Senate lambastes DOD IT

The Senate this month sharply criticized the Pentagon's business practices and information systems, calling them "ineffective," and urged the Defense Department to reform how it develops systems and improve its financial and information management.

In its report on the fiscal 2000 Defense authorization bill, the Senate Armed Services Committee said that while the Pentagon has made "great progress" over the past few years on acquisition reforms, particularly in buying more commercial products, DOD needs to extend reforms to its efforts in developing major weapons systems.

The report added that although DOD has a "significant investment in thousands of automated systems that support every facet of its operations, many of the potential benefits of information technology have not been fully realized." DOD spends roughly $11 billion on what it calls "pure" information technology systems and two to three times that on embedded and tactical systems.

The report laid many of the Pentagon's IT and business practice problems on what it called "a history of costly and long-standing software development problems."

Studies show that 35 percent to 50 percent of the development and maintenance work that DOD conducts on software goes toward reworking and correcting software defects, according to the committee's report.

Calling rework the "single biggest cost driver" in the DOD IT budget, the Senate directed the Pentagon to adopt best practices for its software development efforts, including risk management, metrics, better control of software changes during development, maximum use of commercial software and a minimization of duplicative software development programs.

The Pentagon did not respond to FCW requests for comment about its software development practices.

"Congress is starting to recognize the need for change, but its response uses the typical solution of throwing money at the problem," said retired Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, head of Business Executives for National Security, a non-profit advocacy group. "More money is not enough. Congress must also support efforts to change how the Pentagon does business. We may find a silver lining in the Kosovo quagmire if Congress and other opponents of change are shaken by the reality of the challenges facing today's military. Business as usual is no longer an option."

Despite the Senate's sharp criticism of DOD IT systems, the bill pumped additional funding into key battlefield and base networking IT systems in all four services. The committee allocated an additional $30.7 million for the Navy's Information Technology for the 21st Century, which will enable the Navy to harness the power of commercial networks and computers aboard ships and ashore. The increase boosts the total IT-21 budget to $515.6 million for fiscal 2000.

Adm. Archie Clemins, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet and the originator of IT-21 program, told Congress earlier this year that the project will aid the Navy's warfighting units, and at the same time it will help the service refine its business practices. Clemins said, "A solution in information technology is inextricably linked to a revolution in business and military affairs. We are warfighters first, and that's why we began with the

network-centric warfare to revolutionize warfighting. But we must also be efficient business managers. We must use the power of information to reduce the costs of doing business, or we'll never meet the continued fiscal challenges we face."

The Marine Corps' ambitious base network infrastructure program received a funding boost of $54.4 million, pushing total funding for that program to $136.2 million, if the House concurs with the Senate when both bills go to conference. The Senate increased funding for the Air Force base information infrastructure and computer network defense accounts by $34 million to a total of $156.8 million. The bill also added $40.1 million to the Air Force's proposed tactical communications budget of $49.7 million, with $13.9 million of that increase earmarked for theater-

deployable satellite communications systems and $26.2 million for the Global Combat Support System-Air Force.

Army battlefield communications systems also received a boost, with the bill earmarking $50 million more for the tactical Warfighter Information Network, which would give the program $159.1 million in total funding. The committee wants to accelerate the installation of equipment designed to upgrade aging Army gear with advanced technology, including Asynchronous Transfer Mode switches.

James O'Neill, president of Lucent Technologies Inc.'s government solutions division, said, "Our experiences...have shown us that a high-tech communications infrastructure places critical and timely information in the hands of those who need it the most.

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AT A GLANCE

Senate fiscal 2000 Defense authorization bill

* Calls software fixes "single biggest cost driver" in DOD's IT budget

* Increases IT-21 funding by $30.7 million

* Gives $54.4 million more to Marines' base network infrastructure program

* Boosts by $34 million Air Force's base information infrastructure and computer network defense accounts

* Increases Army's Warfighter Information Network by $50 million

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