear stockpile stewardship program, which evolves from the Manhattan Project and that race to develop an atomic bomb during World War II. I think the Department of Energy is very exciting, and I'm very pleased to be a part of the DOE team.
Mr. Morales: Great. Now Tom, this is a very critical and a broad subject area, energy. So can you provide us a sense of the scale over at the Department? Could you tell us how it's organized, the size of the budget, as well as number of full-time federal employees as well as contractors?
Mr. Pyke: The Department has a budget of about $24 billion, and we have about 14,000 federal employees and over 100,000 scientists, engineers and other staff at the DOE national laboratories. And all of these contractual employees are supporting our DOE mission.
DOE headquarters here in Washington provides the programmatic oversight for carrying out all parts of our mission. Secretary Sam Bodman and Deputy Secretary Clay Sell guide the entire Department, assisted by three Under Secretaries who manage DOE's nuclear security, energy security, and science programs.
The programs are carried out largely by contractors through our 27 national laboratories as well as at manufacturing and process plants and other facilities across the country. We have a number of headquarters staff offices, including the Office of the Chief Information Officer.
Mr. Boyer: Tom, now that you've provided us with a sense of the larger organization, perhaps you could tell us more about your area and role within the Department. Specifically, what are your responsibilities and duties as the chief information officer, and could you tell us about the areas under your purview, how you're organized, the size of your staff and budget?
Mr. Pyke: As the CIO, I'm responsible for ensuring that DOE has the best information technology in place to improve the way we carry out our mission, and to do so at the lowest cost. I oversee the IT capital investment control process, enterprise architecture, IT operations for the federal side of DOE, and especially important these days, cyber security. I serve as the IT or information technology advisor to the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary.
Mr. Boyer: Great. Now, regarding your responsibilities and duties, what are the top three challenges that you face in your position, and how do you address those challenges?
Mr. Pyke: Our top challenges are improving cyber security protection of our systems and data, improving the way we manage our IT capital investments, and improving the way we serve our IT customers.
We have in place a comprehensive cyber security program that provides a management and technical foundation for protecting the Department's IT systems, our networks, and our information against well over a million cyber attacks every day. We have strengthened the DOE cyber security program over the last two years, with new DOE-wide policies, stronger defense and depth and stronger DOE-wide cyber security instant handling capabilities.
We have also strengthened our IT capital investment control processes, with increased systematic use of Earned Value Management and quarterly internal reviews of all projects. For the last two years, I'm pleased to report that the Office of Management and Budget has determined that all our IT business cases are acceptable by their review standards, and none of our projects are on OMB's watch-list.
We consider this a major achievement. We employ our enterprise architecture process as we managed our IT investment portfolio, and OMB again has assigned DOE a high maturity score for our enterprise architecture, including the way we use it to manage IT in the Department. We have also improved our service to our DOE IT customers, those who receive desk-type support, and data center support for applications, e-mail, and internet access.
We have much stronger cyber security in place for our users, and we have benefited from an independent survey of customer satisfaction conducted last year that showed our customer service was well above average -- in some cases, almost world-class -- but it also provided us information on things that we could improve.
Mr. Morales: That's a great accomplishment. Tom, you spent over 30 years in federal service across a few departments. So I'm curious, could you tell us a little bit about how you got started and what brought you over to DOE?
Mr. Pyke: I began my career at the National Bureau of Standards, now known as the National Institute of Standards and Technology. I began my work there right out of high school before I even was an undergraduate at Carnegie Tech, now Carnegie Mellon University, and I worked summers as a student, while going to Carnegie Tech and while I was working on my bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, and also while I worked towards my master's degree at the University of Pennsylvania.
I led the development of operating system software; I designed computer hardware and performed research, including research on computer network performance measurement. I also led the development of federal information processing standards, and led consulting services on the effective application of IT for other federal agencies.
I'd like to note here that I was involved in the early days of the ARPANET, which evolved into the internet, as a member of the group that developed the network protocols that made that network work. You could say that the folks in that room had a little part in inventing the internet.
After several years leading research projects, developing standards and consulting, I became director of the then-Bureau of Standards Center for Computer Systems Engineering, and later, director of the Center for Programming Science and Technology.
I moved to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, as assistant administrator for satellite and information services. I led the nation's weather satellite program, the LANDSAT program and NOAA's environmental data centers. While at NOAA, I created and led NOAA's high performance computing and communications program, and I became NOAA's first chief information officer.
