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


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


Despite the relatively slow progress on a comprehensive restructuring of DoD IT acquisition as envisioned in Section 804 of the 2010 NDAA and the subsequent Report to Congress, there are a number of major improvements that can be made quickly and easily.  The five points recommended for immediate implementation will have a significant impact on improving IT acquisition efficiency and effectiveness.  Moreover, implementation of these five points does not require rewriting of DoD 5000 or other major DoD policies which can take a years.  Rather, they can be implemented quickly with simple clarifying guidelines, one-page policies, and, most importantly, visible emphasis by DoD leadership that the status quo is no longer acceptable.

There is no claim that the five points reflect entirely new thought.  Clearly, there has been discussion about shorter development cycles, more agile contracting, and standard IT platforms for years.   Likewise the concepts of tailored templates and streamlined test and certification have been proposed before.   The five points do, however, reflect a small subset of the concepts proposed in the Report to Congress and in other documents.   That is, they provide focus!  Moreover, the primary observation in proposing these five points is that implementing just this small set of actions can have an enormous impact on reducing IT acquisition costs and improving the timelines and quality of the products delivered to DoD customers.

The primary challenge therefore is to the DoD leaders who are encouraged to embrace the five points and to quickly act on them as a first phase of DoD’s IT acquisition reform effort.  It is not recommended that other elements of the broader IT acquisition reform vision be abandoned.  Rather, they should be undertaken in a phased manner to permit achievement of some significant progress in the near term while continuing pursuit of the full reform agenda.

End Notes

  1. House Armed Services Committee Panel on Defense Acquisition Reform, Interim Findings and Recommendations, DAR Interim Report, March 4, 2010.
  2. National Research Council, Committee on Improving Processes and Policies for the Acquisition and Test of Information Technologies in the Department of Defense, Achieving Effective Acquisition of Information Technology in the Department of Defense, 2010.
  3. Business Executives for National Security (BENS) Task Force on Defense Acquisition Law and Oversight, Getting to Best: Reforming the Defense Acquisition Enterprise, July 2009.
  4. Tech America, Recommendations on Information Technology Acquisition Reform, Presented to the Defense Acquisition Reform Panel of the House Armed Services Committee, February 23, 2010.
  5. Defense Science Board, Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Department of Defense Policies and Procedures for the Acquisition of Information Technology, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Washington, D.C., March 2009.
  6. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2010, Section 804: Implementation of New Acquisition Process for Information Technology Systems, January 7, 2011.
  7. Department of Defense, A New Approach for delivering Information Technology Capabilities in the Department of Defense, OSD report 13744-10, December 9, 2010.
  8. The Standish Group, Chaos Manifesto 2011, March 3, 2011.
  9. Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) Manual, February 19, 2012.
  10. Kelly Waters, 10 Key Principles of Agile Development, www.allaboutagile.com, February 10, 2007.
  11. Office of Management and Budget, “Myth-Busting”: Addressing Misconceptions to Improve Communications with Industry during the Acquisition Process, February 3, 2011.
  12. National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST), Guide for the Security Certification and Accreditation of Federal Information Systems, NIST Special Publication 800-37, September 24, 2010.
  13. ASI Government, Rapid IT Acquisition: A New Model for Acquiring Government Information Technology, November 2009.

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