BMMP in the night

Thomas R. Temin

Once again, the Defense Department has been shaken by deficiencies in its business and financial systems. The weaknesses date back beyond anyone's memory. But the issue flares up periodically, like sunspots.

In a recent report, the Government Accountability Office painted a uniformly grim picture of DOD finance and logistics systems efforts. GAO found fault with DOD for spending more than $200 million since 2001 on its Business Management Modernization Program with little in the way of an enterprise architecture to show for it. The authors accused the department of essentially winging it on developing an architecture via the modernization program.

GAO also doled out criticism of numerous specific projects including the Army Logistics Modernization program. And it cited continuing problems in establishing interoperability of financial systems as preventing DOD from seeing a clear picture of itself.

But GAO's larger agenda is the reorganization of DOD. It calls for creation of a chief management officer and for dividing responsibility for systems development among seven departmentwide domains'a move DOD opposes.

In short, a battle seems to be building over how DOD is set up and managed. Failed systems developments are the flashpoint.

DOD needs the ability to produce clean financial audits, to be sure. But the republic can survive if this takes a few more years, as it surely will.

Worse are some of the effects of non-integrated systems cited by GAO. For example, 25 soldiers left one Army National Guard unit because of system-related pay problems. In logistics, GAO found duplicate requisitions, parts cannibalizing, and low asset visibility, all during the height of Iraqi Freedom. Ouch.

Out-of-control systems developments, especially high-profile ones such as BMMP, have a way of becoming distractions. Like an airplane that flips over while the pilot is fumbling for a dropped pencil, DOD runs the risk of working too hard on the wrong effort.

Perhaps a better tactic now would be a timeout, during which the department could take a fresh inventory of affected systems and refocus the BMMP project.

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