GAO wants DISA more cost-conscious

Defense Information Systems Agency Can Improve Investment Planning and Management Controls

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While praising the Defense Information Systems Agency's commitment to its customers, the General Accounting Office is calling for DISA to improve its focus on information technology planning and performance measurements, especially cost-effectiveness considerations.

"DISA's commitment to improving customer satisfaction is appropriate and laudable, but it must be equally committed to opportunities to reduce its costs of operations and improve its mission performance," according to a GAO report released last week.

The report, "Defense Information Systems Agency Can Improve Investment Planning and Management Controls," found that DISA leadership has already taken "the first steps in developing and implementing all these controls," but until they are in place and functioning, "DISA will not have the organizational means to accommodate change and to realize its vision of being the preferred provider of information services across DOD."

To improve DISA's current and future IT investment plans, GAO made numerous recommendations, including:

* Establishing and operating an IT investment board.

* Performing IT project oversight.

* Tracking IT assets.

* Identifying business needs for IT projects.

* Selecting proposals systematically.

GAO did commend DISA for its IT workforce management, an area in which the agency is making an inventory of its workforce knowledge and skills, forecasting strategic workforce needs and filling the gap between the two.

DISA outlined customer service plans last year in its "500 Day Action Plan for Supporting DOD Decision Superiority."

However, the GAO report noted that "DISA will be challenged in maximizing its performance and accountability" until all of its control areas are fully functional.

"Overall, DISA concurred with the findings in the GAO audit report," said agency spokeswoman Betsy Flood. "The most important finding to us was that, 'DISA appropriately focused on understanding and satisfying customer concerns and needs.' We are working to improve the agency's processes and benchmarking activities."

Flood also said that the GAO model does not always apply well to what DISA does, but "in cases where the model does apply, we have strengthened the role of the DISA Corporate Board, which currently evaluates and recommends process changes and improvements.

"The Corporate Board, composed of DISA senior leaders, will have the lead for developing a structured, disciplined IT investment management process and enterprise architecture, strengthening current performance metrics and strategic planning, and implementing the management controls that will assure success," Flood said. "This will ensure that the management team collectively agrees on a set of goals, processes and benchmarking activities that can be used as metrics for success."

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