White House opposes Pentagon CIO reorg in defense bill

The reshaping of the Pentagon CIO’s office proposed in the annual defense policy bill would “complicate rather than improve” oversight of cyber policy and “distract” from the CIO’s current job, the White House said in a statement released as senators debated the legislation Tuesday.

The provision is just one of more than a dozen in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, S. 2943, that the Office of Management and Budget opposed in the statement — which concludes with a veto threat 

Section 903 of the NDAA would establish a new post, the assistant secretary of defense for information, in an effort to improve the Defense Department’s oversight of its cyber activities, which is currently “split between three different organizations in [the office of the secretary of defense],” according to a summary of the bill from the Senate Armed Services Committee. 

The new assistant secretary “would oversee the security of the Department of Defense information network, as well as defense space policy and cyber warfighting activities. This assistant secretary would also serve as the department’s chief information officer.”


But in its Statement of Administration Policy on the bill, OMB comes out swinging against section 903.

It says the new roles of the job overseeing cyber and space warfighting will “potentially distract from the current chief information officer’s position and responsibilities.”

It adds that the new assistant secretary’s responsibilities “would be potentially duplicative” with the current principal cyber adviser and principle space adviser to the secretary of defense.

“While it would combine oversight of cyber policy and information technology, it would complicate, rather than improve, the oversight of U.S. Cyber Command and cyber operations, or U.S. Strategic Command and space operations, with governance of resources, acquisition, and cyber workforce policy fragmented,” reads the statement.

Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee John McCain, R-Ariz., hit back Tuesday afternoon in a press release.


“Like all products of bureaucracy, the Statement of Administration Policy is a sorry defense of the status quo,” he said, accusing officials of “misalignment of authority and accountability.”

“The administration repeatedly misstates and misconstrues provisions of the NDAA,” he charged.

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