I also created and led an international science and education program for students called Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment, or GLOBE. The GLOBE program is currently in place in over 20,000 schools in 109 countries, where students are learning about the environment through hands-on measurement, and using the internet to share their data with each other and with professional scientists.
Six years ago, I became CIO of the Department of Commerce. That Department includes both NISC and NOAA. A little over two years ago, I came to the Department of Energy as the CIO. I came to DOE because of the excitement of its world-class science and scientists, the importance of its mission, and because I was very impressed by its leadership, especially Secretary Bodman.
I've especially enjoyed meeting our scientists and science leaders at DOE's national laboratories and learning firsthand about their work. They're among the best and the brightest in the world, and they carry out very important scientific discovery efforts.
Mr. Morales: Tom, that's a very rich set of experiences. I'm curious, as you reflect back on those experiences, how have they prepared you for your current leadership role and shaped your current management style and way of thinking?
Mr. Pyke: Beginning my career at a research institution, the National Bureau of Standards, I've a basic tendency to trust folks and to take a collegial approach to getting work done. Over the years, I've modified my behavior so that I can provide strong direction as appropriate and take strong actions if that direction isn't followed.
But I'm still basically a trusting soul, and I think that works well at DOE. My style is to apply just enough organization, just enough discipline, to get the job done. My personal style is one of motivating and cheerleading, but in a firm way.
My broad technical background I believe is very important to me to function effectively as CIO. The field of information technology is so complex, and our organization, the Department of Energy, is so diverse, it's so large and it's so complex, it's important to have a firm understanding of what is being done with regard to the use of information technology and plans for its future use, and to be able to understand that, to be able to manage it well. That doesn't mean micromanaging, but it does mean being fully prepared to dig into the details, if necessary.
Mr. Morales: That's a great balance.
What about Energy's IT strategy? We will ask Tom Pyke, Chief Information Officer at the U.S. Department of Energy to share with us, when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.
Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Tom Pyke, Chief Information Officer at the U.S. Department of Energy.
Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Pete Boyer.
Tom, I'd like to learn a little more about the IT strategy over at Energy, specifically how have you sought to modernize and standardize the use of technology so that it benefits both the Department and the constituents it serves as well as aligning resources across the Department's strategic goals?
Mr. Pyke: Al, let me begin by speaking for a bit about how I managed that at the Commerce Department before I came to DOE.
While leading IT at the Commerce Department, I developed approaches that worked in a federated environment, with the use of Department-wide standards and guidance, by giving each organization, each bureau or administration within the Department adequate flexibility to adapt common guidance to their missions. And that is a good starter when addressing IT management at the Department of Energy, I believe.
But after I arrived at DOE, I learned what a true federated organization is. Each major DOE program has its priorities and management style, and in some cases -- for example, for the National Nuclear Security Administration -- a special legislative mandate that gives it a high degree of independence.
I also learned firsthand about how world-class science is carried out on contract by DOE's 27 national laboratories, and how Nobel Prize winners or prospective Nobel Prize winners considered unnecessary discipline in the management of IT as an impediment for them to accomplish their programmatic goals. And I understand that and appreciate it. I should mention that indeed we're proud of the fact that over 82 individuals associated with the Department have Nobel prizes already.
I visited many of our laboratories and met with the leaders of the labs, and I've heard firsthand about the importance of research they're conducting, and I've been very impressed. I've also been impressed by the highly capable CIOs that each of the labs has, and how well each of them is doing and managing IT, both on their own and following policies and guidance from DOE.
The key to managing IT at DOE is to insist on just enough DOE-wide common direction or policy, and just enough discipline to ensure that IT capital investment is managed well on both the federal and contractor sides, and to ensure that sufficient attention is paid to cyber security management, technical and operational controls protecting all systems and data, and in other key areas.
One way to do this is by applying our DOE enterprise architecture, which is the blueprint for IT acquisition and management in the Department. The enterprise architecture is fully aligned to the DOE strategic plan, including our strategic goals.
Mr. Morales: Tom, I'd like to explore this area a bit more, because as you described in the last segment, Energy's mission - obviously, it's very complex, very diverse. So I'd like to learn a little bit more on how you foster this enterprise view of technology versus a stovepipe view of IT, which again, given the diversity, would seem like it would be very easy to fall into that mode.
