Pentagon bringing on executive known for JPMorgan cloud push

By Justin Doubleday  / April 5, 2018

The Pentagon is enlisting Dana Deasy, a longtime corporate executive known for pushing large companies to embrace innovation, to tackle some of the Defense Department's most pressing technology challenges, including cloud computing.

While the Pentagon declined to comment on Deasy's exact role, sources with knowledge of the appointment expect it to be announced today. Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan first referenced the appointment last week, when he said Deasy would be joining DOD to tackle its IT challenges.

"He managed 43,000 IT professionals," Shanahan said during a March 29 address at the Center for a New American Security in Washington. "He'll be joining us the first part of May."

Deasy declined to comment for this article.

But multiple sources indicated Deasy is expected to be the Trump administration's pick for DOD chief information officer, one of the last remaining senior vacancies at the Pentagon. If so, Deasy would take over for Essye Miller, who has served as acting DOD CIO since December.

(UPDATE: During her weekly press briefing today, Pentagon chief spokeswoman Dana White confirmed Deasy's appointment as DOD CIO). 

Deasy will join the Pentagon as it grapples with a host of technology issues, including a controversial cloud services contract, the modernization of DOD's nuclear command, control and communications systems, and cybersecurity across the DOD enterprise.

But those familiar with his work say Deasy brings a wealth of experience in shepherding large corporations through the modernization of their legacy enterprise IT architectures.

"I'm not sure if there's anyone I can think of who understands large-scale, enterprise complexities like Dana," said Hunter Muller, president of HMG Strategy, an IT executive consulting firm.

Deasy's career spans multiple industries, including stints as CIO at BP, Tyco International, General Motors North America and Siemens Corporation Americas, respectively. Before those executive gigs, Deasy worked as IT director at the Space Systems division of Rockwell International.

He was hired as JPMorgan's CIO in 2013, taking over responsibility for the international bank's technology systems and infrastructure.

During his time there, Deasy led an initiative to push JPMorgan applications into the public cloud during a time when many banks were still queasy about the regulatory and security risks with such a move.

"He has a long track record of doing modernization and transformation work at pretty much everywhere he’s been," an IT industry insider said.

Deasy heads to Washington as the Pentagon is planning its own high-profile move into the cloud. In May, DOD plans to ask companies to bid for a single contract for commercial cloud services that could last up to 10 years.

The contracting strategy has been criticized by many government contractors and industry groups, who fear the award is tailored for commercial cloud behemoth Amazon Web Services, and lawmakers are seeking more information from DOD on its justification for selecting just one cloud provider.

Meanwhile, Oracle chief executive Safra Catz reportedly criticized the Pentagon's cloud strategy during a dinner with President Trump this week, complaining it's designed for Amazon to win.

Managing the increasingly thorny cloud project is expected to be among Deasy's first assignments when he joins the Pentagon.

But the IT industry insider said Deasy's experience in crisis management would help him navigate Washington's divisiveness. The source noted Deasy was at BP during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, joined Tyco after its top two executives were indicted on fraud charges and worked in the Space Systems division of Rockwell Collins during the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.    

"He's very adaptive at managing risks and managing crises," the insider said. "It seems like he's kind of unshakeable."

But Muller, highlighting Deasy's talents with pushing private corporations to modernize their legacy infrastructure, wondered what kind of environment he'll face in Washington.

"It will be interesting to see if he has the right kind of freedom to do what he wants to do or if it's going to be political," he said.

Congress recently elevated the role of the DOD CIO, making it a presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed position, although those changes do not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2019, according to the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.