GAO seeks more effort from Defense on modernization

Over the past six months, the Defense Department has made incremental strides in transforming its legacy and duplicative business systems by releasing another business enterprise architecture version, updating its enterprise transition plan and issuing a report to Congress.

Still, additional steps are needed to ensure DOD complies with provisions in the 2005 National Defense Authorization Act. In a report released yesterday, the Government Accountability Office found that the DOD's business systems modernization initiative took strategic steps, since a November 2005 report, to address 29 prior recommendations made by GAO to strengthen the management of the modernization effort. GAO found that 16 of the 29 recommendations have been implemented and 13 are in the process of being implemented.

"In support of its military operations, the department performs an assortment of interrelated and interdependent business functions, including logistics management, procurement, health care management, and financial management," according to the GAO report. "DOD recently reported that, in order to support these business functions, it relies on 3,717 business systems."

To transform those systems, however, GAO faulted the DOD for failing to create "milestones for developing its enterprise architecture program management plan that defines, among other things, what the increments of improvement are and how and when they will be accomplished, with particular emphasis and clarity around the near-term increments." GAO recommended that the department develop the plan to gain greater control of its IT environment and that officials submit the plan to Defense congressional committees by July 31.

"It is important for the department to develop this plan as soon as possible because without it, the department is less likely to accomplish intended improvements and the Congress does not have the means to measure progress and hold the department accountable for doing so," GAO added.

Specifically, the report found that the Defense Department:

  • Created an enterprise architecture that specifies the Standard Financial Information Structure (SFIS) as an enterprisewide data standard to support financial management and reporting functions. But certain data elements within SFIS, including those associated with planning, programming and budget processes, have not been defined.
  • Included in its enterprise transition plan an initiative aimed at identifying capability gaps between the "As Is" and the "To Be" architectural environments. However, the transition plan fails to include a complete listing of the legacy systems that will not be a part of the target architecture. It also doesn't include system investment information for DOD agencies and combatant commands.
  • Has failed to establish an investment review board to focus on IT infrastructure and information assurance investments.

Paul Brinkley, deputy Defense undersecretary for business transformation, called GAO's report "a fair representation of the department's efforts to date."

"We do not agree on all points, yet even in areas of disagreement, we recognize the opportunity for dialogue and learning on both sides," Brinkley wrote in a letter to Randolph Hite, GAO's director for IT architecture and systems issues.

Brinkley added that while it is important for DOD to respond to GAO's recommendations, "it is equally important that GAO make recommendations sufficiently specific in scope that they can be reasonably implemented and that GAO provide prompt feedback on whether our efforts are in line with their concern," to which GAO responded in agreement.

The DOD only partially agreed with GAO's recommendation to develop a departmentwide enterprise architecture program management plan.

"This far exceeds the scope of business systems modernization," Brinkley wrote. "The department will explore the feasibility of a departmentwide approach to this issue and publish a formal position on this recommendation by September 30, 2006."

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