CIO defends DLA acquisition strategy

"Inconsistent Software Acquisition Processes at the Defense Logistics Agency Increase Project Risks"

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A recent General Accounting Office report that criticized the Defense Logistics Agency's lack of an enterprise-level software acquisition strategy was really a testament to the evolution of the way the agency operates, according to Mae De Vincentis, DLA's director of information operations and chief information officer.

"The report didn't put anything in the context of time," De Vincentis said in an interview Jan. 23.

The report, released this month, includes an evaluation of DLA's two ongoing software acquisitions: Business Systems Modernization (BSM), which is designed to enable the agency to meet business objectives while supporting improved military readiness, and the Fuels Automated System (FAS), which is designed to help the Defense Energy Support Center manage about $5 billion in annual contracts with petroleum buyers.

GAO found that BSM "fully satisfied requirements for most of the key process areas evaluated, [but] FAS did not fully satisfy all the criteria for any key process area." Key process areas included software acquisition management, project management, and contract tracking and oversight.

The report concluded that "as evidenced by the wide disparity in the rigor and discipline of processes between the two systems, DLA does not have the institutional management capabilities necessary for effectively acquiring software repeatedly on one project after another."

De Vincentis disagrees.

"The heart of the report is that we have a model program in BSM and that we did learn from our experiences in FAS," she said.

De Vincentis said that FAS was developed in the early 1990s, before government mandates such as the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 and the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act, which provided guidance on developing and deploying major IT systems. She also said that there was not a program executive officer overseeing FAS, but there is a program executive officer for BSM, to whom who all the program managers report.

"It's an evolutionary process," she said. "There were a lot of issues with FAS and we made significant changes to it. BSM benefited from all the mistakes we made in FAS."

The report also found that DLA has not established a new software process improvement program since the previous one was eliminated in 1998, even though the agency's CIO has said the program would be re-established.

In response to that, De Vincentis — who took over as CIO last May — said GAO conducted its research just as her office was "starting to get our act together." The agency has a "small workforce that actually produces software" and is now focused on capability maturity models and making sure repeatable acquisition processes are in place, she said.

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