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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Congress turns up heat on DoD business systems

It's been five years since Congress fired its first salvo at the Defense Department's problematic business systems. Now the Pentagon is getting ready to deal with the second shot across the bow to try to address the continued poorly performing business systems modernization programs.

Lawmakers in the fiscal 2010 Defense Authorization bill are requiring DoD's chief management officer to certify that any business system the department will spend more than $100 million over the life of the application has gone through business process reengineering and meets the business system enterprise architecture.

"Not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the appropriate chief management officer for each defense business system modernization approved by the Defense Business Systems Management Committee before the date of the enactment of this Act that will have a total cost in excess of $100 million shall review such defense business system modernization to determine whether or not appropriate business process reengineering efforts have been undertaken to ensure that the business process to be supported by such defense business system modernization will be as streamlined and efficient as practicable; and the need to tailor commercial-off-the-shelf systems to meet unique requirements or incorporate unique interfaces has been eliminated or reduced to the maximum extent practicable," Public Law 111-84 states.

If the chief management officer finds that the programs do not align with the EA or have not done business process reengineering, the CMO must require a new project plan, and they could
restructure or end the program all together.

"Congress is serious," says Beth McGrath, DoD acting deputy chief management officer.

"Someone needs to sign on a piece of paper that says 'yes system X did adequate, sufficient business changing business process engineering.' Because if we don't, we will end up with IT systems that aren't interoperable, don't have data standardization or a robust architecture behind them. We will end up with an IT system that people don't like and will not use because it doesn't deliver the outcomes they are looking for."

McGrath, who spoke at a recent lunch sponsored by the Northern Virginia chapter of AFCEA, says DoD must do business process reengineering because otherwise they are just putting money toward an IT system that doesn't meet its mission needs.

This is the latest attempt by Congress to get DoD to improve how they manage and implement their business systems. In November 2004, lawmakers passed a provision in the Defense authorization bill that said that the DoD comptroller would be fined $5,000 and face jail time of up to two-years for any program that doesn't comply with the business systems architecture. Congress tied DoD progress to the Antideficiency Act, which makes it illegal for agencies to spend money on projects outside of the purposes the funding was intended for.

McGrath says DoD's history is not good with large scale business systems. The Defense Integrated Human Management Resources System (DIMHRS) is a perfect example of DoD's shortfalls.

The Pentagon has spent more than $1 billion over the last decade and only in the last year decided not to implement a one-size fits all pay and personnel system.

McGrath says each of the services will be expected to implement the standards or core functions within their own systems.

In the 2010 DoD authorization bill, Congress required DoD to create a DIMHRS transition council to oversee the implementation of the system standards at the services.

Doug Webster, the DoD Business Transformation Agency's deputy director, says DoD does not yet know how many business systems will be affected by the new congressional mandate. BTA's mission is to oversee business transformation systems and deliver enterprisewide capabilities.

"It remains to be seen yet how it's implemented in terms of governance process through investment review board and ultimately the Defense Business Systems Management Committee," he says. "But I think the words in the law are there to make this a very rigorous process."

Webster speaking at an event sponsored by IAC yesterday, says the other thing the provision will do is force DoD to stop trying to change vendor software to meet their neeeds.

"We see folks coming for request for funding with a count of reports, interfaces and various customizations of software in the order of a 1,000 or more," he says. "That is clear evidence that there has not been a very significant degree of business process engineering. My belief is based on the statute that we will see some changes to that."

Another way the military is trying to overcome these long-standing challenges is by standardizing 15 specific business functions.

Webster said these include functions such as "procure-to-pay," "hire-to-retire" and "budget-to-report."

"We are looking at all of those, but seeking to prioritize the amount of depth we go into in those in terms of those that will provide the greatest payback in terms of investment, time in building out standards and building out content related to those processes in the business processes architecture," he says. "I think it's clear to say 'hire-to-retire' and 'procure-to-pay' are two very important ones that we will be putting near term attention to."

Webster says the end goal is improve the data interoperability and communication of these 15 functions across all of DoD.

-Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio.com
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