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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Pentagon expects business transformation to go on under new secretary

Defense Department business transformation efforts may be mostly unaffected by the Pentagon’s change in leadership, according to an official helping oversee the transition.

Thomas Modly, deputy undersecretary of Defense for financial management, has been tapped to lead the transition support team if Robert Gates is confirmed as secretary. With Gates likely to focus on more prominent issues, efforts to standardize business systems and improve financial management will probably continue uninterrupted, Modly said Nov. 28 at the annual North American Logistics Conference.

Modly oversees the Defense Business Transformation Agency, which was created to coordinate the transformation. Efforts include assuring that business system investments are made as part of an enterprise transition plan and improving the availability of departmental information.

Modly said the difficulty of quickly learning what occurs in the department was brought home by one of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s “snowflake” memos, named for their frequency and tendency to drift to lower levels.

“I just don’t get a good sense for where all the money goes in the department,” Rumsfeld wrote, according to Modly.

While the secretary sees high-level budget information on spending for departments, he does not get detail on how much goes into “buckets” like personnel or aircraft, Modly said. Providing that breakout took 50 people weeks, he noted.

“Our ability to understand the state of the department is very limited,” Modly said.

The Government Accountability Office and Defense Business Board, an advisory group of private industry executives, have said the Defense Department’s transformation efforts have improved in recent years, but would benefit from high-level coordination by a strong chief management officer.

Modly, however, said Deputy Secretary Gordon England already fills that role.

“He’s willing to drop a hammer on people when they don’t cooperate,” Modly said.

-DANIEL FRIEDMAN, FederalTimes.com

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