Pentagon relaxes oversight rules

The Defense Department last week issued interim guidelines for the oversight of information technology-related acquisitions providing a stopgap while DOD finalizes its strategy for complying with the Information Technology Management Reform Act (ITMRA).

The guidelines issued by DOD chief information officer Emmett Paige Jr. significantly relax the requirements that DOD services and components must meet to issue IT solicitations. They also give oversight responsibility to the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command Control Communications and Intelligence (C3I).

The document - issued two days before the loss of oversight authority at the General Services Administration - will fill the gap while the DOD Evaluation Working-Level Integrated Product Team hammers out a permanent management structure.

Last week's guidelines raise the dollar threshold that programs must cross to require review and decrease the amount of documentation that must be submitted according to Anthony Valletta deputy assistant secretary of Defense for C3I acquisition.

DOD is asking for "the minimal necessary value-add information that is needed by the CIO to perform his functions and duties in accordance with ITMRA " Valletta said.

Under the interim plan the DOD services must submit information on a proposed solicitation 45 days in advance when the potential cost of the procurement exceeds $120 million - a $20 million increase over pre-ITMRA requirements. Thresholds have also been raised for other DOD units.

That is in addition to no longer needing a delegation of procurement authority from GSA. DOD also raised the limit to $25 million - from $10 million - for procurements run by most other DOD components. Valletta's office also expects to be kept informed of important milestones such as awards protests and schedule slips.

DOD expects to give its organizations even more autonomy once a final ITMRA strategy is in place Valletta said.

The interim guidelines represent "a compromise between total ignorance and massive bureaucratic bottlenecks " said Bob Dornan senior vice president of Federal Sources Inc.

Paige as the CIO needs this kind of information to ensure that the services have given sufficient thought to the DOD-wide view in building their procurements. "Something of that size [$120 million] should be well coordinated for everybody " Dornan said. "What he is looking for is interoperability and adherence to the architecture."

Al Burman who was head of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy under presidents Reagan and Bush said the memo containing the guidelines was missing some of the major components of ITMRA but it was a good first cut.

"More issues will probably follow to link it to a strategic management plan and tie it into the budget process and into the ability to measure outcome and results " Burman said. "They'll probably be working with the procurement people on that."

Meanwhile a team of representatives from the services and other DOD agencies is working out the permanent strategy. Among other elements Paige intends to convene a council that includes himself and CIOs from each of the services as well as other representatives.

Additionally DOD expects "to live the technology we profess" and rely on an electronic exchange of information across the department Valletta said. "I believe whatever we do in the future we want to do data entry once only and [provide] data availability to whoever needs it " Valletta said.- Allan Holmes contributed to this article.

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