Letters to the editor

Defending DMS

I read with interest your April 14 Federal Computer Week article, "DOD IG: Keep troubled DMS going," and its companion piece on April 21, "DMS, despite failings, wins IG support."

As someone very familiar with the Defense Message System program, I would like to provide some facts about the program today not reflected in your article:

n The Defense Department is in the home stretch of a 10-year program that revolutionizes DOD messaging. Most communication centers have been closed, and the power of messaging has evolved to the individual. Sometimes we refer to such activity as moving "power to the edge." It's one way of transforming warfare in the Information Age.

n DOD has deployed DMS to replace the 40-year-old Automatic Digital Network (Autodin) system. DMS has already been used successfully in the global war on terrorism and Operation Iraqi Freedom. In fact, FCW had documented DMS success in Web stories on March 27 and March 28 and in the magazine's April 7 issue. In using both Autodin and DMS interchangeably during this transition period, we have successfully proven integration and interoperability of two messaging systems during wartime operations.

n DMS is fielded at 270 locations worldwide and is working seamlessly with Autodin. It is receiving many kudos from members in field units. Today's frontline warfighters are praising its enhanced capabilities to send attachments such as photos and Microsoft Corp. Word documents.

n DMS Release 2.2 was an incremental release leading to full functional capabilities. By itself, it was never intended to meet all DMS' functional requirements.

* Release 3.0 has undergone an extensive operational test and was determined to meet the requirements validated by the Joint Staff's Joint Requirements Oversight Council.

* DMS is on schedule to allow Autodin to be shut down, creating annual operating cost savings of $140 million.

* DMS Release 3.0 will be fully operational for a period of time before Autodin closes. A robust metrics program is in place to ensure the effectiveness of the capabilities provided to the user community and is reviewed by a general officer steering group chaired by the director of the Defense Information Systems Agency, with senior-level participation from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the military services and DOD agencies.

* DMS has been managed in accordance with all statutory requirements and DOD acquisition regulations.

Diann McCoy

Principal Director for Applications Engineering

Defense Information Systems Agency

The following is a response to an FCW.com poll question that asked: "Should federal IT project managers be made to qualify for their jobs?"

Ensuring IT Project Manager Success

Good, qualified project management skills come from the right mix of education and experience. It's not right for the government to qualify information technology professionals without also providing initiatives to educate, train and properly manage them.

There is no recipe for project manager success. However, a structured process methodology would be a significant factor in promoting successful outcomes for IT project managers. In addition, management controls and reviews must be in place to measure the right criteria and provide resources to IT project managers to meet goals and key milestones.

Some of us remember the General Services Administration-led initiatives in previous years, such as the Trail Boss training program, that led to early successes in major program acquisitions and large systems initiatives. Where is the concern for the IT project manager that previous federal management education programs addressed?

The IT industry has a less-than-stellar record for successful outcomes, which reflects poorly on how executive managers allocate resources and place their attention. We in the IT industry should strongly want to correct the issues that lead to that poor record. If we were erecting building infrastructures with the same poor outcomes, people would not tolerate working in those conditions.

If done correctly, the federal government could take a leadership position in developing IT project manager education programs for various levels of skill and scope of capability. That would benefit the IT industry at large.

Perhaps we can look to the Software Engineering Institute's Capability Maturity Model (SEI/CMM) for some guidance in addressing gaps in workforce development, with a focus on IT project manager education and a qualification/certification process.

The SEI/CMM certification process developed over a period of time with continued improvement as a goal. Likewise, any initiative for producing better-qualified IT project managers should include a collaborative process between the IT industry and the federal government that would result in making IT project management a highly respected career.

Burnell Meyer

Rockville, Md.

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