Mr. Pyke: We're guided by our enterprise architecture, and we have identified what needs to be done in the same way across our large diverse Department and what can be managed on a -- let me call it one-size-doesn't-fit-all basis. We have standardized on our primary administrative functions to an implementation of a set of common administrative services in a package called I-MANAGE.
Our office has established nine enterprise-wide software license agreements that have resulted in lower costs Department-wide. We have an IT Council comprised of the IT leaders of every DOE program area. And we have empowered this Council to oversee certain DOE-wide management tasks, such as reviewing the results of applying earned value management to IT development projects, especially if the results are beginning to get out of line. We have established DOE-wide standards where appropriate, including DOE-wide cyber security requirements that represent the minimum of what needs to be done. Each program is free to add to those but not weaken them.
Mr. Morales: Just to take a balanced view for a moment, could you just quickly describe what might be some of the benefits and possible limitations inherent to this federated IT management approach?
Mr. Pyke: In my opinion, no other approach would work effectively for DOE. I've talked to previous DOE CIOs, including some who have tried to foster a centralized approach to managing IT in DOE, and they wound up being rebuffed by the fundamental nature of the agency, including the fact that by far the majority of the work at DOE as a whole is done by our laboratories, which are as I said before contractor operations.
I've listened to our program leaders at headquarters and in the field and consulted with our talented Office of the CIO staff, and have moved ahead employing a federated approach that I believe is being quite successful.
Based on my experience, I believe that a governance structure has to match the fundamental nature of an organization. There's always room for strong leadership to change the culture, and we're doing so in some ways. But that may not be desirable or effective if there are inherent limitations because of the structure or other fundamental factors associated with the organization itself.
I mentioned earlier the National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA, which is a large part of DOE. There's legislation that prohibits anyone other than the Secretary or Deputy Secretary from directing NNSA to do anything. And even they're limited to providing policy direction.
I'm pleased to say, however, that because of enlightened management within NNSA and a cordial productive working relationship between the NNSA management and DOE management, NNSA voluntarily adopts most of the directions and guidance that's mandatory for the rest of the Department, including directions relative to IT capital investment management and cyber security.
Mr. Boyer: Tom, continuing on this theme, your Department spends approximately $2.5 billion a year in information technology. Now, you've mentioned the IT capital investment process and the importance of that.
Would you elaborate on how you strengthened the Department's IT capital investment process to ensure that the investment decisions are mission-aligned and cost-justified, and to what extent have you mapped proposed investments to the agency-wide enterprise architecture strategy?
Mr. Pyke: Our enterprise architecture is the primary guidance that we use every day in the Department, and we continue to strengthen it, including strengthening how we use it.
The IT capital investment management process is guided by the architecture, and it uses the architecture as we review the individual project of plants and as we review the performance against each of the plants.
We carry out earned value management activities associated with the large development projects, and we use the architecture to guide that, and we use the architecture to help make sure we're pointed in the right direction and keep on-target against our high-level goals.
We have provided strong encouragement throughout the Department to use the capital investment business cases as management tools so that we're in fact managing our portfolio - investments as a portfolio, with good results.
Mr. Boyer: Now, the e-Government initiative is a critical component of the President's Management Agenda. Would you tell us about your Department's efforts in this area? What are some of the challenges you faced, and what remains to be done?
Mr. Pyke: Many of our IT modernization efforts leverage government-wide e-Government initiatives. We're participants in fact in 18 e-Gov initiatives, including e-Rulemaking, Business Gateway, grants.gov, e-Training, Recruitment One-Stop, e-Travel and e-Authentication. You could say our middle name is E-Gov.
And in fact, we take it very seriously, but we see real benefits to participating as a partner with other agencies in these e-Gov initiatives. We also participate in the financial management line of business, the grants management, human resources, geospatial and information system security lines of business. Through participating in these initiatives and these lines of business, we support both the President's Management Agenda and we improve DOE IT operations.
One of the initial challenges we faced was to identify those legacy investments within our IT portfolio that should be aligned for migration to an e-Government solution. Any migration or replacement initiative can indeed be challenging. But when you factor in IT solutions that are being developed and managed by other federal organizations, the migration process becomes critical.
I believe we have made good progress in this area for many of the e-Government initiatives, and that we're receiving the benefits of our participation in the e-Gov initiatives and in turn contributing to the overall government-wide benefit.
