Military Readies IT Acquisition Reforms - InformationWeek
Government // Leadership
12:38 PM
Connect Directly
Ransomware: Latest Developments & How to Defend Against Them
Nov 01, 2017
Ransomware is one of the fastest growing types of malware, and new breeds that escalate quickly ar ...Read More>>

Military Readies IT Acquisition Reforms

Deputy Defense secretary William Lynn says procurement reforms should be ready by the spring.

The Department of Defense is well on its way toward creating proposals for modifying the way it buys information technology and will have them ready for Congressional review by April, deputy secretary of defense William J. Lynn III said Thursday at the Defense IT Acquisition Summit.

In a speech, Lynn said that it is unacceptable that, on average, it takes 81 months from the time a major DoD IT project is funded to the time its operational, and that systems are often several generations old by the time they finally go live. "We will continue to win on the battlefield only by continuing to use game-changing technologies," he said.

One of the main problems, Lynn implied, is that the military buys IT systems just like they've long bought weapons systems, but IT systems are significantly different than weapons systems in two critical respects.

First, traditional weapons systems have been developed in classified settings, while commercial vendors develop most of the IT the military uses. Second, Lynn said, "weapons systems depend on stable requirements, but IT changes faster than requirements, budgets, or acquisition milestones."

Lynn also bemoaned the fact that all too often, the military's IT projects fail to take into consideration the preferences of the end users, the soldiers. Today's soldiers are digital natives who all but demand new technologies and are very capable of using them, he said. "Unless we build systems for tech-savvy soldiers, we will limit ourselves in fights against our enemies," he said.

In his speech, Lynn laid out a number of changes that might be made to defense IT acquisition, including more strongly encouraging commercial off-the-shelf software use, emphasizing the use of open protocols, adopting more service-oriented architectures, focusing on upgrading software and systems rather than simply replacing them, and even using cloud computing where feasible. He also said the military needs to make better use of supplemental appropriations bills to shorten contract lengths and better meet changing requirements. "We're going to have to develop a suite of approaches," he said.

Observers have long argued that the Defense Department needed to change the way it buys IT. For example, a bill passed this year allows the DoD to try out new procurement processes, the Defense Science Board issued a report in April urging significant changes to IT procurement, and federal CIO Vivek Kundra has also pushed for change.

Still, procurement reform won't be easy. The DoD is both massive and massively complex. "The challenge is that we're trying to turn a ship that is a very large ship," said former Navy CIO and DoD deputy CIO Marv Langston, now principal of consulting firm Langston Associates, during a panel discussion after Lynn's speech.

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).

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
To learn more about what organizations are doing to tackle attacks and threats we surveyed a group of 300 IT and infosec professionals to find out what their biggest IT security challenges are and what they're doing to defend against today's threats. Download the report to see what they're saying.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
2017 State of IT Report
In today's technology-driven world, "innovation" has become a basic expectation. IT leaders are tasked with making technical magic, improving customer experience, and boosting the bottom line -- yet often without any increase to the IT budget. How are organizations striking the balance between new initiatives and cost control? Download our report to learn about the biggest challenges and how savvy IT executives are overcoming them.
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Flash Poll