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Defense Insider 

Among Pentagon Buyers, Much Angst About IT 

11  2,009 

By Sandra I. Erwin 

The issue of how to manage “IT acquisitions” is causing much consternation at the Defense Department. The problem is that the Pentagon procurement system treats information technology as if it were a weapon system. In other words, it can take a decade to acquire. By the time the technology is fielded, it is five generations too old.

“Technology is moving faster than the acquisition process that we have in place,” says Frank Anderson, president of the Defense Acquisition University. The Pentagon also needs to revamp its IT acquisition work force, he tells an industry conference. Of 4,000 people who run IT programs, 75 percent are baby boomers. Training is another priority. “We’re reviewing our IT curriculum to ensure we’re delivering the right training for the community.”

Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter agrees that IT programs are an “area of concern.” The Defense Department is struggling to “create an acquisition approach to IT that takes into account the differences between IT and weapons systems,” he says at a Council on Foreign Relations talk.

Technology is fast moving, so programs have to be planned differently. IT also tends to shake up the business practices of an organization and creates an “identity crisis,” says Carter. It forces people to question why they’re doing things the way they’re doing them.

Rep. Robert Andrews, D-N.J., says the procurement system treats IT as if it were water or ammunition. He chairs a special panel on defense acquisition reform that specifically is studying ways to overhaul how the Pentagon buys information systems.

Reader Comments

Re: Among Pentagon Buyers, Much Angst About IT

Congress and OSD ATL are facing a dilemma that goes back to the Clinger Cohen Act, which to date, has still not been operationalized (except for a useless checklist).

Everyone knows that the core Acquisition processes (DoD 5000, DODAF), are designed for systems with 20 year life cycles. Any IT procurement lasting more than a year is DOA, and will be tomorrow's legacy.

The leadership of the new IT Acquisition Advisory Council (, a coalition think tank, headed up by Honorable Mike Wynne, has identified the root causes of failures, leveraging many prior studies that had become shelf ware. General Cartwright and DepSec Lynn recognize that there are NO IT Acquisition successes they can point to over a ten year period. The cost to the tax payer for DoD alone is estimated at $20 Billion per year. This is a fixable problem, but not with the same kind of thinking that got us their in the first place.

The IT-AAC will be releasing its much anticipated Roadmap for Sustainable IT Acquisition Reform at the Nov 12 Defense IT Acquisition Summit. Remedies of core root causes of failure will be detailed;
- Mis-use of available resources supporting IT Acquisitions (FFRDCs, Defense Contractors)
- Alternative IT Acquisition processes that have have delivered on time and on budget.
- Changing incentives and establishing measures of effectiveness. You can't manage what you cannot measure.
- Enforcing good laws that have been ignored or relegated to check lists; CCA, NTTAA, OMB A119, FAR OCI. OCI Mitigation plans must be abolished as they are a major source of abuse.
- Give the small business/innovators an Innovation Lab and clearinghouse that an inform the architecture and acquisition process. PMs and users lack an architecture view of the realm of the possible. This is not inherently governmental and should be deferred to public interest groups.

These are easy steps to enact and could save the tax payer $10 Billion a year.

IT Acquisition Advisory Council on 10/20/2009 at 08:15

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