John Garing, former Air Force and DISA exec, dies at 78

The winner of partner site GCN's Hall of Fame award in 2010, Garing continued his government IT career with Suss Consulting and Vion Corp.

John Garing has died at 78, but leaves behind a legacy as a mentor to the people around him and a leader always looking for new and better ways to improve government 

He retired from government in 2010 after having served 24 years as an Air Force officer and then another 13 years in the senior executive service the Defense Information Systems Agency, where he was chief information officer and the director for strategic planning and information.

In 2010, he was recognized by our sibling publication GCN with a Hall of Fame award. The award specifically recognized his work aligning DISA’s planning, engineering, acquisition, and operations with the needs of the armed services. In 2009, he received the Fast Company Most Creative People in Business award.

After leaving government, Garing worked for Suss Consulting and then became vice president for Vion Corp. He fully retired in 2017, but only after health complications following back surgery.

In a Facebook post, his daughter Stacy Garing Yentz wrote eloquently about his devotion as a father and the pride he took in his government service.

“He was a family man who instilled in us the great value of family and all the blessings that come with it,” she wrote. “I learned so much from my dad and know that he loved us and is proud of us. Thank you for being the best daddy. We will cherish the memories and the lifelong values.”

The numerous comments in response to her posting illustrate the impact he had on many people’s lives, both professionally and personally.

“I was an executive at (Hewlett-Packard) and Cisco and worked with your Dad when he was at DISA,” wrote Bruce Klein, who ran the federal business for Cisco and HP. “John was an icon and a great man. So glad I got to work with him. He leaves a legacy with his family and those he worked with.”

In a separate email to Washington Technology, Klein said Garing was “creative and innovative and may have been the first to push for storage on demand, a new model at the time. He was a man you could look up to both professionally and personally.”

In an email to Washington Technology, former IBM executive Anne Altman called Garing a “passionate patriot” who took great pride in his time at the Air Force and at DISA. “He worked tirelessly,” she said. “He had immense pride in his team at DISA; he trusted their judgment and cared deeply about their success.”

Altman also noted that Garing had a “quick wit and a kind soul.”

Vion Corp. CEO Tom Frana, Garing's former boss, said he was “loved and respected by everyone.”

Vion was a supplier to Garing at DISA and introduced the idea of a consumption-based model in 1999 or 2000. At the time, Garing asked all his major suppliers to come in a “tell him something he didn’t know.” Garing ran with the idea now known as “as-a-service" and pushed it to the rest of DISA and the Defense Department.

“It is one of the primary procurement methods used today in the federal government and it is DISA’s primary acquisition strategy today,” Frana said.

Over a decade later, Garing was working for Frana as a vice president at Vion. “John was a true road warrior,” he said. “He loved being in front of customers and prospects.”

John Garing was born April 29, 1942, in St. Paul, Minn., to the late John and Helen Garing. He is survived by his wife Gerri Perras Garing. They were married for 54 years.

His family remembered him as a teacher. “He taught everyone he met something to remember – respect, loyalty, friendship, and love,” they wrote in his obituary.

In addition to his wife, other survivors include his son Matt Garing and three daughters: Chris Garing and her partner Christopher, Stacy Garing Yentz and husband Kevin, Nicole Garing Kinney and her husband Michael; plus seven grandchildren.

A funeral mass will be conducted 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12, at St. Bridget of Ireland Catholic Church in Berryville, Virginia. Burial will be later at Arlington National Cemetery.

The family is asking that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Wounded Warriors Family Support.

A longer version of this article was first published on WashingtonTechnology, a Defense Systems partner site.