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Defense Secretary Approves IT Spending Cuts

The Department of Defense will reduce some IT spending as part of a wide-ranging effort to cut costs, according to a memo from Secretary Robert Gates.

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Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has approved a number of recommendations to increase efficiency and cut costs across the department, and IT will take some hits as a part of those recommendations, according to a memo issued by Gates on Monday.

The current cuts represent only a piece of the DoD's efficiencies initiative that Gates introduced last year. Specifically, they include places where the DoD can take action now rather than waiting for the typical budget cycle to play out. Gates detailed some of the cuts in August, but the new memo goes into more detail on specifics and introduces new cuts.

The changes will save the department billions of dollars from eliminating or shrinking a number of DoD organizations and programs, cutting civilian, military, and contractor positions, and making institutional changes to the way the DoD manages its budget. Among the cuts is a $6 billion annual reduction in the military's reliance on contractors.

As for IT in particular, some of the biggest cuts come from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is best known for being the agency that's credited with inventing the Internet, and which still spends much of its money on IT-related research and development.

The memo cuts DARPA's Total Obligation Authority -- the amount of money it can spend, including its budget and any unobligated money from previous years -- by 5% or $153 million, which the memo says will have "minimal impact on the overall quality of effort and mission execution." DARPA also will decrease its reliance on IT and administrative contractors to the tune of $58 million. In addition, by expanding the use of its Savannah classified network workstation, which allows network connectivity over multiple classified networks via a single PC, DARPA will save $4.4 million in fiscal 2012.

By ensuring that all of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service's contract writing systems connect to both entitlement and accounting systems and that they more fully implementing an electronic invoicing system called Wide Area Workflow, DOD will save $10 million. Eliminating paper leave-and-earnings statements for 271,000 DoD employees (also a Defense Finance and Accounting Service effort) will result in $3.1 million in savings.

Among the other cuts: reducing support for certain functions at the DoD human resources data center, the Defense Manpower Data Center, to the tune of $11.3 million; moving to digital-only copies of certain DoD magazines to save $4 million; eliminating the implementation of records and knowledge management at the Defense Human Resources Agency; cutting personnel and IT support at the Defense Technology Security Administration; and moving all of the IT support for the Office of the Secretary of Defense to another organization.

Certain jobs also will be led by lower-level officers in the future, like the director for cyberspace transformation and integration and the commanders of the Air Force Institute of Technology and the 311th Signal Command, and some positions at CyberCom will be reallocated.

The memo also announces some cuts that will be detailed at a later date. For example, the Defense Logistics Agency will have to submit plans by June to "eliminate, downsize, or transfer" the Defense Microelectronics Activity, which, among other things, designs custom chips and helps replace or support microelectronics that are no longer commercially available.

While the elimination of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks Integration and Information (the former home of the DoD's CIO) was announced as part of these cuts when Gates unveiled the plan last year, that piece is missing from the current memo. DoD sources say that the eventual shape of the military's IT leadership remains under discussion, and Gates says in his memo that guidance for remaining efficiency initiatives, the elimination of ASD/NII likely included, will be issued "in the near future."

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