Army hits some bumps in the road

Army officials' efforts to implement and fund an initiative to consolidate information technology management hit some snags this year because of the war on terrorism and the service's transformation to a more mobile force, according to Army IT officials.

For example, an enterprise license agreement with Microsoft Corp. will likely be a casualty of the war and transformation initiatives. The agreement would help the Army save money by forming a single contract from the software licenses that each major command pays.

Senior IT officials promised last year that Army officials at the Pentagon would allocate $78 million starting in fiscal 2004 for the agencywide enterprise software initiative, but Army officials canceled funding for the license last summer. Army

IT budget officials and network administrators at major commands are upset that they must pay for licenses for Microsoft software.

Army officials likely canceled the license funding to pay for transformation efforts and warfighting needs in Iraq and Afghanistan, sources said. Those responsible for IT operations said they want properly trained soldiers who are equipped to win wars. However, they said, senior IT leaders did not give them adequate warning of the funding cancellation, which forced IT administrators to radically shift money in their fiscal 2004 and 2005 budgets.

"There was poor communication and execution," said an IT official at an Army installation in Virginia who declined to be identified. "They need to get their acts

together."

Senior IT leaders explained why the initiative will get funded at the major command level rather than centrally for the first two years of the agreement. "The Microsoft money is going to rebuilding these brigades," said Lt. Gen. Steve Boutelle, the Army's chief information officer, speaking last week at the 2004 Army IT Conference in Hershey, Pa.

He referred to the Army's new modularity effort. As part of its transformation, the Army will organize soldiers in smaller units that are similar in structure, staff and equipment to current units. The goal is to be better prepared to fight enemies who are organized in small units and located in trecherous terrain.

To clarify the Microsoft enterprise

license agreement, officials at the Network Enterprise Technology Command at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., issued an implementation plan last month that explains how service IT budget and contracting officials and network administrators should inventory, order and pay for the software licenses.

The implementation plan and an automated ordering system will facilitate the Microsoft enterprise software license agreement process, said Dee Wardle, product leader who manages enterprise projects in the Army Small Computer Program. "I know we've had some hiccups but we're getting there," Wardle said.

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