A Roadmap for Reforming the DoD’s Acquisition of Information Technology


Posted: March 14, 2016 | By: John M. Gilligan

Three-Phased IT Reform:

The major emphasis of this paper will be on Phase 1 of the Roadmap: what can be done now!  Phase 1 changes should be implemented immediately and can have a rapid and significant positive impact on the speed and effectiveness of IT acquisition within DoD.  Phase 2 of the Roadmap would produce a new DoD IT-specific acquisition policy (i.e., in lieu of DoD 5000) as well as implementation of portfolio management and IT workforce reforms described in the Report to Congress.  These initiatives are allocated to Phase 2 because they will require both longer timelines to define and some significant policy changes to implement.   In Phase 3 of the Roadmap, initiatives that require modification to law or Congressional processes would be addressed.  These include eliminating overly constraining rules for so-called major automated information systems (MAIS) so that they can benefit from processes tailored for information technology.  Another initiative in Phase 3 would be changing the way Congress funds information technology, in particular allocating funding to mission areas (portfolios) rather than specific programs.  A third focus in Phase 3 would be to implement a single appropriation for IT eliminating the need to “lock in” the implementation approach (i.e., build, lease, or purchase) before appropriate analysis has been completed.

The remainder of this paper will address the five initiatives recommended for Phase 1 of the Roadmap—the activities that should be done immediately.  In short, each of the Phase 1 initiatives in the five-point program shown in Table 3 will dramatically improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the DoD IT acquisition processes.  Moreover, each of five points can be implemented without policy and legislative changes.  The major challenges to implementing these points are the determination that DoD must make rapid changes and overcoming the cultural and bureaucratic inertia.

Table 3: Implement Five Point Program—Now!

  1. Mandate short-duration, agile projects
  2. Require an agile contracting process
  3. Employ common platforms and transition to “cloud”.
  4. Integrate/streamline T&E and C&A
  5. Use acquisition templates

The current fiscal pressures within DoD provide an additional impetus for adopting the five-point plan.  It is conservatively estimated that implementing the five points would result in a 10% reduction in the cost of DoD IT acquisition (i.e., on average, reduce the cost of every DoD IT program by 10%).  Recognizing that over 50% of the DoD’s $38 billion IT budget goes to contracted services, the potential savings through implementation of the five-point plan are estimated to be about $2 billion dollars per year—with the added benefits of reduced delivery times and IT solutions that are more responsive to user needs!  These savings estimates do not include the substantial investments in DoD IT acquisition programs that never produce any results.  Implementation of the five-points will eliminate the risk that DoD will need to invest several years and hundreds of millions of dollars before it is determined that the IT acquisition effort should be cancelled.  This provocative statement provides a good lead in to the first of the five points.

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