Reforming Reforms

Defense Department reforms would seem to be old hat by now — there have been seemingly endless ongoing reform initiatives at the department over the years.

This year, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has produced some of the most significant proposals to date. But those business reform initiatives have a better chance of success than previous ones, a senior Navy official involved with the process said Nov. 7.

That is largely due to the decision to let organizations reinvest the money they save back into their own organizations, said Vice Adm. Joe Dyer, chairman of the executive steering committee of the DOD Business Initiative Council. A clear focus from DOD's senior leadership also helps, he added.

Traditionally, when a program saved money, those dollars were cut from the budget, sapping motivation for improving business processes. The services now are able to "retain savings and to reallocate to higher priorities within the services and to provide motivation for bringing forward good ideas," Dyer said.

The council, formed earlier this year by Rumsfeld to spearhead projects that have the ability of improving DOD business operations, selected a handful of programs, including a number that involve information technology. One of the projects is DOD's effort to buy enterprisewide software licenses.

The council's efforts have also received "energetic support" from E.C. "Pete" Al.dridge, DOD's undersecretary for acquisition, technolog.y and logistics, and the three service secretaries. "They come from a business background," Dyer said, and they expect those projects to move forward quickly.

According to Rear Adm. Robert Cowley, executive director and Navy representative to the council, the initial 10 projects are quick-hits, which have little or no cost and can show savings as early as fiscal 2003. The council will have action plans for the proj.ects by early December.

Follow the Money

Despite DOD's preoccupation with fighting a war, that effort has not diluted the focus on fixing the department's abysmal financial systems.

DOD financial fixes were a top priority in the pre-Sept. 11 world, but there had been speculation that the effort would fall by the wayside during the war on terrorism. That is not so, according to several DOD officials and observers.

Government auditors have said that DOD's financial woes — largely due to its antiquated financial systems — are the primary reason the federal government does not have auditable books.

DOD officials are pressing forward with plans to create a financial management enterprise architecture, a road map for planning, developing and implementing financial systems that meet federal requirements.

Financial fixes are seen as a cornerstone of other DOD reforms because it is nearly impossible to track performance without being able to track costs and savings. A major problem: DOD is overwhelmed with a huge number of legacy financial systems.

Conference Roadblocks

Terrorism has been tough on the conference business, especially defense-related conferences.

With a dwindling number of attendees, some have been canceled outright while others have been scaled back. This year's Milcom conference, for example, had fewer attendees than expected.

And some conferences have also tried to keep the press at arm's length. DOD public affairs officials had Milcom organizers tell reporters that Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would not answer questions after his speech. Myers, however, went on to take audience questions.

Other conferences have decided to ban the press al.together. AIE Conferences, which is organizing the Military IT conference, said that no reporters would be allowed at the two-day conference.

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About the Author

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, 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,, 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, 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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