Mr. Boyer: Terrific. Tom, given the complexity and importance of DOE's numerous unique multimillion dollar projects, from an IT operations perspective, how has your Department's sought to improve its project management discipline for monitoring project performance?
Mr. Pyke: We have encouraged the culture of project management by professionals. Our project managers are required to be certified, to have substantial training to the extent that are certified as project managers, and to employ the expertise they have developed in that process to give a great deal of attention to both the big picture and the details in managing each project.
I've already referred to our quarterly reviews of all IT capital investment projects, and I referred to the use of the tool known as earned value management for projects of significant size or risk, and to the oversight by our DOE IT Council that helps when projects may at the very beginning stages be getting out of line.
My staff in the Office of the CIO pays a great deal of attention to each project during the quarterly reviews that we conduct, and in fact, we even have an internal score card that we provide to the various programs in the Department based on their progress and their performance in IT capital investment, management, as well as in other areas such as enterprise architecture and cyber security.
So it's a combination of all these tools applied on a continuing basis that have I believe led to having the investment management process on a project-by-project basis be accepted across the entire Department, and to have it internalized to the point at which the documentation associated with the projects, the processes that we have imposed and in some cases were imposed on us are really leading to better management of the project themselves.
Mr. Morales: Tom, I'd imagine that one of the keys to success of operating one of these federated models is helping the staff recognize that they're in fact part of a much broader enterprise. So I'm curious, to this end, what are some of the push-backs that you encounter as a CIO?
Mr. Pyke: I'm glad you asked that, Al.
In the very important area -- cyber security, for example, almost everything we do to protect our systems and data interferes in some way with the performance of our scientific programs. You may recall I mentioned earlier that we have these wonderful scientists in our laboratories who are intent on doing their job, and to them, imposing discipline to manage IT, which is only one component of the world they live in, has the potential to interfere with that next Nobel Prize that they're working on.
When I as CIO imposed longer passwords, or the use of something called two-factor authentication, where we take into account something you know and something you have before providing access to a system or network, it's an imposition on these folks.
When we demand that everyone have extensive awareness training in cyber security, to sensitize them to the importance of not clicking on e-mail attachments, or not clicking on internet addresses or URLs in an e-mail or any e-mail that might in any way be suspect, that's an imposition on folks. We're taking their time, we're taking their energy; we're slowing down their ability to get their job done. And to make things worse, it costs the programs and it costs the labs to implement a lot of the things that we say are essential from a cyber security standpoint.
So we have a lot of selling to do. It's not just telling, it's also selling to help people understand why it is that we need to take all of these protective measures, and why it's in everyone's own good and in the good of their programs and their projects to take these steps. So bringing leadership at all levels on board in cyber security and other areas is important, and helping them to understand the importance of cyber security and how it will help them get their job done better.
For example, I've been talking with scientists about how adequate cyber security helps protect the integrity of the science process; it helps them provide better results that they in turn share with other scientists, and as well as protecting extremely sensitive information that they may be working with as they perform their job. We have found that outreach and open communications can go a long way toward bringing people along to follow direction and guidance.
For example, the DOE Office of Science has conducted cyber security site assistance visits to the science laboratories, providing help in applying good cyber security management practices. This help was welcomed by the labs, and in fact in my visits there, they were enthusiastic about this help from Washington that was really helpful.
And they really appreciated it, and for those labs that I visited who hadn't had their visits yet, they were looking forward to those visits. In my opinion, those visits helped result in significant improvements in cyber security at those laboratories.
And on another front, we've had a great deal of success in our efforts to centralize IT support for the federal side of DOE. This began as an A-76 effort to consolidate deskside and other IT support on the federal side. The winner in the competition was an innovative team that combined federal and contractual resources.
As you might imagine, the field wasn't exactly excited about having Washington manage their IT operations for them, or at least that's how they perceived this centralized operation of IT services. But the team has rolled out its support for most of DOE headquarters, and it's now beginning rolling the support in the field. There are over 8,000 seats of IT support at headquarters and the filed supported in this way, and this has resulted in a documented cost-avoidance of $80 million over the last few years, and that number will increase over time.
The Under Secretary-level program managers have made business decisions to expand the application of this centralized IT support based on their evaluation of performance and cost, and outreach to the field is bringing many of these folks around to understand the benefits of this approach.
