IT whacked in Defense Authorization bill

A frustrated House committee cuts funding for programs it says are poorly managed

The House Armed Services Committee has slashed funding for Navy, Business Transformation Agency (BTA) and Defense Information Systems Agency programs in the 2007 Defense Authorization bill passed earlier this month.

Many Defense Department information technology programs are poorly managed and “would benefit from increased scrutiny and a new way of doing business,” the committee wrote in its report on the bill.

The report also states that the committee understood the challenge of building a “fully integrated, secure, reliable system for a worldwide military force,” but DOD complicated the situation with conflicting user requirements and a decentralized procurement system.

Some of the House cuts are severe, but the committee’s actions are not the final word. The Senate will have its own version of the bill, said Jim Kerrigan, a consultant at Colmar, a federal market research firm.

Kerrigan said the House cuts probably would be restored, one way or another. “If the Senate doesn’t make up for the cuts, DOD will probably get them back in an emergency spending bill.”

The House authorization bill cuts $70 million from the Bush administration’s proposed $315 million budget for the Navy Marine Corps Intranet in fiscal 2007. The Armed Services Committee said in its report that it has concerns about the cost of the contract and “the enduring nature of legacy programs that a now mature NMCI was supposed to replace.”

In March, the Navy gave EDS a $3.1 billion extension to the NMCI contract, originally awarded in 2000 with a value of $9 billion.

Its purpose was to connect 500,000 Navy and Marine personnel worldwide using PCs configured to deter hackers and control viruses.

The committee cut the procurement budget for DISA’s Net-Centric Enterprise Services (NCES) program by more than half, from $27 million to less than $12 million.

Prudent pause needed

Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles Croom, DISA’s director, said earlier this year that he considered NCES to be the agency’s most important project. It will provide all four military services with a wide range of Web tools and services.

In its report, the committee said that although it generally supports network-centric operations throughout DOD, a prudent pause is necessary in some IT programs to develop the Global Information Grid further.

The newly established BTA, which DOD set up to lead and coordinate a transformation of department business practices and systems, had its research and development budget cut $50 million to $140.2 million.

The committee said it supports BTA’s mission, but it made the cuts because it did not believe BTA would be able to make full use of the requested funding. Its report also states that the committee wants to see new DOD business systems come to fruition quickly or risk losing their funding.

The committee chopped the procurement budget for equipment to support the Army Global Combat Support System from a request of $139.2 million to $89.2 million. The Army also lost $80 million in funding for its Force XXI Battle Command, Brigade-and-Below system, which was half the $160 million request.

For some, good news

The committee did not cut all budget requests. It added $3.5 million to the Army Knowledge Online budget for the AKO Disaster Recovery initiative, and it boosted the Air Force’s combat communications budget by $30 million more than the $1.6 billion the service requested.

The committee’s report directs the Army to examine the possibility of integrating its current Joint Network Node battlefield network into the service’s Warfighter Information Network-Tactical program.

The committee asked the Army to prepare a report that analyzes how JNN and WIN-T could fit together and whether the service could incorporate technologies and equipment from JNN into WIN-T, with General Dynamics serving as the lead contractor on both programs.

The Pentagon asked for $853.7 million in funding for JNN in the 2006 emergency supplemental bill now making its way through the Senate — topping the requests for all other command, control, communications and computer systems.

The Army requested $340 million for JNN in fiscal 2007, but the committee bill would cut that funding by 30 percent until the service delivers a report on the potential of integrating JNN and WIN-T.

Trey Hodgkins, director of defense programs at the IT Association of America, said the group and its members conveyed their dismay over the cuts to the House Armed Services Committee. The group will work to see funding restored in the Senate authorization bill or in conference, he said.

2007 authorization bill’s winners and losersThe House Armed Services Committee cut funding for several large Navy, Business Transformation Agency and Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) programs in the 2007 Defense Authorization bill passed earlier this month.

Winners:

  • Army Knowledge Online: $3.5M increase.

  • Air Force Combat Communications: $30M increase.

  • Special Operations Command secure wireless local-area networks: $1.8M increase.

  • Losers:

  • Navy Marine Corps Intranet: $70M cut.

  • DISA Net-Centric Enterprise Services: $15M cut.

  • Army Force XXI Battle Command, Brigade-and-Below: $80M cut.

  • Army Joint Network Node: $102M cut.

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