House bills take aim at DOD IT programs

When Congress returns to session this September, it will conduct conferences on Defense Department Authorization and Appropriations bills which could realign funding for a number of key DOD information technology programs.

This includes a $298.1 million slash in funding in the House Appropriations bill for DOD legacy computer systems— a cut that industry and Defense sources believe will survive in the final bill approved by a joint House/Senate conference.

In other IT-related actions, the committee chaired by Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.) drastically slashed funding for two key DOD IT programs it viewed as troubled: the Joint Computer-Aided Acquisition and Logistics Support (JCALS) program, which is supported through a major contract held by Computer Sciences Corp., and the Army's Simulation Network/Close Combat Technical Trainer program, a contract managed by Lockheed Martin Corp.

The House report sharply criticized the Pentagon's continued reliance on outdated legacy computer systems, saying the systems' "continued use after their scheduled termination date diverts limited resources to low-priority information technology systems." The report also said the House cut legacy systems funding due to concerns that their "continued use creates a significant risk of generating Year 2000 date calculation errors...."

Bob Dornan, senior vice president of Federal Sources Inc., said the House's wholesale slash in legacy system funding "is the only way to really get the attention of DOD. [The Pentagon] won't make tough decisions otherwise." Despite the cuts and strong language, Dornan said it would take some time to see the ultimate effect because Pentagon program managers "have become very savvy about circumventing the desires of Congress."

Eben Townes, vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc., said he believes that if Congress cuts legacy system funds, it should also provide funding lines for new systems. Just cutting does not provide DOD "with the investment funds it needs to buy" replacement system, Townes said.

The 7-year-old JCALS program came under sharp criticism in the House report. JCALS is a system for managing technical data and documentation for major weapons systems and other programs. According to the House report, the program has focused more on fielding a software infrastructure for shared data application software than the applications themselves.

The House, which cut $60 million from the $150 million 1999 JCALS budget, faulted the program for failing to meet a key fielding milestone.

Mike Gaffney, vice president for business development at CSC, said JCALS won approval last week— after the House report was printed— to start rolling out the JCALS joint technical manual application to Army, Navy and Marine users. FCW has been told this latest development in the JCALS program will be incorporated into the final version of the bill, slated for debate and passage in September.

The House also criticized the Army's Simulation Network/Close Combat Technical Trainer program. The Army, which sought a $60 million increase in funding for the program, was hit with a $37.4 million cut to $113.9 million in the House bill. The report said that because "software problems have delayed the program for one year, the committee does not believe such considerable program growth is warranted before the completion of successful initial operation test and evaluation."

The House embraced base telecommunications infrastructure upgrade projects in the Air Force and Marine Corps. The House increased funding by $21 million for the Air Force Base Information Infrastructure System program to $180.4 million, with $1 million of that earmarked to support computer-crime investigations by the Air Force Office of Security and Investigation.

The Marines won a $32 million increase in funding to $89.7 million for communications infrastructure upgrades at Marine bases in Quantico, Va., Twentynine Palms, Calif., and Barstow, Calif.

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