Lack of blueprint may cost DOD

DOD doesn't have an adequate IT architecture to direct its financial management fixes, GAO says

"Information Technology: Architecture Needed to Guide Modernization of DOD's Financial Operations"

The Defense Department is risking billions of dollars as it fixes its financial management systems because the department does not have an adequate information technology architecture in place to direct its efforts.

Without this kind of "blueprint" to guide DOD investments, the military services and Defense agencies will continue to find themselves operating unique and nonstandard financial processes and systems, the General Accounting Office said in a report issued late on May 18.

An IT architecture, much like the drawings used for building a house, details an organization's current systems, its plans for future systems, and the standards and rules that govern how systems interact with one another.

"DOD does not have a financial management enterprise architecture, and it does not currently have the management structures and processes in place to effectively develop, implement and maintain one," GAO said in its report, "Information Technology: Architecture Needed to Guide Modernization of DOD's Financial Operations."

"If DOD continues down this road, it runs the serious risk that its components will spend billions of dollars modifying and modernizing financial management systems independently from one another, resulting in DOD perpetuating an existing systems environment that suffers from duplication of systems, limited interoperability, and unnecessarily costly operations and maintenance," the report stated.

The DOD inspector general told lawmakers this month that the department will have to spend at least $32 billion to make financial systems compliant with financial accounting standards.

GAO praised some of DOD's efforts, including the development of a Financial Management Improvement Plan, seen as the department's vision of its future financial management operations.

Those efforts, however, fall short of a full financial management IT architecture, GAO said. Rather, DOD should use those efforts as part of a more detailed architecture.

GAO made several recommendations, including:

* Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should issue a DOD policy that directs the development, implementation and maintenance of a financial management enterprise architecture.

* DOD should modify the Senior Financial Management Oversight Council to put senior executives in leadership positions.

* The department should make the council responsible for a financial management enterprise architecture and that components adhere to that IT architecture.

* The department should have the council serve as DOD's financial management investment review board, with authority to ensure that purchases fit the architecture.

In a response included as part of the report, DOD deputy comptroller Bruce Dauer noted that Rumsfeld has appointed independent teams to study critical aspects of DOD's operations — including financial management — and provide him with recommendations.

The GAO recommendations will be presented in conjunction with that team's findings.

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