Yes, a six-year plan

It also demands that agencies come up with systems performance measures and benchmarks
to ensure that programs support agencies' missions.

For whatever reasons-lack of time or more pressing concerns-agencies have been dragging
their feet. Now Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) is threatening to withhold fiscal 1998 dollars
until agencies finish their plans.

Anyone in business will tell you that precise planning beyond the next year or two is
futile. In government, six years is an eternity. Six years from now, who's going to
remember what anyone said yesterday?

On the other hand, an organization benefits from a sense of direction. Its members
should know how to react to environmental changes they can't predict. Without goals,
nothing worthwhile will get done.

The Army, of all agencies, gives a good example of how an overarching plan guides an
agency. The Army's battlefield vision is Task Force XXI, under which the brass wants
warfighters to have a complete view of battlefield surroundings by capturing digital data
about whatever can be seen or sensed. The service has been touting this idea for years,
pushing for funding and developing pieces of the digital battlefield.

Unfortunately, in tests conducted this spring, a Force XXI drill was practically a
comedy of errors. The Army discovered it had lots more work to do.

Even so, the Defense Department's Quadrennial Defense Review subsequently recommended
further funding for Force XXI to the tune of $1 billion. And Gen. Dennis Reimer, the
Army's chief of staff, is asking for $2.4 billion more.

It is precisely because Force XXI elements can be measured objectively against a
clearly stated plan that DOD brass still deem the program worthwhile and that Reimer has
the chutzpah to ask for that kind of money for a six- or eight-year program.

Compare that to agencies that have canceled entire systems strategies and placed
moratoriums on all systems procurements.

Putting aside Stevens' funding threat, agencies' top managers should buckle down and
get planning, and chief information officers should make sure systems figure in the plans.
Then, at least they will be in a position to press for resources with confidence.

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