Nothing pushes like an economic shove

The Defense Department and the intelligence community want to save money and improve information sharing, so they are launching a program to combine their software purchasing power.

Bill Martel, associate professor of international security studies at Tufts University, said the program will face some challenges, but the incentives are too great to ignore. He spoke recently with Federal Computer Week.

FCW: Can DOD and the intelligence agencies save money by pooling their buying power when they operate so differently?
Martel: There are no incentives in government and Washington like economic pressures. Economic pressures have an ability to cut through the organizational differences and cultural differences that exist within these bureaucracies and organizations.

When you look back on these sorts of things, it is always the economic forces that more than anything else can cut through all of the red tape and bureaucracies and get people thinking in these terms to share software and use similar systems and capabilities.

FCW: So the DOD and intelligence agencies are feeling the pressure to save money?
Martel: That’s part of it, but there are also the broader macroeconomic forces at play in Washington with budgets. We have big budgets, we’re running deficits, and anywhere you can save some money by buying smart, leaders are likely going to jump in that direction.

FCW: Why has it taken so long for DOD and the intelligence agencies to team on buying software?
Martel: It is just different cultures and different organizations. They look at the world in different ways.
That manifests itself from strategic-level differences down to very mundane tactical kinds of things.
I put software in that functional, mechanical, tactical kind of environment of how they stitch their organizations together and how they operate on a daily basis.

I think those totally different cultures and organizational approaches manifest themselves in terms of having to be driven to do things in the same way because they just have very different ways of looking at things.

FCW: How tough will it be to achieve the information-sharing goals?
Martel: It is easier to buy similar software than it is to take information and begin to share it. I think it will happen, but remember when you look at organizations, [you] see how they look at the world, what kinds of information they collect and what they do with that information. That manifests itself right through many aspects of how that organization operates. The easier step is to buy similar software.

I think the other side is going to be much more difficult, which is to actually get information flowing freely across those organizations. 

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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