GAO: DOD needs chief management officer

The Defense Department needs a chief management officer (CMO) to coordinate its business transformation efforts and provide long-term leadership, according to the Government Accountability Office.

DOD needs an official who has authority, experience and tenure to drive change and be accountable for results, the GAO said.

Without such an official, “reconciling competing priorities will be difficult and could impede DOD’s progress in its transformation efforts,” Comptroller General David Walker testified before the Senate Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee on Nov. 16.

Walker also said that DOD’s recent efforts to plan an overall strategy for business transformation fall short of goals. Weaknesses in DOD’s business areas are causing lower efficiency, poorer performance, and less accountability, wasting billions of dollars, Walker said.

DOD has chosen to engrain transformation in organizations and programs rather than in a senior-level position, said Paul Brinkley, deputy undersecretary of Defense for business transformation. Also, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England views his role as being the department’s CMO, he said.

Leadership turnover is a challenge, Brinkley said, but the establishment of the Business Transformation Agency will insulate DOD transformation from changing political winds. BTA is currently searching for a new director who will be a nonpolitical senior career civilian, he said.

Since its beginning in 2004, BTA has taken over responsibility for dozens of transformational financial management and information technology systems. In October, BTA released updated versions of their Business Enterprise Architecture and Enterprise Transition Plans.

DOD has made progress by establishing management structures and processes to guide business systems activities at the enterprise level, Walker said, but DOD services and components have not been fully integrated.

“DOD has yet to develop a comprehensive, integrated, and enterprisewide plan that covers all key business functions…while also being clearly linked to DOD’s overall investment plans,” Walker said.

DOD is using a “federated” approach to change management, allowing subcomponents to manage their own transformations while setting rules for integration and uniform standards, said Thomas Modly, deputy undersecretary of Defense for financial management.

“Our view is that we do have an integrated transition plan and we are driving and improving that every day,” he said.

A plan can always be more comprehensive, but it must be balanced against available resources and the need for components to be independent, Brinkley said. “This will always be the debate that happens now,” he said.

 “Two years ago, you couldn’t even have that debate; there was no plan,” he added.

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