Senate proposes DOD tech review panel

Lawmakers recommend creating a panel within DOD to help review terrorism- fighting technology proposals

With scores of terrorism-fighting technology proposals flooding the Defense Department, lawmakers recommend creating a panel within DOD to help review such proposals, according to the Senate fiscal 2003 Defense authorization bill.

The program is designed to encourage small businesses and nontraditional defense contractors to submit proposals that are potentially beneficial for combating terrorism, according to the bill, passed by the Senate June 27 by a vote of 97-2.

The Senate version of the fiscal 2003 authorization bill, S. 2514, a policy bill that approves programs for DOD totaling $393 billion, must be resolved with the House's version of the bill, which was approved in May.

The House, meanwhile, voted to approve its version of the fiscal 2003 Defense appropriations bill, H.R. 5010, by a 413-18 vote, providing $355 billion in defense spending.

The bills endorse much of President Bush's proposed increases in defense spending and funds for waging the war against terrorism. The bill provides $33.8 billion more than what was appropriated for fiscal 2002, although it is $2.1 billion less than the Bush administration had requested.

How exactly DOD should invest its money is one matter of concern. The Pentagon received more than 12,000 proposals last fall in response to its broad appeal for new technology ideas to combat terrorism. But Defense officials have yet to review or respond to many of those proposals, according to the committee.

The panel proposed by the Senate would recommend potential contractors to the undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics. Members would consist of technology experts from the Pentagon and military services, as well as the private and academic sectors.

Olga Grkavac, executive vice president of the Enterprise Solutions Division at the Information Technology Association of America, said there is a similar provision in the House bill, but the Senate version includes $50 million to fund the initiative. Overall, industry has been supportive of the initiative, although ITAA has not taken a formal position on it, she said.

NMCI Catches Heat

The Senate bill mirrors the House version enabling the Navy to extend the Navy Marine Corps Intranet contract with lead vendor EDS by two years. Lawmakers, however, voiced their dissatisfaction with the pace of NMCI.

The House version of the DOD spending bill trimmed NMCI funding, a staff member for the House Appropriations Committee said. EDS officials, however, noted that the cuts would come out of the Navy's overall information technology budget so NMCI will continue to be fully funded for fiscal 2003.

The report that accompanies the spending bill, however, includes some harsh criticism of how the Navy has managed NMCI's implementation and questioned the testing process that was used to certify the viability of NMCI. Therefore, the House recommends that the Navy take a slower, steadier approach, the staff member said.

NMCI, the Navy's massive effort to create a single network across more than 400,000 seats for its shore-based facilities, has been bogged down by scores of legacy applications that need to be accommodated. At one point, the Navy tallied nearly 100,000 separate applications.

The House bill would prohibit the Navy from ordering seats beyond the 160,000 that are currently authorized and would require the Pentagon to conduct further tests once 20,000 seats have been rolled out.

"The committee believes that the delay in seat orders that will result will also provide the Navy and [EDS] much needed time to address the legacy application problems which will arise from the order of the first 160,000 seats," the committee report says.

An NMCI spokesman said that the Navy could not comment on the legislation until it had been presented to officials.

The DOD spending bill had been criticized for lacking a transformational vision. But Ray Bjorklund, vice president of consulting services at Federal Sources Inc., a market research firm in McLean, Va., said that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sees transformation as more evolutionary than revolutionary.

These proposals are in line with that view, he said.

***

At a glance

Proposals from the House and Senate Defense authorization bills

* The Senate bill includes a provision that would create a $50 million "technology transition" initiative to deliver new technologies to the battlefield more quickly. The bill would create a Technology Transition Council, staffed by military acquisition officials and high-tech industry leaders, and it would require each branch of the military to assign a senior official to serve as a technology transition advocate.

* The House bill includes funds for Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrations and Quick Reactio

n Special Projects, as part of the effort to speed the transition of tools for warfighters in the field. * The House bill includes funding to expand the bandwidth capacity of the Global Information Grid to 10G.

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