DOD is fine without management officer, Krieg says

A senior Pentagon official gave the Department of Defense a C grade for the level of its alignment of investments with departmental objectives.

At the same time however, Kenneth Krieg, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, speaking today at a breakfast gathering sponsored by FedSources Inc. of McLean, Va., disagreed with conclusions of the Government Accountability Office that called for the appointment of a chief management officer to deal with the situation.

'Washington has a lot of people who can say 'no' but few who can say 'yes,'" Krieg said. 'We need to figure out how to federate people's activities. We do it phenomenally well on the operations side, but we're not used to doing that on the business side.'

As for the GAO's recommendation, Krieg said he had a 'philosophical difference with the czar solution. I don't believe in organizational solutions that create czars to solve problems in government.'

Krieg sees DOD's major business challenge as developing a set of 'common value statements, so that we can compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges.'

Private-sector companies, he contended, have developed sets of metrics that allow managers to compare performance across disparate business units.

Krieg likened the Defense Department to a centrally planned economy, with 'great degrees of micromanagement from the center out and where we try to drive performance by regulation.'

'How many countries have done well with that kind of model?' he asked rhetorically.

Among Krieg's goals for his Pentagon bailiwick include enhancing recruitment of acquisition professionals, focusing technology investments to meet warfighter needs, and improving governance and decision-making processes.

Meanwhile, overall DOD IT spending is shrinking, according to Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer at FedSources, who spoke at the same event.

'Some may disagree,' he added, 'but in terms of the addressable market by the defense contractor base, it is generally going down.'

There are some bright spots, however. Bjorklund projected an uptick in spending from 2009 to 2011 and pointed out that the 'higher ends of work,' such as research and development, are currently 'growing nicely at 3 percent.'

Defense contractors in those areas still face a number of challenges, according to Bjorklund, among them: a tight labor market for security cleared technologists, a less-liquid capital market for investment in internal research and development, and government expenditure variances due to shifting priorities and changing requirements.

About the Author

Peter Buxbaum is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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