Defense's business transformation chugs forward

Deputy undersecretary Thomas Modly says DOD wants better accounting of its business systems and to ensure the systems are interoperable with the BEA.

Rick Steele

In sending Version 3.1 of its business enterprise architecture to Congress last week, the Defense Department took another incremental step toward better data standardization and interoperability.

As with the previous version of the BEA, the Business Transformation Agency is focusing on making sure Defense component agencies are using common data rules, data standards and business rules to perform transactions.

'We focused on a couple of key areas,' said David Fisher, director of transformation planning and performance at BTA. 'Intragovernmental transactions needed attention because when the Army and Navy, for instance, do transactions or when DOD does transactions with other agencies, it has been a problem for us. It all ties back to not having common data standards and common transaction processes.'

Paul Brinkley, deputy undersecretary of Defense for business transformation, said the vast majority of BEA, from financial management to personnel management, is about standardizing data and the elements people are required to adhere to and use in the systems.

Filling the gaps

Version 3.1 also addresses an architecture gap within environmental safety and occupational health from the earlier 3.0 version presented to Congress last September. In addition, some architectural clean-up work was completed under six business enterprise priority areas.

'Every six months over the next 10 years, things will get better,' Brinkley said at the FOSE trade show in Washington this month. 'I don't think this stuff ever ends. We continue to improve.'

Later this month, DOD plans to release a federation strategy to the services and agencies outlining how they will certify that their business systems are compatible with the overarching BEA.

Dave Scantling, director of information and federation strategy for the Business Transformation Agency, said the federation strategy aligns business rules and processes with service and agency components for what he called 'tiered accountability.' He likened the set of interoperable rules with the levels of government'federal, state and local'working in tandem to achieve a common goal.

'We are laying out the consolidated approach to the federation strategy and the road map going forward,' Scantling said. 'How do you really get tiered accountability across the department? We're asking the components to certify they're in compliance with BEA.'

The push to achieve interoperable business systems is not being driven by DOD's previous goal of achieving a clean audit by 2007. Nor is the need to pare down more than 4,700 business systems solely pushing this departmentwide effort to transform, Brinkley said.

'One of the root [goals] of the program was a clean audit,' added Carol Macha, chief architect in the Business Transformation Agency, who also spoke at FOSE. 'We've moved away from that. Building a common data environment is what we're looking at right now.'

Once the data is consistent and accurate, a clean audit will be a byproduct of the department's work, Macha said.

DOD is spending $4.2 billion a year to maintain its business systems, according to Thomas Modly, deputy undersecretary of Defense for financial management. The aim is to get a better accounting of the systems and programs receiving the money, and to ensure that those systems are interoperable with the business enterprise architecture the department is building.

In September, DOD released Version 3.0 of its business enterprise architecture in compliance with the National Defense Authorization Act of 2005. In the BEA, DOD laid out 89 milestones it sought to meet in six months. Out of those milestones, 67 were met.

Missed milestones

Of those that weren't met, Brinkley said 60 percent should be finished by Sept. 30, and all have recovery plans in place.

'We are being very stringent with the definition of a miss,' he said. 'If someone misses their milestone by a day, they have missed it. We are trying to create a sense of complete accountability.'

Brinkley added that a majority of the missed milestones were in the area of supply chain management.

'This area requires tight coordination of all players at all levels of the department,' Brinkley said. 'This is a high-risk area. We have to figure out how to remove the barriers to have more accurate forecasting of time and schedules.'

Modly said he was pleased with the effort, but acknowledged the department had its work cut out in meeting future milestones, including a plan to establish new baselines for the Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System.

Last September's BEA included the department's first transition plan for six Defense agencies: the departments of the Army, Navy and Air Force, the Defense Logistics Agency, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, and the Transportation Command.

The component agencies also met about 70 percent of their milestones and have recovery plans to complete the remaining ones, Brinkley added.

The plan also outlined a new process for senior Defense officials to evaluate IT systems for compliance with the architecture and included a plan to centralize funding for DOD-level systems.

For years, DOD's business systems have faced intense scrutiny from the Government Accountability Office. Randy Hite, director of information technology architectures and systems issues for GAO, said DOD has accomplished more in the past six months than it had in over four years of working its enterprise architecture. Hite attributed the progress to the legislative mandates and to Brinkley and Modly coming on board.

Hite said the latest BEA version and the enterprise transition plan detail how DOD is addressing some of the gaps GAO acknowledged in previous reports.

'Things are going in the right direction,' Hite said.

GCN assistant managing editor for news Jason Miller contributed to this story.

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