DOD awards HR system to Northrop

Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System Web site

Northrop Grumman Corp. won the $281 million Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System (DIMHRS) contract late last month to develop and implement the world's largest HR system.

Now the company is getting ready to hit the ground running.

Northrop officials have six months to develop and submit to the Defense Department their critical design plan that will lay out the implementation of what DOD officials call the first useful asset, said Navy Capt. Valerie Carpenter, joint program manager for DIMHRS.

"If that goes well, all will go well," Carpenter said. "If not, we may as well fold our tents and go home."

The system will be a departmentwide human resources pay and personnel system for uniformed members.

Aside from providing more accurate pay and personnel information — something that has been a persistent problem for the military's uniformed staff, DIMHRS will give military leaders a more complete view of their employees.

When the system is complete, military leaders will have the data necessary to make decisions about what jobs to assign skilled people. DIMHRS will also feed data into DOD's financial management systems, a task that is currently difficult.

If the critical design plan is approved, the program will enter a long testing phase in which Northrop and government officials will examine its various aspects. By November 2005, the first Army unit should be transitioned to the system as the test bed. Carpenter said officials have not yet decided which Army site will be the first to use it.

"It's pretty common in a joint program like this for one service [the Navy] to be the acquisition authority and another [the Army] to be the first user," she said. "In this case, the Army pleaded the need. They have aging HR systems, and they need to be replaced very badly."

Carpenter would not specifically explain why Northrop beat out competitors Lockheed Martin Corp., Computer Sciences Corp., IBM Corp. and PriceWaterhouseCoopers. She said Northrop offered the best value.

Lockheed is the developer and integrator for the Navy Standard Integrated Personnel System, which consolidated all of the service's human resources systems into one standard interface that will be merged into DIMHRS.

Doug McVicar, Northrop's program manager for DIMHRS, said the company won in large part because it has ample experience in federal human resources implementations, having led the Treasury Department's successful HR Connect and the Energy Department's Corporate Human Resource Information System.

"We have a healthy respect for the challenge ahead of us," he said. "But we are up to the challenge to show progress quickly and keep the momentum going."

All four services should be on the departmentwide system by the end of 2007.

DIMHRS is designed to replace all of the services' existing HR systems. It will be a Web-based system to give everyone greater accessibility, all the way down to the personal digital assistant level.

Most human resources systems require service members to carry hard copies of their service records to ensure at least one copy is maintained and updated.

Military life is "complicated by the fact that members go back and forth among the components — active, Reserve and Guard — and, of course, deploy in the theater," said Norma St. Claire, director of joint requirements and integration for the undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness.

"For most of our service members, the seams here are all broken," she said. "The systems that we have today don't talk to each other, and there's critical information that doesn't get passed."

DIMHRS is expected to cost at least $500 million to build, deploy and maintain, according to officials at Federal Sources Inc., a McLean, Va., market research firm.

The system will replace 88 legacy systems across the four services and will save DOD money, although the department is unable to assess how much the agency will save because it cannot calculate how much it is actually spending on pay and personnel systems.

Bruce Triner, the director of defense special programs at PeopleSoft Inc., which was selected as the agency's human resources software standard, said the development and implementation contractor has a huge task to undertake.

"This is going to be the largest personnel and pay system in the world," Triner said. "The contractor is going to be chartered with taking the information the government has assembled, look at the number of applications involved and bring it all together."

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