$9 billion DOD IT budget eludes knives on Hill

The House and the Senate have agreed to spare the knife on
nearly all the items in the Pentagon's $9 billion information technology budget request
for fiscal 1996, while throwing in close to $100 million in unrequested funds for good
measure.


In their final conference report on the 1996 Defense appropriations bill, the two
houses of Congress bucked the prevailing budget-cutting trend and stuck by the generous
tone set this summer during authorization and appropriations negotiations.


The conference report was rejected by the House Sept. 29 for reasons unrelated to the
IT funds. It cannot become law until Congress and the White House work out their budget
differences. A stopgap resolution will keep the government operating until Nov. 15.


Though the overall bill could change significantly before then, congressional sources
said it is unlikely that the comparatively small IT budget items would change at all.


Confirming a retreat from proposals to outsource data processing activities performed
by the Defense Information Systems Agency's 16 megacenters, the conference report endorsed
a House requirement that DOD's comptroller provide a detailed economic feasibility
analysis of such proposals.


The conferees also urged DOD "to look to franchising for these and other similar
[data processing] services from other federal agencies that already provide similar,
cost-effective services." Specifically, the budget panel urged DOD "to initiate
a prototype for using the National Finance Center cross-servicing functions, in
conjunction with existing DFAS [Defense Finance and Accounting Service] and private
operations in the area."


The one significant fiscal rebuke for IT in the conference report was directed,
ironically, at the Joint Logistics Systems Center, which had been nominated for a $100
million increase by the House Appropriations Committee [GCN, July 31, Page 1]. In
its report, that committee had lauded JLSC for demonstrating "the proven payoffs of
modern systems approaches to logistics automation" and for generating "dramatic
savings in dollars."


The conferees appear to have attended a very different JLSC progress briefing. Alluding
to long-standing reports that JLSC is hobbled by mismanagement and skimpy support from the
Pentagon, the conferees flatly rejected the increase and instead froze half of JLSC's
existing budget "until the secretary of Defense has taken appropriate action to
correct JLSC's organizational deficiencies and has designated the Air Force as the
executive agency for the JLSC."


"JLSC is not properly organized to accomplish the redesign of the Department of
Defense's logistics systems," the conferees reported, citing a September report by
the House Appropriations Committee's surveys and investigations staff. The conferees
instructed the secretary to provide a plan for improving JLSC's "management,
technical, contracting and acquisition support" activities.


The conference committee increased procurement funds for the Army's Reserve Component
Automation System (RCAS) by $25 million, bringing the total to $108 million. Congress
justified the extra money by predicting an end to the administrative logjam that has kept
deliveries on RCAS to a trickle for four years.


"For the first time in the RCAS program's history," the report said,
"there now appears to be a general consensus between the active Army, the National
Guard, the Army Reserve, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the Congress on [the
future of RCAS] based on the restructure proposed by the chief of the National Guard
Bureau."


That restructuring, announced last spring, would allow RCAS to evolve from the
minicomputer and dumb-terminal architecture proposed by contractor Boeing Co. in 1991 to
an open-systems architecture running mostly commercial software on PCs connected by
standard LANs [GCN, May 15, Page 8].


A spokesman for the National Guard Bureau said details of the restructured architecture
would not be released until the appropriations bill is signed. Under the 12-year, $1.6
billion RCAS contract, Boeing is expected to provide secure network links and a variety of
administrative applications for some 60,000 Army reserve users across the United States.


The conferees also approved an unrequested $18 million increase for the Navy Standard
Integrated Personnel System and endorsed DOD plans to use that system to develop "the
core capabilities required to support joint requirements for the objective DOD field-level
data collection personnel system."


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