Army puts into motion series of program, spending reforms

Computing trends will drive savings and efficiencies

The high-level policies aiming to reform defense acquisition and reign in spending, set in motion last year, are trickling down as implementation begins, according to DOD officials speaking today at the AFCEA Belvoir Industry Days conference at National Harbor, Md.

Efforts to improve efficiency, realign spending priorities and streamline a cumbersome acquisition process were launched during the past year amid a tightening national budget by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Ashton Carter, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

Program executive officers across the Army say they’re seeing the initiatives beginning to take effect in their respective organizations. They also say they’re taking seriously a new Defense Department spending mantra of “do more without more” – a stance that reflects a budget that while not exactly shrinking does require re-prioritization.

“Army IT spending will remain stable; the goal is to optimize the IT spend. Optimization will be guided by computing trends,” said Gary Winkler, Army program executive officer for enterprise information systems.

The trends that are defining the way the Army reorganizes its spending priorities include cloud capabilities, software as a service, mobility and social software, and mergers and acquisitions, Winkler said.

In keeping with a federal data center consolidation mandate central to efficiency plans, consolidation through cloud services, virtualization, social collaboration and storage management are helping drive implementation, Winkler said.

Winkler added that mobile data traffic is on track to increase 39 times between 2009 and 2014, and the social software market is showing 40 percent growth per year through 2013 – also contributing to getting the Pentagon’s policies rolling further down in operations.

Winkler also said his office is working to increase use of firm fixed-price and multiple-source contracts, as directed in Carter’s Better Buying Power initiative, and looking to maximize broadly scoped contracts that can be used for a variety of missions.

However, there are still plenty of challenges, and there likely will be more to come. Winkler predicted that force reductions could still lie ahead for DOD, citing his own experience in the 1980s when, like now, an insourcing effort was followed by a hiring freeze – which was later followed by layoffs.

“We can tighten our belts and squeeze a little bit [as directed by the Pentagon] – but I think it’s going to be more than just a little bit,” Winkler said.

Still, PEO-EIS has been involved in the development of Better Buying Power tenets, including helping shape concepts and strategies for improving tradecraft services, establishing common taxonomy and reforming IT acquisition—all banner items in Carter’s 23-point acquisition reform plan released last September.

At the tactical level, the Army is wrestling with balancing acquisition priorities, according to Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller, program executive officer for PEO-Soldier.

“The Army is struggling,” Fuller said. When debating implementing new capabilities, he has to weigh investments against each other. “Is this capability going to give me the power to reduce boots on the ground?”

It’s also a struggle to keep up with changing and sometimes conflicting policies that are being handed down, he said.

“We have schizophrenic statutes and requirements,” Fuller said. “We need to let the pendulum settle.”

It’s a learning process that’s happening at all levels of DOD, according to the conference speakers.

“[Chief information officers] do policy, but are not necessarily strong on compliance,” said Mike Krieger, deputy Army CIO/G-6. At his office, 300 data centers, which he called “299 too many,” are being consolidated and the Army-wide enterprise email effort is on track for December completion despite reported hiccups.

Krieger also said CIO/G-6 is partnering with the office of the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology to develop new IT acquisition strategies and implement a new common operating environment. He said an implementation plan for the latter project is due in June.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a staff writer covering military networks for Defense Systems.

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