Retrieval system would put procurement info on tap

The military has enlisted a new weapon in the fight against its unwieldy acquisitions bureaucracy.

In development for two years, the Defense Acquisition Management Information Re-trieval system (DAMIR, rhymes with gamer), is a consolidated Web information retrieval and decision-making support platform for the Pentagon's major weapons and information systems acquisitions programs.

DAMIR began as a pilot project, one of eight approved in fiscal 2004 under the military's Rapid Acquisition Incentive-Net Centricity initiative for testing new technologies. There are currently 480 active users, a DOD spokesperson said.

While DAMIR serves up unclassified information, access for contractors and some other users may be restricted to certain programs or reports, the spokesperson said.

The system is designed to bring the military closer to the goal of knowing the status of acquisition programs in real time. That is expected to result in better program management and internal oversight. DAMIR also would improve the Pentagon's external reporting capabilities to contractors, the Government Accountability Office, the Office of Management and Budget, and Congress, according to Defense Department officials.

DOD gave Congress online access to unclassified Selected Acquisition Report data through DAMIR in April 2005.

'By supplementing [the electronic submission] with a hard-copy classified annex, we can eliminate the hard-copy annual SARs,' Bradley Berkson, acting deputy undersecretary of Defense for logistics, told a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia in April.

A Senate staff member who has used the system, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he has a generally favorable impression of DAMIR. He has used it, for example, to pull out a piece of the acquisition report pertaining to the Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle system.

'It makes data more readily accessible, and the data is exportable, so you don't have to retype it,' he said.

As more of DAMIR is rolled out, the staff member expects his access to grow beyond the acquisition report information.

DAMIR is designed to be implemented in stages, is scalable and will eventually replace the legacy Consolidated Acquisition Reporting System. The first DAMIR components were launched in March, DOD officials said.

One component is Purview, a presentation layer for structured data currently collected in the consolidation acquisition application. Another is the Virtual Library, which lets users perform keyword searches on documents across formats and database types.

The next piece, involving the Defense Acquisition Executive Review, was slated for release in May but is in beta testing.

As the project unfolds, DAMIR will let users pull information directly from military acquisition databases. The military could not say when it will fully implement DAMIR.

For users not on DAMIR, acquisition information is available only on paper or through a client system that requires manual dissemination of electronic data files by e-mail or floppy disk to individual computers all along the chain. This means that analysts in the Office of the Secretary of Defense have to manually load electronic file data from each branch of the service into the consolidated system and convert it to a relational database format.

With each office maintaining its own system, data entry is duplicated and employees' efforts are wasted, which causes delays and produces inconsistencies in the data, the spokesperson said.

Management tool needed

'The current legacy system is a data entry and reporting system, not a management tool,' the Pentagon spokesperson said.

Moreover, because reporting is on an annual or quarterly basis, Congress, OMB and others often send duplicative data requests for updated information.

DOD personnel and other users can access DAMIR via a standard browser. The system employs an intuitive interface that features tabs and pull-down menus. Quick-reference cards are available from the help menu. Thumbnail views can be grouped on a dashboard for a quick overview of program status.

DAMIR provides program managers in- formation more quickly because data is posted once, and users view it at the point of origin instead of downloading electronic files into their own computers, officials said.

The Pentagon estimates that DAMIR will save more than $1.5 million annually in data entry costs alone.

The real payoff, however, is expected to be in better program management and oversight. Resources tied up in manual operations will be redeployed, and acquisition managers in different branches of the service will share more timely, accurate information.

Access to DAMIR does not require training'although training is available'or a security clearance.

Although rollout is far from complete, DAMIR is showing early signs of success, the spokesperson said.

Information formerly available only in periodic written reports is now accessible on-demand on the desktop through DAMIR's Purview function. Army earned-value management data now is pulled into OSD's Oracle database on a monthly basis, rather than quarterly as before, allowing analysts to monitor major weapons and information system programs more closely.

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