Bill seeks a DOD manager to tackle business system woes

Former DOD deputy CIO Paul Brubaker says creating the new position is a good idea.

For more than a decade, Congress has warned Defense Department leaders to get a better handle on their business systems.

Last fall, in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2005, lawmakers made their case stronger by threatening Defense leaders with jail time and fines if they authorized spending on Defense systems that are not built in compliance with DOD's business enterprise architecture.

Now, Congress'still frustrated at the department's slow progress in modernizing its business systems'wants a new manager to run the consolidation effort of more than 4,700 systems.

Last month, high-ranking members of the Senate Armed Services Committee introduced a bill, S 780, to establish a DOD deputy secretary for management'much to the chagrin of department officials.

Big job ahead

The chief management officer would be responsible for development, approval, implementation, integration and oversight of policies, processes and systems for DOD management, including business systems modernization.

The post would control funding, approve budget requests, develop a strategic plan and performance goals and monitor progress.

'Our bill addresses the lack of sustained leadership within the Department of Defense by designating one person to be in charge of overall business transformation within DOD,' said Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), ranking member of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support. 'It is unacceptable that the Department of Defense continues to waste billions of taxpayer dollars because of poor business systems, which is why DOD needs a chief management officer.'

The bill comes after the Government Accountability Office, in its January report, designated DOD's business systems modernization a 'High Risk Area' for the 10th consecutive year. GAO auditors found DOD still lacked an enterprise architecture for its business systems, and a clear plan with milestones and accountability mechanisms.

Defense officials, however, contend they don't need another layer of bureaucracy.

Bradley Berkson, acting deputy undersecretary of Defense for logistics and materiel readiness, said DOD is making progress on its business systems modernization. In recent testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, Berkson conceded that fixing the department's business systems in the midst of a large military campaign has been problematic. Still, he urged legislators to give DOD a chance to rectify its own failings.

'Adding complexity to the organization is the last thing I would recommend to you today,' Berkson told lawmakers. 'I think the work of transformation of business operations falls to me and my colleagues in acquisition, personnel, finance and logistics. This is a task on which we are all spending our full efforts, while at the same time actively providing support for our service members living in harm's way.'

Berkson said Defense has made great strides since GAO's latest report.

He cited the establishment of the Defense Business Systems Management Committee and the shifting of program oversight from the Defense comptroller to the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

'The department's approach to business transformation is moving in the right direction,' Berkson added. 'I believe these steps will ensure the management accountability and sustained engagement by senior DOD leadership recommended by GAO.'

Gregory Kutz, director of financial management and assurance for GAO, said the Senate bill is critical for Defense leaders to achieve transformation.

'This is a world class challenge. This isn't a silver bullet, but it gives them a better opportunity, a better framework where success is more likely,' Kutz said.

Paul Brubaker, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for SI International Inc. of Reston, Va., said he agreed with the creation of a DOD deputy secretary for management.

'It is good to get someone who is an experienced manager who can bring all players to the table,' said Brubaker, a former DOD deputy CIO. 'A deputy secretary cannot do it because they are not qualified from a management perspective and don't have the background needed to understand all the different issues.'

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