So it's not just about imposing the will of the CIO or other senior agency officials, it's about selling people on the benefits of following direction. It's motivating people -- as Secretary Bodman, Secretary Of Energy Bodman says -- motivating people to do the right thing.
Mr. Morales: What about Energy's cyber security efforts?
We will ask Tom Pyke, Chief Information Officer at the U.S. Department of Energy, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.
Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Tom Pyke, Chief Information Officer at the U.S. Department of Energy.
Also joining us on our conversation from IBM is Pete Boyer. Tom, the information-based technologies that support Energy's scientific, defense, energy, and environmental missions have made the Department and its labs an increasingly attractive target for those who seek its technologies and the national security information.
Could you elaborate on some of the critical security threats and challenges facing your Department and the IT infrastructure?
Mr. Pyke: As I mentioned earlier, Al, we're attacked in one place or the other across the country in the DOE complex by hackers millions of times every day. Some of these attacks are simply scans, the absolute minimum intrusiveness in terms of the nature of the scan or the nature of the attack. Others of the attacks are very sophisticated.
We have a defense-in-depth in place, including firewalls and intrusion detection systems, and even special sensors outside our firewalls that help us defend against these attackers. We also use commercial virus detection software and other commercial software that helps us identify and protect against a very large percentage of these attacks.
Fortunately, most of these attacks are not very sophisticated, and our defenses deal with them easily many times a day. But the most sophisticated attackers have the potential to get through and to compromise our systems and data.
So we have to be vigilant, working hard to keep ahead of attackers as they get even better at what they do day by day and week by week. We have teams of cyber security experts at our various sites across the country, and we have a Department-wide cyber forensics task force that works to analyze and deflect the most complex attacks that we receive.
Mr. Morales: Secretary Bodman has also gone on record as saying, "Revitalizing DOE's cyber security program is the best way to ensure that we continue to protect our Department's assets and the nation."
So with this, how has DOE, your cyber security revitalization plan, enabled your Department to strengthen its cyber security protocols and better secure the Department's infrastructure?
Mr. Pyke: When I arrived at DOE two years ago, I found that a lot of the basics of cyber security were in place, and that we had a lot of very bright people at headquarters, and especially in the field, helping us protect our systems and data. But we were not organized to marshal the forces to put all the pieces together into a comprehensive effective program. So we stepped back and we created a cyber security revitalization plan, as we called it, which enabled us to involve everyone in cyber security.
Everyone, including the Secretary, the Deputy Secretary, each Under Secretary, accepted a leadership goal to improve the way cyber security is managed across the Department. Each Under Secretary has a special role and accepts the responsibility for managing cyber security within that Under Secretary's organization based on risk, and subject to certain common ingredients that cut across cyber security across the Department, some of which cut across government-wide.
We developed a new cyber security policy in over 20 policy guidance documents covering every aspect of cyber security. We issued a new, very much updated national security systems manual, which substantially strengthened the protection required for our classified systems and information. We took steps to improve risk based Department-wide certification and accreditation processes for systems, using newly issued guidance and through the site assistance visits that I mentioned earlier.
I should mention that as of this last September, in the last cyber security report prepared by DOE's Inspector General, the quality of our certification and accreditation processes were determined to have reached a satisfactory level for the first time ever. We enhanced the defense-in-depth of our DOE systems and networks, including taking such steps as segmenting or separating parts of our networks, adding still more intrusion detection systems, and replacing older, more vulnerable system software.
We created the DOE-wide cyber forensics team that I mentioned earlier, a team that focuses on the most serious cyber threats and attacks that we face, analyzing them in great depth and improving our protection on the fly day by day. We created special guidance and reporting processes to give protection for sensitive and classified information, including personally identifiable information.
The Department's cyber security posture is much stronger than it was two years ago, but we still have a long way to go, in part, because as I like to say, the bad guys are continually getting badder, and our defenses have to be continually improved. It's kind of a cat-and-mouse game, and we can't afford to lose, because we have so much sensitive information that we must protect and protect well.
Mr. Boyer: Tom, that's very impressive. On a kind of a similar line, but a little bit of a change of subject, would you elaborate on your efforts to make DOE a model within federal government for energy efficiency, and to what extent does this involve movement toward green computing?
