IT funding suffers for Army transformation

HERSHEY, Pa. — Army information technology initiatives face cuts, restructuring or cancellation if they do not aid efforts to become a lighter, similarly sized and equipped, rapid-deployable force, according to the service's top IT official.

For example, the Army may slash $600 million in funding for fiscal 2006 to 2011 for the multibillion-dollar Installation Information Infrastructure Modernization Program and use that money to pay for Army transformation. The service also took money saved from a Microsoft Corp. enterprise license agreement signed last year and directed it to the modular-brigade effort, said Lt. Gen. Steve Boutelle, the Army's chief information officer.

Army officials plan to restructure the infrastructure modernization program so that voice, video and data hardware and software improvements will go to warfighting forces first. The decision adheres to the Army's strategy to train and equip rapid-reaction units to capture or kill enemies who fight in small groups in rugged terrain, said Boutelle, speaking today at the 2004 Army IT conference.

The Army wants to use fiber and satellite communications to take fewer support soldiers overseas. The service will save significant money in logistics costs, he said.

Boutelle cited comments made by the Army's top officer in his newly released plan to reshape service forces. "Our immediate needs are urgent, and fielding capabilities in the near-term may overweigh protection of the program of record," he said, quoting Gen. Peter Schoomaker, Army chief of staff. "We will shift resource risk away from fighting soldiers."

Army IT managers also voiced concern at the conference that the service did not clearly plan or execute the Microsoft enterprise license agreement, worth almost $500 million. IT officials said they did not expect to annually pay for the company's software when they had paid for it once every three years.

Army leaders said the Microsoft enterprise deal saves the service $100 million annually.

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