Army IT goes on a diet

Service plans an 80 percent cut in redundant systems

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — In a new policy designed to get a better handle on information technology investments, the Army plans to significantly cut its number of applications.

Francis Harvey, secretary of the Army, and Gen. Peter Schoomaker, Army chief of staff, announced the IT portfolio governance plan in a July memo to service leaders. "Our goal is to reduce redundant and stovepiped IT investments by 80 percent by the end of fiscal year 2007," Harvey and Schoomaker wrote.

Lt. Gen. Steve Boutelle, the service's chief information officer, outlined the strategy for complying with the orders to consolidate at the 2005 Army Directors of Information Management/Army Knowledge Management conference last month.

Boutelle said he must submit a consolidation plan to Army officials within 60 days. He said the Army will eliminate redundancy by following the golden rule of government: identifying unnecessary applications and eliminating their funding.

"Investments in duplicative or stovepiped systems, or systems not in compliance with Army and Defense Department standards, will be terminated," Harvey and Schoomaker said in their memo.

Lt. Gen. Jerry Sinn, the Army's budget director, plans to reduce the number of applications he operates from 200 to three.

Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer at Federal Sources Inc., a marketing and consulting company, said the Army's strategy comes down to money. "Reducing redundant applications means you can have much more economic support of your software environment," he said.

Bjorklund said software is generally inexpensive to buy, and cost only becomes a factor when an agency must employ several people to maintain it.

He said reducing redundant applications also increases efficiency allowing organizations to create a standardized software list and manage assets centrally.

However, Bjorklund said reducing redundant applications is easier said than done. He cited the Navy's problem shedding existing systems that slowed the introduction of the Navy Marine Corps Intranet, a multibillion-dollar project led by EDS, that consolidates and outsources the operation and management of the service's hardware, software and networks.

Culture played a big factor in that situation. NMCI forced users to abandon well-worn applications, and they were often reluctant to do so.

Security also played a role. NMCI pushed Navy officials to clean out thousands of old applications that either failed to meet the service's standard software configuration or did not meet DOD security requirements.

In another move to better manage its systems, the Army devised an IT portfolio governance strategy. It assigns responsibility to service officials for certain systems and aims to improve interoperability.

The Army's strategy follows DOD's IT portfolio management plan, which identifies four mission areas for Global Information Grid enterprise services and six for department systems. The four GIG enterprise services' mission areas are warfighting, business systems, enterprise information environment and the department's portion of national intelligence. The six DOD systems domains are warfighting, battlespace awareness, force application, protection, focused logistics and battlespace communications systems.

For example, Ray Dubois, undersecretary of the Army, oversees the service's business systems mission area under GIG enterprise services. Lt. Gen. Claude Christianson, deputy chief of staff for logistics, heads the service's focused logistics domain under DOD systems.

Army officials who oversee mission areas and domains must identify the systems they operate, manage them and register them for testing at the Central Technical Support Facility at Fort Hood, Texas. Schoomaker asked Boutelle this spring to improve how Army systems share information with one another after interoperability issues arose with a logistics system in Iraq and generals did not take responsibility for their systems.

Belt-tightening

EDS offers three tips that government agencies and private companies can follow to reduce redundant systems.

They are:

  • Understanding who and what the changes will affect.
  • Making sure the test-and-release process includes the system's infrastructure.
  • Building a thorough joint testing plan that has user acceptance.

— Frank Tiboni

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