Inside DOD


Amber Corrin

Inside DOD

By Amber Corrin


Cultural changes at DOD a major factor in defense acquisition reform

The Congress-appointed Defense Acquisition Reform Panel recently scolded the Defense Department for its outdated policies in buying its weapons, saying that the current approaches don’t meet today’s need for speedy procurement, particularly with regard to information technology.

Now, the defense IT community is speaking out with its own views on acquisition reform.

They agree that DOD acquisition policy is grossly ill-suited for IT. Originally geared for large-scale weapons systems, the obsolete policies are based on timelines of years rather than the nanoseconds of today’s IT. In this game, even months can be too long for getting the latest technology into the hands of the military.

DOD is trying, some say. “Having nothing is worse than having a partial solution,” said Tim Harp, component acquisition executive at the Defense Finance Accounting Service. According to Harp, who spoke at a briefing in Washington held by TechAmerica on April 6, internal coordination is under way to address ways to quickly move on reform.

But what’s behind the lagging policy reform?

"Cultural issues” are taking an increasing amount of blame for DOD’s lacking progress into the 21st century. “Changing mindsets and culture will be the long pole in the tent,” said House Armed Service Committee’s Kevin Gates, also speaking at the briefing. "We need a new mindset of IT as a weapons system, and that's slowly integrating."

Defense contracting has a direct impact on acquisition as well; contracting commercial technologies is how DOD acquires the weapons and systems it puts in the hands of service members.

“Acquisition [personnel] use the familiar and comfortable approaches [to contracting], which are better suited for large-scale procurement,” Gates said. “We need to take a fundamental look at the contracting mechanisms and incentives. Some are better for IT than others, but the community doesn’t always know what works the best.”

Poor defense IT acquisition has widespread implications, affecting even not-so-obvious arenas like corporate behavior, said IBM executive consultant Bruce Leinster.

He also said that too many legislative fixes geared toward improving contracting practices are actually bogging down the process.

“Let’s fix the abuse and not create all the legislation,” he said. According to Leinster, the government’s heavy hand is costing defense acquisition, including overzealous taxing on contractors and a litany of requirements and restrictions that “scare off” potential contracting competition as well as private sector talent.

Posted on Apr 06, 2010 at 12:14 PM1 comments


President marries green proposals with national defense strategies

President Barack Obama on March 31 announced plans to use energy initiatives to improve national security, while simultaneously praising the Defense Department’s progress and imploring DOD to help wean the United States from its foreign oil dependency.

“The Pentagon isn’t seeking these alternative fuels just to protect our environment; they are pursuing these homegrown energy sources to protect our national security,” Obama said, speaking at Joint Base Andrews-Naval Air Facility Washington, just outside D.C. “This is particularly relevant to all of you who are serving in uniform.”

The session was rife with symbolism, including the “Green Hornet” – a modified F-18 the Navy hopes will be the first aircraft the break the sound barrier powered by alternative fuel – and a light-armored vehicle currently being tested for use with biofuels.

Obama lauded DOD efforts, pointing at the stated goal of Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to employ 50 percent alternative fuel in all airplanes, vehicles and ships by the next decade, as well as the $2.7 billion set aside for energy efficiency in the 2010 defense budget.

“The Air Force is also testing jet engines using biofuels and had the first successful biofuels-powered test flight last week,” he said. leadership.

Posted on Apr 01, 2010 at 12:14 PM0 comments


DOD still struggling with best approach to social media

As the Defense Department works to embrace social media, it's weighing operational security against the increasing need to share information – or else be rendered obsolete.

According to one DOD official, the right policies will help the department evolve as a reputable and up-to-date source of the information the public craves in the era of the instant news cycle.

“With policy we can budget for and facilitate expansion. We can train the troops better, and then they can train their families. That’s good for the public,” said Jack Holt, senior strategist for emerging media at the DOD’s Defense Media Activity office.

Training is key to maintaining DOD’s security mandate as well. “Operational security isn’t a technical problem, it’s a people problem,” Holt told an audience at the FOSE conference.

A clear doctrine for sharing within the network is also necessary to foster necessary collaboration. “We aren’t trained to collaborate. Since kindergarten it’s been, ‘Do you own work.’

While the idea of working together is integral in social media, it can be a hard sell in the confines of DOD culture. “Sometimes the Public Affairs Office may say, ‘This is just more work for us.’ But the chief information officer says, ‘This is our policy and this is how we’re doing it.’ We have to come to grips with this new way of [moving] information,” Holt said.

Posted on Mar 23, 2010 at 12:14 PM1 comments