Mr. Pyke: We have for a long time at the Department of Energy acquired energy efficient IT equipment. And we operate it in an energy efficient way. For example, we turn off all our PCs at night, and if individuals don't turn them off, we turn them off for them. And we configure them while they're on to use as little energy as possible.
We received during the past year three awards for going green with DOE IT. The DOE Headquarters' Green Team received a White House Award for its acquisition of energy efficient equipment, for our energy efficient IT operations, and for disposing of IT equipment in an environmentally sound way.
We're now beginning a pilot at DOE Headquarters for the use of what is called Thin-Client Technology. This is technology in which the PC disappears and basically makes its way to the backroom. We believe that this technology has the potential to reduce significantly the amount of energy consumed, and at the same time to improve our cyber security protection. We're also looking at the future use of fuel cell technology for our data center, which we believe will make possible substantial reduction of energy use for powering data center equipment and the associated air conditioning systems.
Mr. Boyer: As a follow-up, could you tell us more about your efforts to move toward a Thin Client ,and maybe a little more of a description on the Thin-Client Technology, how it differs from your current operating environment, but also elaborate on the benefits of going in this direction and the status of this program at DOE?
Mr. Pyke: Thin-client computing takes the computing that now occurs in a user's office in his or her PC and moves it to the backroom, to the data center. The user still has a monitor and a keyboard and a mouse; we would be lost without them. But instead of having a PC, there is a little box that conducts through the network to a server computer in the data center. Each server computer can support many hundreds of users in this way, providing the same level or performance as each user currently experiences.
A 60-watt PC is replaced by a 6-watt thin-client box. The server in the data center and the equipment around it may use a few more watts than it otherwise would. So the net energy savings is substantial, and we will be substantial beneficiaries in terms of the overall energy consumption as a result of using this technology if it proves to work as advertised and as we believe it will work.
Most of the cyber attacks that we receive are at least partially successful or targeted toward individual PCs. If the PC isn't there, it can't be attacked. The server computer back in the data center can have stronger defenses, which minimizes the likelihood of a successful attack.
We're well-along planning a pilot of this technology, and we expect to have at least 50 Thin Clients in use as a part of a pilot within the next few months. If the pilot is successful, we will roll out this technology more broadly to our thousands of users in the Washington area and beyond.
Mr. Boyer: Excellent. Now, continuing on the technology theme, the Department is expanding the capability of world-class scientific research through advances in high-performance computing, and the application of computers capable of many trillions of operations per second.
Would you elaborate on DOE's efforts around high-performance computing, specifically, how's the Department making use of these advances, and what role does your office play in assisting the DOE's Office of Science?
Mr. Pyke: Well, Pete, I think this is one of the most exciting things about the Department of Energy, and of course, my middle name is high-performance computing, or supercomputers. I've spent some of my years working in this area.
Mr. Boyer: I didn't see that on your bio.
Mr. Pyke: In support of our mission, the Department of Energy operates 6 of the 11 most powerful supercomputers in the world, including the very highest-performing computer BlueGene/L, located at our Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Our scientists have been quite successful applying these machines to advanced scientific tasks, including modeling climate change and modeling the performance of nuclear weapons sufficiently well to eliminate the need to actually test the physical weapons themselves.
The scientific results have been so significant that our science leaders believe that major advances in science in many areas will now be achieved by a combination of theory, laboratory experimentation, and computer modeling. The high-performance computer is already playing a very significant role in scientific discovery.
Mr. Morales: Tom, under the National Nuclear Security Administration, you mentioned earlier that DOE is responsible for the maintenance, certification and reliability of our nuclear weapons stockpile.
Given the importance and complexity of your Department's role in ensuring the vitality of the nuclear stockpile, from an IT perspective, how does your office work with the NNSA, and to what extent does it assist the NNSA with this critical mission?
Mr. Pyke: NNSA is a very important part of the Department, and our office works very closely with NNSA, its senior management, including its CIO. NNSA participates with the rest of the Department in IT capital investment management, enterprise architecture, and cyber security management.
And I'd like to point out that with regard to high-performance computing, a number of these very high-performance computers are in NNSA and NNSA labs, and an increasing number of them are in this Office of Science labs. And our office plays a role in helping to coordinate overall high-performance computing activities across the Department, and looking for opportunities to improve the way we manage our computers and the way we share the computers themselves and the expertise associated with the computers.
