Defense

Watchdog: DOD's infrastructure push needs scope

Image of the Pentagon

The Defense Department's push toward a common IT infrastructure lacks workforce planning and other management details, including a more precise scope, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

GAO said DOD has not fully defined the cost or scope of the Joint Information Environment or the cost of its primary element, the Joint Regional Security Stacks (JRSS). JIE will ultimately incorporate the many separate DOD networks into a common, shared global network -- or at least that's the plan.

According to GAO's report, the effort needs more management attention.

"As a result of the program's management and planning weaknesses, DOD decision-makers and congressional stakeholders lack reliable information needed to make informed decisions about progress and needed changes," the report states.

Furthermore, less than ideal project preparation and budgeting, weak workforce planning and a lack of scope and objectives have blunted the effort significantly.

Complexity is part of the problem. DOD officials said assessing JIE's cost was difficult because of the size and complexity of the department's infrastructure. However, without insight into JIE's expected costs, officials' ability to oversee the project and make effective resource decisions is limited, the report states.

GAO said DOD provided various estimates of JRSS costs and in March approved a budget for fiscal 2017 through 2021. DOD officials described the budget as the JRSS cost baseline; however, it does not reflect the full estimated cost of JRSS, according to GAO.

Specifically, it does not include about $900 million already spent on JRSS in fiscal 2013 through 2016. According to the September 2015 cost estimate, which GAO said was the most recent available, JRSS was projected to cost about $1.7 billion for fiscal 2017 through 2021.

The report also gives DOD middling marks for its ability to hire and manage the workforce needed to run such a complex environment.

Although the department has taken steps toward identifying the workforce needed to make JIE a reality and develop departmentwide knowledge, skills and certification requirements, it still has some work to do.

DOD officials partially concurred with nine recommendations in the report, according to reply comments from Principal Deputy CIO David DeVries. The reply states that much of the information sought by GAO auditors was still in development.

Cost estimates for the JRSS and network upgrades are due to be released in December, while other pieces of the JIE puzzle are still being assessed.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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