DOD's 18-month ambition

The Defense Department wants to speed up the snail-like pace it now takes to put new information technology products into the hands of service members in the field and has formed a team to propose solutions.

DOD's newly created Rapid Infusion Team (RIT) has been asked to develop recommendations that would streamline the military's acquisition procedures and enable DOD to get new IT to the front lines within 18 months, a process that currently can drag on for years.

Margaret Myers, DOD's acting deputy chief information officer, said the genesis of the concept came from Paul Brubaker, former DOD deputy CIO. Brubaker said his reasoning was simple: "We needed to get technology to the field to allow people to take advantage of Information Age technology."

Military IT executives have long been frustrated over the length of time it takes to obtain funding for new technology. Even great ideas can languish for years before receiving funding.

"The RIT oversight board, of which I'm a member, defined the expectation that IT systems acquisitions should take 18 months or less from [defining requirements] to fielding," said John Gilligan, Air Force deputy CIO.

The oversight board has identified a number of approaches to help achieve that goal, Gilligan said, including:

* Eliminating formal documentation of operational requirements for IT systems.

* Conducting oversight reviews on IT systems annually, rather than following the more intensive process used to review weapon systems.

* Increasing flexibility on IT systems funding.

Gilligan cautioned that no one has yet committed to making the changes, but he is hopeful that Pentagon officials will get the initiative off the ground through pilot projects.

"I think there is a wide recognition that what we're doing today isn't working," Gilligan said, "and I'm optimistic there will be some willingness to at least take on some pilots to try out some new techniques."

Myers said she has also asked the RIT to look at DOD's newly approved Global Information Grid architecture and see how it relates to the team's efforts.

The architecture is something DOD has never had, she said, and the department is eyeing innovative ways to use it. But having such an architecture should make it easier to decide what technologies DOD will buy, according to Myers.

Many remain skeptical. The issues involved with testing the Navy Marine Corps Intranet have illustrated some of the inherent problems in testing any IT-related product, said Chip Mather, senior vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc. and a former Air Force senior procurement official.

Mather said the idea of getting IT to the front lines is a "worthy goal. It's just a big issue. They have a lot of work to work out with all those interfaces."

The team is scheduled to deliver its recommendations in mid-September to the newly created Business Initiatives Council, which Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld created specifically to reform business processes. Pete Aldridge, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, heads the council, and each service's secretary is a member.

About the Authors

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.



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