DOD, Congress scrap over IT project authority

DOD, Congress scrap over IT project authority

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

Senior Defense Department officials are resisting a congressional call for more oversight of information technology projects.

In its fiscal 2000 Defense appropriations bill, the House Appropriations Committee cited cost overruns, a lack of management oversight and DOD's failure to effectively implement the IT Management Reform Act of 1996 as reasons for its plan to give more authority to chief information officers, who would report to Congress regularly.

Quoting from a DOD inspector general report, the committee wrote in its report accompanying the appropriations bill that systems projects tend to exceed their budgets and miss schedules, as well as 'evade data standardization and interoperability requirements, and shortchange user needs.'

The department's overarching integrated product teams have 'not even met in over a year,' according to the report, so the OIPT process is failing to carry out its oversight mission.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense, which disagrees with the committee's findings, is drafting a response, spokeswoman Susan Hansen said.

House lawmakers faulted OSD for letting the Air Force and Navy opt out of the Defense Joint Accounting System. 'Thus, this joint system will be fielded only to the Army and a few Defense-wide activities,' the committee's report said.

'After its initial Milestone 0 approval, the timeline for completing the DJAS software development effort expanded from 16 months to six or more years, the benefits declined from $320 million to $204 million and are now characterized as productivity savings, whereas before they were real cost savings,' the report said.

The committee also recommended that DOD delay the fielding of the Standard Procurement System until Release 5.0 'satisfies the users requirements, and until there is resolution on the appropriateness of the Defense Logistics Agency's contracting strategy.'

To better implement ITMRA, which Defense Secretary William Cohen cosponsored when he was serving as a Democratic senator from Maine, the committee members supported DOD's request for a $14.7 million increase for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence to improve IT oversight.

CIO signs off

To gain more control over IT oversight on Capitol Hill, the committee's bill would prohibit any system from 'receiving Milestone I, Milestone II or Milestone III approval until the chief information officer certifies in writing to the congressional Defense committees that the system is in compliance with the provisions of the Clinger-Cohen Act.'

DOD's CIOs would have to provide funding baseline and milestone schedules for projects to the congressional defense committees, and they would also have to show that five other criteria are met in the areas of business process re-engineering, alternative analysis, economic analysis, performance measurement and security.

If the bill becomes law, no DOD funds after April 1 could be used for systems that are not registered with the department's CIO Office.

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