Navy center gets easy access to cost data

The Navy Center for Cost Analysis, which operates within the service's budget office, uses business intelligence software to make sense of everything from supply chain data to aircraft maintenance costs.

Although the center itself does not have executive dashboard software, it can serve up data in visual formats to Navy and Defense Department officials involved in financial management, logistics and acquisitions.

The Navy and Marine Corps, like the other services, keep historical records of maintenance costs for weapons systems, said Wendy Kunc, a manager for the center's Visibility and Management of Operating and Support Costs program, or VAMOSC.

VAMOSC draws from 133 Navy and DOD data sources, some dating back to the mid-1980s. It allots costs and other numeric data to aircraft, ships, weapons, ground equipment and personnel.

The data arrives in a mix of spreadsheet, database and text formats. Center users parse it with the WebIntelligence query, reporting and analysis tool from Business Objects Inc. of San Jose, Calif. The data is stored in an Oracle Corp. database under Unix. ColdFusion from Macromedia Inc. of San Francisco provides the Web interface.

The system 'really takes care of the data dissemination part,' Kunc said. 'Users can help themselves, and our team can spend time expanding the reporting coverage and improving timeliness and accuracy.' Three full-time government employees, two part-time workers and nine contractors maintain the system.

Registered users can analyze the data with Business Objects' canned queries or create their own from a series of drop-down boxes without knowing Structured Query Language.

'They can pick and choose what they want to see,' Kunc said.

Someone interested in fighter jets, for instance, could specify data for all fighter aircraft, F-18 fighters or only the F-18e model. Most users download the information in Microsoft Excel spreadsheet format or as bar, line or pie charts.

Kunc said the system has grown tremendously in popularity, from about 200 users in the late 1990s to more than 1,350 now. 'Part of the growth is from making the data easily accessible,' she said.

Program managers can get a feel for how much a particular item costs to maintain and compare that against other possible choices. Defensewide studies, such as the Quadrennial Defense Review, also use the center's data.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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