DOD policy pushes buying power down into trenches

The IT acquisition policy replaces the interim plan, the Information Technology and
National Security System IT Acquisition Oversight Policy, that the department issued in
August 1996 just as ITMRA took effect.


Although Defense has made progress implementing ITMRA, much work remains, according to
Defense Secretary William Cohen, who helped author the law when he was still a member of
the Senate.


"The department has not fully benefited from these reforms, owing in large part to
existing organizational alignments, structures and systems," Cohen said in a June
memorandum to the military service chiefs.


The new policy--recently issued by Anthony Valletta, acting assistant secretary of
Defense for command, control, communications and intelligence--revises buying practices
and procedures so DOD can overcome organizational barriers.


"To successfully implement ITMRA, the department must embrace new ways of doing
business and appreciate the need to treat technology expenditures as investments,"
Cohen said.


The policy institutionalizes the concept of IT investment management. It establishes an
IT investment baseline performance agreement that will lay out performance measurements
such as cost, schedule and deliverables that will be the basis for each acquisition. The
chief information officer, chief financial officer and a program manager must sign each
agreement.


"The old policy didn't require these kinds of performance measures in
writing," said Ray Boyd, an action officer in the Office of Assistant Secretary of
Defense for C3I Acquisition. "Before this, we had the delegation of procurement
authority, but this goes further than the DPA and makes sure that everybody who's involved
in the project is signed up and shares responsibility."


The policy recommends that DOD organizations use an earlier document, the Guide for
Managing Information Technology as an Investment and Measuring Performance, to help create
the IT investment baseline performance agreements.


Boyd said the new buying techniques, such as blanket purchasing agreements, are driving
the IT policy changes. Defense procurement director Eleanor Spector in March urged the
military departments and agencies to take full advantage of the General Services
Administration schedule contracts for systems supplies and services. DOD is increasingly
turning to BPAs to buy hardware, software and services from GSA schedule vendors.


"The old policy concentrated mainly on traditional contracts but, as you know, a
BPA is not considered a contract," Boyd said. "So what this policy has done is
expanded our view or insight of looking at things to include not only contracts but other
acquisition vehicles, such as BPAs." The new policy encourages DOD chief information
officers to tailor the requirements to meet their unique needs.


"Through this policy, we hope to give the CIOs throughout the department better
visibility of their IT investments," Boyd said. "What we're moving away from is
the old way of centralized IT oversight and moving toward what we're calling insight--an
environment where we're working together as a team."


Although the services' CIOs act as advisers to the senior DOD systems chief, they
ultimately must comply with the policies and guidance issued by the DOD CIO.


DOD in March approved an IT Management Strategic Plan outlining the department's
systems strategies, goals and objectives.


The plan is the basis by which DOD and the services plan IT investments and check
compliance with ITMRA requirements. "I envision an environment in which IT investment
management is integrated with the IT capital planning and investment control
process," Valletta said. "When this vision is achieved, there should be no need
for the kind of reporting that this policy memoranda requires."


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