Mr. Morales: Now, earlier, Tom, you had described to us when you were describing the overall organization at DOE, I believe you mentioned 14,000 federal employees and I think it was 100,000 contract employees.
Could you tell us how federal managers can effectively manage this ever-increasing blended workforce, composed of both contractors and federal workers?
Mr. Pyke: We need to have a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of each of the players: the government leaders and government organizations and the contractors and contractor employees. We obviously need good contractors, but that's not enough.
Consistent with ethical and contractual propriety, we have established and need to continue working on effective partnerships for the government leaders, the government employees, to work as partners with our contractors and contract employees, to be able to get our entire mission accomplished.
This is not easy to do, especially since 90 percent of DOE is in the field and 90 percent of our work is performed by contractors. It's further complicated by the fact that our wonderful laboratories are quite independent in their outlook. That's really a virtue in my opinion, but it also complicates the way in which we have to manage -- again with just enough discipline, just enough organization.
Much of the work is performed by brilliant, very dedicated scientists, who by the nature of their work need to function as independently as possible. So for us to be able to accomplish our work, including the proper care and feeding of all of these brilliant scientists, we need to find the right balance of government oversight, federal oversight, and contractor performance in a way that meets everyone's expectations.
Mr. Morales: It certainly is a delicate balance.
What does the future hold for the U.S. Department of Energy's IT function? We will ask Tom Pyke, Chief Information Officer of the U.S. Department of Energy, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.
Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Tom Pyke, Chief Information Officer at the U.S. Department of Energy.
Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is Pete Boyer.
Tom, given the critical role information technology plays in mission and program delivery, could you give us a view of how the role of the CIO has been evolving, and what are the key characteristics of a successful CIO in the future?
Mr. Pyke: Let me go back to the mid '90s, when there were no CIOs, certainly no federal CIOs. This was an idea that the federal government adopted from the private sector, and in my opinion has put to good use -- where agencies have taken maximum of advantage of having a CIO has been those cases where, as we do at DOE, where the CIO is a player, a member of the senior management team, and reports directly to the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary and has a seat at the table.
So CIOs, IT management has gone from the mid '90s when we had staff-level IT resource managers, to CIOs who are truly organizational managers -- partners with the program managers in each organization. I believe a CIO can function best if he or she functions as a leader, not just a manager.
I believe a CIO needs a strong technology base -- yes, I'm a little biased on that front -- but I really think it helps to be able to understand and appreciate what we're doing both in terms of the current technology that we're applying as well as evaluating new technology that we're considering the future use of.
It's very important to have well-developed communication skills, including interpersonal communication skills. I believe it's very important to be able to motivate people, and it's also important to be able to compromise, and to be willing to compromise when appropriate, yet be firm when necessary.
Mr. Boyer: Tom, continuing our focus on the future, can you give us a sense of some of the key issues that will affect CIOs government-wide over the next couple of years? Specifically, what emerging technologies hold the most promise for improving federal IT, and what advice would you've for the next administration in this area?
Mr. Pyke: Across the government, we will be facing changing program requirements, as we have in the past. Some of these will be as a result of new legislative mandates; some of them will result from priorities, new priorities of the new administration.
We will be attempting to improve the way IT is used to help agencies perform their mission, or their newly re-defined mission in some cases, and we will continue to be attempting to work together in a way that makes sense within agencies and across agencies to make sure that we don't reinvent the wheel unnecessarily or duplicate effort with individual agency applications.
This is where enterprise architecture fits in. This is where the current e-Gov efforts fit in, the government-wide e-Gov efforts. There, attempts to minimize duplication of effort for us each to be able to focus on what should be common, and to give special attention to the things that are unique in terms of each agency function.
I believe agencies will continue to struggle with major system development efforts, for many of the same reasons that they have struggled in the past. Requirements may not be adequately defined at the beginning. There may be requirements creep during the development process: over-ambitious efforts try to do too much at one time.
So it's imperative that CIOs and the folks supporting them be guided by an overarching enterprise architecture, and that for every IT project that be a strong configuration control process that guides changes in a way that minimize adverse impacts of those changes.
All federal CIOs have to be on the lookout for signs that requirements may be changing or may be creeping in, and that they need to take control or push back in order to assure that things stay on track.
I'd advise future government-wide IT leaders to look carefully at past federal government experience, as well as private sector experience, to look at the fundamental nature of managing IT in the federal environment and what's unique about it, so as to try to stimulate continuing improvements that work well for federal agencies.
