Soloway tapped to head Defense Reform Initiative

In a move designed to solidify a culture of reform throughout the Defense Department, Defense Secretary William Cohen recently shifted responsibility for the Defense Reform Initiative to the office overseeing the Pentagon's acquisition reform efforts.

The organizational change places Stan Soloway, deputy undersecretary of Defense for acquisition reform, in charge of the DRI. Soloway will maintain his acquisition reform responsibilities.

Launched in 1997, the DRI is DOD's strategy for reinventing and streamlining department operations and organizations to better take advantage of private-sector, best business practices and advances in information technology.

"Defense reform is now more than 16 months old and has experienced numerous successes," Cohen said. "We jump-started implementation by placing [the] DRI directly in my office, but to maintain momentum, this initiative must be a part of the department's daily operations. Placing it in the acquisition reform office, which is currently involved in numerous aspects of the DRI, is a key step in achieving that goal."

The DRI effort has expanded during the past few years to include logistics modernization, base realignment and closures, financial management and competitions with the private sector for DOD jobs.

According to Soloway, the decision to move the DRI under his purview was part of an effort by Cohen to maintain the momentum behind the DRI and to "institutionalize a reform focus" throughout DOD.

"There's a tremendous amount of commonality" between the DRI and acquisition reform, Soloway said. Although the move now forces Soloway to deal with a "much broader pallet," he said it really represents a "cross-fertilization" between the two offices. "We're trying to link the process."

In light of the change, DOD may develop a 12- to 18-month plan involving new initiatives and ongoing projects, Soloway said. However, DOD has no immediate plans for major policy shifts or personnel changes. In fact, the DRI office will remain intact and is not subsumed by this change, he said.

However, Soloway's new "dual-hat" responsibilities have some industry observers concerned that he may not have the resources necessary to effectively champion both the DRI and acquisition reform efforts.

Industry is very interested in seeing DRI progress, and "Stan is perfectly positioned to move it forward," said Olga Grkavac, executive vice president of the Information Technology Association of America's Enterprise Solutions Division. "The concern would be that [Soloway] is a very busy man."

However, Soloway said that although the change puts new demands on his time, the organizational shift will not change DOD's focus on reform. "For me it's a balancing act of time," Soloway said. "There's not going to be any lessening of the pressure that gets put on me [regarding] acquisition reform."

Chip Mather, senior vice president at Acquisition Solutions Inc., said that although it makes sense to put all reform efforts under a single point of focus, "moving something as massive as the Defense Department's acquisition work force is a huge undertaking.

"What the field needs is guidance, training and examples on how to implement acquisition reform," Mather said. "It also calls for a culture change to go from an adversarial relationship with contractors to one based on a partnership. There is already enough policy legislation, [so] the focus should be on implementation, and that is very difficult to accomplish from the DOD level."

But DOD already has taken steps to enhance the training and education of its acquisition personnel, including a new policy that requires managers to certify that acquisition workers are being provided with the opportunity for enhanced professional development, education and training throughout their careers.

Also, DOD operates a live, interactive World Wide Web-based distance-learning program designed to provide acquisition workers with easier and more efficient access to training in commercial standards and business processes.

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