GAO blasts DOD for mismanaging program

The General Accounting Office reported late last month that the Defense Department has not adequately controlled its $18 billion five-year plan to eliminate nearly 2 000 duplicative computer systems and has wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on the effort. In 1993 DOD offices selected 363 "migration systems" that it would develop and deploy departmentwide as part of the Corporate Information Management (CIM) program to replace 1 938 redundant systems. GAO found that 67 percent of the selections were never submitted for approval to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command Control Communications and Intelligence (C3I) the department's primary mechanism for ensuring that the migration effort follows management practices. In addition many selections that were approved by the assistant secretary did not include adequate technical and programming data to support the action GAO said.

"Consequently Defense does not have assurance that the migration systems being developed will help achieve its technology goals and that sound business decisions were made in selecting systems " according to the report.

GAO illustrated its point with the example of a failed and costly effort by DOD to develop a suite of migration systems for materiel management. Because the effort lacked adequate oversight procedures the department spent $700 million on it before it was abandoned GAO reported.

The report "Defense IRM: Poor Implementation of Management Controls Has Put Migration Strategy at Risk " was requested by Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) minority leader on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. A member of Glenn's staff said the senator has been tracking DOD's CIM effort for eight years and this GAO report represents a continuation of his work with GAO on this program.

Although GAO recommended that the secretary of Defense limit further spending on the development of migration systems acting assistant secretary for C3I Anthony Valletta disagreed with that recommendation in a letter to GAO sent in September. Valletta wrote that the department must continue to modernize and reduce duplication as a way to better support warfighters and save money.

A DOD spokeswoman said last week that the department has taken no action to change its policies regarding the migration or to slow down its efforts. "In terms of consolidating systems we are moving ahead " she said.

DOD officials did act on one of the recommendations in the report that suggested separating the DOD chief information officer function from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for C3I. The report said a CIO who also serves as assistant secretary for C3I could not devote full attention to information resources management reform.

Although the department announced last week it would separate those functions the DOD spokeswoman said the action was not a direct result of the GAO report.

Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee shares Glenn's concerns about the failure of the CIM effort and DOD's inability to reap the $36 billion in savings envisioned at the beginning of that program. "It would be better to stop funding these [migration] systems now and keep the money in the bank " Thompson said at a hearing last May.

But observers on Capitol Hill said Thompson has paid little attention to the issue focusing instead on campaign finance reform. In addition DOD's reorganization under William Cohen has made the department a moving target for criticism.

"It's unfortunate this report comes at a time when the committee's attention is elsewhere " a source said.But a member of Thompson's staff said the committee may take up the issue next year. "These are definitely issues that look like they warrant further looking into " he said. "We have devoted a lot of time to the migration issue and it has been a problem for eight years now."

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