DOD to decide on Navy HR system

England must determine whether Navy will use DIMHRS or the Marine Corps' system

Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England and Navy Secretary Donald Winter are expected to meet this week for what could be a final discussion before England answers a question Congress posed last fall: Which pay and personnel system should the Navy use for its 410,000 active-duty and reserve sailors?

At issue is whether the Navy should migrate to its sister service’s Marine Corps Total Force System (MCTFS) or the future Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System (DIMHRS), a Defense Department-wide system being developed by the Business Transformation Agency. In the spring of 2006, Navy officials chose the Marine Corps’ system, and they were ready to begin what they said would be an uncomplicated move to MCTFS.

However, Congress acted on the issue in the fiscal 2007 National Defense Authorization Act.

That legislation prohibited the Navy from using MCTFS until England, as chairman of the Defense Business Systems Management Committee, certified to congressional Defense committees that choosing MCTFS would be in the best interests of DOD.

The law set in motion a series of events that came to a conclusion late last month. Wording in the legislation requires England to make a decision no sooner than 120 days after the Government Accountability Office received a Navy report weighing the benefits of MCTFS against those of DIMHRS.
GAO received that report April 27.

In their July 25 analysis of the Navy’s report, GAO auditors said the service’s business cases for the analyses were “not sufficiently comprehensive, accurate, documented or credible.”

Although England is now in a position to make a determination, it is not clear when he will do so because the law has no deadline. Pentagon spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin said she had no information on the timing. But several defense officials said an upcoming meeting between Winter and England, scheduled for Sept. 7, likely will frame the decision. The officials spoke on condition of not being named because they were discussing ongoing deliberations among their superiors. Navy officials declined requests to be interviewed on the record for this article.

Although the Navy is not averse to replacing the service’s handful of disparate pay and personnel systems with one integrated system, Marine Corps and Navy officials differ from DIMHRS proponents on how that could best be achieved, sources say.

BTA officials argue that the advent of DIMHRS would help ensure military personnel always get their correct salary on time. Officials plan to start fielding the system throughout the Army next summer. The Air Force is slated to adopt the system in late 2008 or early 2009.

Navy and Marine Corps officials believe MCTFS already provides a high degree of pay accuracy and there are considerable risks in moving to DIMHRS.

MCTFS provides a pay accuracy of 100 percent for active-duty Marines and 99.73 percent for those in the Reserves, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Ronald Coleman, the deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs, told the House Armed Services Committee’s Military Personnel Subcommittee in February.

“We don’t want to take a step back,” said Paul Bennett, who works in Coleman’s office as the director of the manpower information division.
Bennett said he supports holding off on introducing DIMHRS in the Navy at least until the system proves stable in the Army and the Air Force. “If something was to go wrong, what’s the backup plan?” he asked.

Bennett said there are outstanding questions about industry’s continued support for DIMHRS. The system is based on software from PeopleSoft, which was purchased by Oracle in late 2004. Oracle is now developing its own software package for human resources applications, called Fusion. If Oracle forces DOD to switch to Fusion, the move could mean additional risks for a program already saddled with cost overruns and schedule delays, Bennett said.

In 2005, Pentagon officia s considered canceling DIMHRS, because “everything that could go wrong in an [information technology] system went wrong,” said BTA Director David Fisher. DIMHRS was conceived in the mid-1990s.

However, after senior Defense Department leaders gave Fisher 30 days to review the system’s problems, Fisher said he saw “enough goodness” in the program that he recommended moving ahead with it.

As of last September, DOD had spent $668 million on DIMHRS.

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