Defense bill leaves IT management in limbo

Some of the legislative proposals are in conflict with reorganization plans unveiled earlier this month by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

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Armed Services Committee negotiators have agreed on a defense authorization bill for fiscal 2014 that is expected to move through both chambers in the coming days, but the compromise measure does not include provisions that would determine how the Defense Department handles business and IT management.

A provision in the Senate's version of the bill called for the establishment of an undersecretary of Defense for management, which would be formed by elevating the current deputy chief management officer role and designating it as a dual-hatted DOD CIO. That provision was left out of the compromise bill as lawmakers strived to strike anything that might keep the measure from clearing Congress this year. But the exclusion leaves uncertain how Congress and the Pentagon will move forward with key DCMO responsibilities, including business systems oversight.

The undersecretary for management provision would have been in conflict with reorganization plans Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel unveiled Dec. 4, which realign the Office of the Director of Administration and Management under the DCMO and move business systems oversight, a core function of the deputy chief management officer, to the Pentagon CIO.

However, moving business systems management away from the DCMO will require action by Congress, which insiders say is unlikely to happen before the fiscal 2015 defense authorization bill is considered – no sooner than the middle of next year. There is no mention of the realignment in the 2014 bill.

Currently, DCMO business systems oversight includes transformation efforts to modernize Defense Department business processes under an enterprise architecture. The undersecretary provision would have strengthened DCMO authorities to do so, but with no legislation on the horizon to support Hagel's transition of those responsibilities to the DOD CIO, it is not certain what the future holds for those efforts.

According to a Pentagon official, leadership is still hammering out the regulatory details.

"DOD CIO is assessing what is needed to implement the Secretary's recent DOD organizational review," said Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, a department spokesman. "That will include identifying necessary legislative changes as well as what can be done through internal DOD direction or policy."

One source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Capitol Hill staffers were given a proposal from Hagel's office that included legislative language to make the changes, but that lawmakers were not receptive to the proposal.

For now, business systems management will move forward, increasingly involving the DOD CIO office.

"In the interim, while the entire department works to implement the Secretary's directions, business transformation and oversight functions will remain under the DCMO, but the DOD CIO and DCMO will continue to work closely together on these issues," Pickart said.

Fewer deputy undersecretaries

One of the goals of Hagel's reorganization is to streamline the Pentagon by eliminating several presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed deputy undersecretary positions -- the undersecretary for management would have been just that, and a direct report to the secretary. The DOD CIO position itself was disestablished as a Senate-confirmed position – assistant secretary of Defense for networks and information integration – in 2012.

The fate of the CIO office, as well as the bulk of Hagel's other reorganization plans, are rooted in findings from a review led by former Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, who was asked in August to help find ways to reduce DOD headquarters spending by $40 billion over the next 10 years.

"Throughout Donley's review, the question of where does the CIO live was at the center of discussions," a Pentagon source said. "Many options were considered, from supporting the Senate language [to establish the undersecretary for management], to moving it to the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, to leaving it on its own, to re-elevating to a Senate-confirmed position."

NEXT STORY: Air Force strengthens CIO role

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