I think the current processes in place to oversee IT project management in the federal government are good. And I think that the efforts to insist on solid enterprise architectures across the government are meeting with increasing success, and I believe they should continue to be accorded high priority.
Mr. Boyer: Great. Tom, more specifically, what are some of the major opportunities and challenges your organization at DOE will encounter in the future, and how do you envision your office will evolve over the next five years?
Mr. Pyke: I predict that we will continue to wrestle with cyber security, and that's an easy prediction. The bad guys will continue to get badder, or if you like smarter. New software that we're very dependent on to carry our mission will continue to come with built-in vulnerabilities that will only be found and corrected one at a time over the lifetime of the software no matter how much initial testing has been done. It's the nature of the beast, unfortunately.
Our defenses will be stronger yet, and they will have to be. We in the federal government will be working together within each Department, including across the entire DOE and across the government, so that we're able to better defend against increasingly more sophisticated threats. New technology will provide us new opportunities as well as new challenges to select and deploy it in a way that leads to improved service to customers at reduced cost.
We will be challenged by fast-moving technology, and even more -- let's call it ubiquitous computing. Computing already is everywhere, but you ain't seen nothing yet. Everything about what we do and how we do it at work and at home will have computing involved in some way or another, and we need to face that; and in the federal environment, we need to manage that.
Over the next five years, we'll be moving to still another level of maturity in our ability to manage new technology in an evolutionary way, I believe, without disrupting services and by introducing new capabilities in an evolutionary way, rather than all of a sudden switching to a new system in a way that causes everyone to have to get totally retrained or reoriented. We will continue to stay on top of IT capital investment management, and be even in a better position to exploit our enterprise architecture as the driving force for making key program and IT decisions.
Mr. Morales: Tom, we haven't touched upon this yet, but if we look into the near future, we typically ask our guests about the government employee pending retirement wave.
How are you handling the pending retirement wave, and what's your organization doing to ensure that you've the right mix to meet some of the challenges that you described?
Mr. Pyke: We have been giving a lot of attention to succession planning, in addition to recruiting new blood to be prepared to step in as some of us who have been around for a while decide to leave the workforce. We need to continue to give this a high priority. We need to use training and developmental assignments to make sure that we have good people who are well-prepared to meet our future needs.
Mr. Morales: Tom, given your extensive career in the public sector, I'm curious what advice might you give a person who is out there and may be considering a career in public service, perhaps in information technology.
Mr. Pyke: Well, the federal government is a challenging environment, and I personally have found that it's very exciting. I've been in multiple agencies. I've had a number of different jobs, perhaps one every four to five years or so as I've moved up and moved over, and I think that folks out there who are considering a career and career choices or a sub-career, because as I understand, in the coming ages, each of us will probably have many careers -- either serial or in parallel -- over a lifetime.
I believe that it's a great way to spend a lifetime devoted to things that really matter to this country by serving in the federal government, and to have a lot of fun. At the same time, a lot of self-fulfillment, and to be directly involved in leading a large number of tasks that involve the latest technology. It's an opportunity to be on the leading edge and to do something very worthwhile.
Based on my experience, I'd recommend a career or a sub-career to folks, a career in the federal service and the federal government as one that would have a great deal of personal satisfaction.
Mr. Morales: Tom, that's a wonderful perspective. Unfortunately, we have reached the end of our time. I want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule. But more importantly, Pete and I'd like to thank you for your dedicated service to our country over the 30-plus years you've had in federal service.
Mr. Pyke: Thank you very much, Al and Pete. And I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you here this morning. I'd like to invite your listeners to visit the Department of Energy at doe.gov, our very fine website, and I hope that as individuals read about us on the web and learn more about DOE in the future, that they will be just as excited about the importance of what we're doing at DOE and how well we're doing it, as I am.
Mr. Morales: That's great. Thank you.
This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Tom Pyke, Chief Information Officer at the U.S. Department of Energy. My co-host has been Pete Boyer, director in IBM's federal civilian industry practice.
As you enjoy the rest of your day, please take time to remember the men and women of our armed and civil services abroad who may not be able to hear this morning's show on how we're improving their government, but who deserve our unconditional respect and support. For The Business of Government Hour, I'm Albert Morales. Thank you for listening.
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