Navy merges paperless initiatives

The Navy has taken a major step toward simplifying its electronic procurement

process by combining the efforts of two major paperless contracting programs.

The merger brings together the Navy's Electronic Acquisition 21 (EA-21)

program and the Standard Procurement System (SPS) in what officials described

as a much-needed streamlining effort. The move also may provide trickle-down

benefits to the Defense Department's overall goal of creating a paperless

environment, officials said.

EA-21 is the Navy's umbrella program for modernizing the service's acquisition

systems, particularly contract writing, administration, finance and auditing.

Although widely criticized for its error-prone development process, SPS

has been earmarked to become the Defense Department's premier system for

automating the buying process for everything from uniforms to tanks. As

part of the merger, SPS will become the cornerstone system for EA-21's Navywide

standardization effort.

Brian Reily, program manager for EA-21, will also manage the SPS Component Management Office. He said the idea to merge the two programs grew out of the mission to create a paperless contracting environment, but that officials had been hesitant to do so until more progress had been made on software

development.

"Stability on the SPS front" presented the "perfect time" to combine the

two offices, Reily said. "It makes working all of the application interfaces

much easier."

Some see the merger as a boon for the SPS program, which has a long history

of software development problems, delays and cost overruns.

"This will be better for Navy as well as DOD," said Gary Thurston, the SPS

program manager at the Defense Logistics Agency. "This combined office will

strengthen operational use of SPS as they educate the Navy procurement professionals

about paperless acquisition through the automated procurement processes

delivered with SPS."

Thurston added that the Army, Air Force and the Defense Contract Management

Agency already have merged their paperless programs with their SPS efforts

and said the mergers have helped to "streamline" the deployment process

of those systems.

"It always was a bit puzzling that they were separate," said one Navy contracting

officer. "The Navy now has put responsibility on making things work end

to end in a single office. I feel organizationally it is a good first step."

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