Katrina McFarland, DoD assistant secretary for acquisition, says the department has worked to condense timelines, increase collaboration between communities, and improve processes. (Alfredo Barraza)
Defense Department officials are pushing forward with plans to improve the ways they manage and buy information technology, including through reform efforts that accelerate timelines, improve management and maximize investment.
Officials on Feb. 26 updated lawmakers on the latest efforts to improve IT management and acquisition. Recommendations from a 2009 Defense Science Board report and directives in the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act provide for the oversight, development and implementation of new acquisition processes for IT systems. The measures call for speeding up new-system acquisition through better collaboration and information-sharing.
Among the efforts is a so-called “IT Box” concept designed to provide better oversight and management of products, develop requirements and flesh out costs associated with system development, sustainment and operations.
“The department has worked to condense timelines, increase collaboration between communities, and improve processes to deliver the right capabilities to the warfighter in operationally relevant timelines,” Katrina McFarland, DOD assistant secretary for acquisition, said during a Feb. 26 hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on readiness and management support. “The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has modified the department’s Joint Capability Integration and Development System by instituting a major change for information system requirements development which introduces the [IT Box], enabling the delegation of authorities to specifically support the more rapid timelines necessary for IT capabilities through the Defense Acquisition System processes.”
Other plans include improvements to DOD’s use to the federal IT dashboard to track data on IT investments, as well as a new interim guidance aimed at “modular, open-system technology, with the emphasis on design for change,” McFarland said.
The IT acquisition improvements stem from Section 804 of the 2010 NDAA, which targets IT acquisition reform, but parts of that legislation is rooted in the 1996 Clinger-Cohen Act, David Powner, director of IT management issues at the Government Accountability Office, pointed out.
“The 2010 NDAA had some very good recommendations when it came to IT, early and active involvement of users, incremental development and prototyping – all very relevant,” Powner said. “A lot of the DOD polices are spot-on. The fundamental question is, has DOD done that? The issue isn’t with guidance, the issue is with implementation. There is [uncertainty] of whether some of the real complex IT acquisitions can follow that process.”
In Powner’s view, the success stories lie within DOD’s efforts in data center consolidation and improving on management of legacy systems. With the Pentagon accounting for 48 percent of the government’s fiscal 2014 IT spending, there is significant opportunity to lead by example, he said.
“Major IT acquisition of new things or managing legacy systems – it’s two buckets. And there’s more positive in legacy management because of what’s claimed as $875 million to date, including by closing more than 250 data centers,” Powner said. “DOD has a lot of success stories. There are multiple billions in savings down the road…it’s just a question of how aggressively DOD will manage the real opportunity to root out efficiency and move to higher priorities.”