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Defense Department Must Overhaul IT Buying Processes

New approaches to include early involvement of technology users, rapid upgrade capabilities, and a modular, open-systems approach.
The Department of Defense will have to make significant changes in how it procures IT products and services under this year's defense spending authorization bill, which includes new language related to IT acquisitions.

The 1,492 page final bill, passed by the House of Representatives on Oct. 8, requires Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to develop and implement "a new acquisition process for IT systems" within 270 days of the bill's passage.

That process will be guided in part by a Defense Science Board report released in March. The report recommended ways for the military to speed and simplify IT buying, including the consolidation of IT acquisition authority under the Department of Defense CIO.

Any new policy must include "early and continual involvement" of the technology user, improved ability to quickly and incrementally upgrade IT resources, use of prototypes, and a "modular, open-systems approach," according to the bill.

Defense was already required to send Congress implementation schedules and progress reports on major IT projects; the new bill is clearer on what information must be supplied and adds additional requirements.

Before buying new business systems, the military will now have to determine whether those systems are in compliance with Defense's enterprise architecture standards and be required to assess and re-engineer business processes to ensure they are as "efficient as practicable."

A conference report accompanying the bill said that some members of Congress are "troubled" by difficulties with Defense's health information management and technology systems. The bill makes some changes to healthcare IT at Defense, including increased Congressional oversight of health IT spending.

A number of other IT efforts made it into the bill, including a requirement that Defense develop a strategy for research into "leap-ahead" cybersecurity capabilities, authorization for the Navy to continue investing in the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, commission of a study on cybersecurity workforce issues, and authorization to develop technology to counter efforts to block electronic media in Iran.

Read InformationWeek's first-ever analysis of top CIOs in federal, state, and local government, and how they're embracing new expectations. Download the report here (registration required).

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