Defense Department re-evaluates DIMHRS, awaits feedback

In a clear change of strategy, the Defense Department is rethinking whether building one human resources system is the best solution for the military.

DOD has asked the military services to determine whether the Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System (DIMHRS) meets their needs. The Army says it does, and the Air Force is now conducting its own assessment, said Paul Brinkley, deputy undersecretary of Defense for business transformation and director of the new Defense Business Transformation Agency. That agency acquired responsibility for DIMHRS and 17 other DOD business system programs in October 2005.

"We're taking a more pragmatic approach to DIMHRS," Brinkley said. DOD's previous policy required the military services to connect to the new HR system.

Brinkley said the military likely will use DIMHRS, but first DOD, the services and Northrop Grumman, the systems integrator, will hold thorough discussions about how well it works. DOD asked the Army to perform the first DIMHRS assessment because it is the most complex of the military services. The Army determined that 80 percent of the service is ready to accept the system, if they can do so for a reasonable price, Brinkley said.

He added that initial reports from the Air Force indicate that DIMHRS meets its needs. But he said DOD will wait for the Air Force's final assessment, then ask the Navy to conduct a review.

DOD awarded a $281 million contract to Northrop Grumman in 2003. The company used Oracle PeopleSoft applications to design and deploy the world's largest human resources system for the military's 2.3 million uniformed members. DIMHRS will replace 78 existing payroll and personnel systems across the four services with a Web-based system designed to save money and provide greater accountability and accessibility.

A major problem with DOD's business systems modernization effort, according to Brinkley, has been the department's idea that a single system could replace thousands of existing ones. "We're always trying to hit a home run," said Brinkley, speaking Jan. 4 during a luncheon sponsored by the Washington, D.C., chapter of AFCEA International.

The Defense Business Transformation Agency's strategy is to assess DOD business systems in development, conduct an inventory and determine if the systems should move forward, be modified or be terminated, said Dov Zakheim, a former DOD comptroller who is now a vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton.

"DIMHRS looks to me like the right way to go," he said.

Zakheim said replacing 78 payroll and personnel systems with DIMHRS is doable. The program should succeed, he added, because it would bring the military services closer together.

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