DOD stepping back on SPS work

The Defense Department has halted further development of its troubled, $326 million Standard Procurement System to focus on perfecting the current version of the system, designed to streamline DOD's procurement process.

In response to a harsh review by the General Accounting Office and two independent reviews, DOD has stopped further development of SPS Version 5.0 and is focusing on ironing out the problems with SPS Version 4.2.

"The department has shifted the program strategy to focus squarely on fielding this next version to fix many of the problems our users are experiencing with the current fielded system," said Deidre Lee, DOD director of defense procurement, in a written testimony to the House Government Reform Committee's National Security, Veterans Affairs and International Relations Subcommittee.

SPS is DOD's attempt to replace some 76 legacy procurement systems with a single system that would give DOD managers greater access to contract data and allow them to interoperate with DOD financial systems, eliminate antiquated paper-based processes and provide better service to warfighters.

SPS, awarded in 1997, seeks to automate the complex process that Pentagon procurement shops use to buy $130 billion in goods and services yearly.

But SPS, which was originally slated to be fully operational by March 31, 2001, has repeatedly missed target deadlines and is over budget.

"This is not the way to go about managing a multimillion-dollar information technology system," said Joel Willemssen, GAO's managing director of information technology issues, in a Feb. 7 hearing.

"It's going to have to be restructured," said Robert Lieberman, DOD's deputy inspector general. "That restructuring is under way."

DOD officials said that the SPS contract with American Management Systems Inc. of Fairfax, Va., had also been modified to fit the new scope of the project.

SPS officials said that they were focusing on user satisfaction, something that had been a significant hurdle for the system. Col. Jake Haynes, SPS program manager with the Defense Contract Management Agency, said part of the issue had been educating users.

The legacy systems were tailor-made for specific user groups, Haynes said, but SPS is a system that will enable DOD to share data across the organization. Once users understand the need for collecting data that they did not have to provide previously, they are more willing to work with the system.

SPS has been deployed to 21,000 procurement personnel at 777 sites, Haynes said, more than half of all intended users and more than two-thirds of intended sites. Lawmakers, however, questioned why the system appears to be off track.

Margaret Myers, DOD's deputy assistant chief information officer, said that the procurement community would assess whether it was necessary to continue development of the system beyond the current version.

GAO report: "DOD's Standard Procurement System: Continued Investment Has Yet to Be Justified"

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 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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