Capital Business recently interviewed Lawrence, who served as the Army’s chief information officer for nearly three years. What follows are edited excerpts from that conversation:
What did you consider your greatest accomplishment while Army CIO?
I was very excited about the leadership and their understanding of the importance of technology as budgets went down. [The Army secretary] challenged us to return a significant amount of money over the next few years, and it was an absolute great opportunity. [One staff member] pulled all of the phone bills in the Army and made a database of [phones with] low to little usage. She literally saved the Army $14 million a year when we shut those phones off.
So technology became more
of a focus?
The [communications] network was one of the top modernization efforts, not only the technology, but the security threat and the emphasis that we were placing on the defense of our networks. The other initiative I worked during that time was the joint information environment; our ability to be able to deploy anywhere in the world and be able to communicate and share data was a top strategy.
Does that make it easier to
do your job?
We could have the greatest vision. A vision without resources is hallucination, so the ability to make it a top priority was wonderful.
What were the challenges to
modernizing the Army’s IT?
The number one challenge was having people understand when you talk network modernization, what does that mean? What we were able to do was take [a military] installation and say these are your IT capabilities today. When we go in and we upgrade, these are the capabilities you are going to gain. One was we increased by 1,000 times the bandwidth capability. We dramatically increased the security of the network.
It sounds like modernization will only become more difficult as the budget declines.
We have a plan. We can go as quickly as the budget will allow us.
How did technology grow while you were in the Army?
When I came in, I was a stenographer, and the greatest technology trend that happened was the white-out tape on typewriters. We’ve come a long way. I have seen a lot of technology changes and what it can bring to the capability of how our soldiers fight on the battlefield.
What made now the right time
I was at the pinnacle of my career. I was once asked, “Did you ever imagine one day that you would be the CIO of the United States Army?” I said, “It’s unimaginable.”