Barry Rosenberg

Network modernization caught in a holding pattern

Military's most important initiative delayed at least a year, perhaps much longer

The military’s No. 1 modernization priority, the network, is in a holding pattern — meaning no new funding — for at least the next year — and perhaps much longer.

With no congressional agreement on funding for fiscal 2011, the military and the rest of the U.S. government will have to operate at fiscal 2010 funding levels until March 4, as per a continuing resolution adopted by the 111th Congress in the last hours of 2010. However, many senior military network managers say they think that the short-term continuing resolution will turn into a full-year continuing resolution.

It’s not official, but the result of such an outcome is that all fiscal 2011 budget requests will be rolled back to fiscal 2010 levels unless the fiscal 2011 level is less. Everybody will have to live under a full-year ceiling under which no program will receive more money this year than it got last year.

Every program in the military is impacted. Regardless of where a program is in its life cycle — a research, development, test and evaluation phase; a procurement phase; an operations and maintenance phase; or some variation of all three — it will have to live with fiscal 2010 funding levels that basically keep it stuck in the phase it was in last year. If a particular program did not have procurement dollars in its fiscal 2010 budget, it will not get any procurement dollars in fiscal 2011, even if the program was scheduled to transition from test and demonstration to initial production in 2011.

Right before press time, I spoke to Gary Winkler, Army program executive officer for enterprise information systems, who will be the subject of our March interview. He told me how this will affect one of the program executive office’s important programs, an enterprise resource planning system, called General Fund Enterprise Business System, to manage Army finances.

“GFEBS is supposed to expand its fielding activities quite a bit this year, and that is done with procurement dollars,” he said. “Well, if they’re limited to the level of procurement dollars that they had in fiscal '10 then they cannot expand their fielding activities to what they had planned to in fiscal '11.”

Winkler said he expects exceptions to be few and far between. Nobody on Capitol Hill could agree what the exceptions should be, so they said that there won’t be any exceptions at all, except most likely for military pay. Only what is necessary to keep the pilot light on is the way Winkler put it.

The challenge for military managers is to minimize the impact of a full-year continuing resolution on critical programs while setting up those programs for fiscal 2012 and beyond when we know the fiscal environment will be no better.

About the Author

Barry Rosenberg is editor-in-chief of Defense Systems. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryDefense.

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