DOD's Cohen rolls out Joint Electronic Commerce Program Office

Secretary of Defense William Cohen this month officially unveiled the Joint Electronic Commerce Program Office, which will work on accelerating the development and use of electronic commerce throughout DOD.

The new office, a joint effort between the Defense Logistics Agency and the Defense Information Systems Agency, will attempt to integrate paperless information technologies into DOD's acquisition and logistics operations to improve the support and efficiency of the warfighter.

The office also will follow through on Defense Reform Initiative findings that called for the adoption of best business practices and the streamlining of management and support operations.

Speaking at the official unveiling of JECPO, Cohen described the adoption of electronic commerce tools as marking the point where DOD can begin to realize the defense strategy of the 21st century. "We need to have a force of the future and for the future," Cohen said. Electronic commerce will allow the Pentagon to field a more rapidly deployable, agile and lethal force, he said.

JECPO will consist of a staff of 50, some of whom are being drawn from DOD's Continuous Acquisition and Life-Cycle Support program, and will be supplemented by personnel from the EC offices of DISA and DLA. Directorship of the new office will be shared between DLA's Claudia "Scottie" Knott and DISA's Diann McCoy.

DLA will be responsible for identifying best business practices and coordinating integration efforts, while DISA will take the lead on developing the appropriate technical architecture and standards necessary for integrating all DOD agencies and organizations under one EC network.

According to McCoy, the overall effort will be governed by the Joint Technical Architecture, which is a set of interoperability standards designed to ensure that military IT systems can share information.

The JECPO also will establish an advisory board consisting of representatives of the four military services as well as the Defense Finance and Accounting Service and other DOD agencies, Knott said.

Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre, who has spearheaded reform efforts aimed at moving DOD to a paperless environment, said that although government has become preoccupied with failure, JECPO "stands out as something good that is happening in government." JECPO is part of the "bright, good, positive dimension" of what government is all about, Hamre said.

The industry-standard business practices that DOD is attempting to apply to government defense operations include paperless contracting procedures, greater use of government credit cards for purchases of less than $2,500 and increased use of electronic shopping malls and catalogs. The department also will stop distributing contracting regulations and instructions via paper and instead will move the process to the Internet and CD-ROM.

Hamre said DOD was "very careful not to postulate savings from [electronic commerce].

"This is about doing a better job," not only about saving money, Hamre said. "This represents the democratization of the acquisition process."

To date, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Defense Automated Printing Service have considerable EC programs in place and operating on the Internet; these programs can be accessed from the JECPO home page at www.acq.osd.mil/ec. In addition, DLA established the DLA Electronic Mall on the Internet, where DOD officials can buy everything from socks to parts for combat vehicles. According to a JECPO official, the site has generated $1.2 million in clothing and textile orders over the past month.

However, there are major challenges that must be overcome, including getting the word out about the benefits of EC and overcoming institutional resistance to change, before the department can truly reap the rewards of EC, Hamre said. "I think there is a fair amount of resistance [to EC] in certain sectors," he said. "We need to have a campaign to get this technology out."

Lt. Gen. Henry T. Glisson, DLA's director, called the establishment of JECPO "the art of the possible" and said it will be the catalyst for replacing "just-in-case" logistics with "just-in-time" logistics. "Ten years from now...[electronic commerce] will be heralded as one of the major revolutions" of this century, he said.

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