Information Week posted an interesting article titled "Congress Targeting Defense IT Acquisition Reform" The article is a summary of an interim report issued by the House armed services committee panel on defense acquisition reform. The report specifically says that IT acquisition programs are "managed in such a document-intensive, process-bound way that defense IT system deployments typically take about 3 to 5 times longer than deployments in the private sector, and can be outdated several times over once they are delivered." The report (warning pdf link) itself states "Last year, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that on the then 96 Major Defense Acquisition Programs (MDAPs) the Department had experienced $296 billion in total cost growth and an average of 22 months schedule delay."

The article continues to explain that Defense Department officials are urging reforms in the Department of Defense's process of IT acquisition. After doing a quick scan through the interim report, I noticed a common theme that comes out of all of these congressional reports....
  • The metrics we have in place are ineffective at measuring success,
  • & We need to hire more people.

Unfortunately, it seems that variations of these reports are produced multiple times every year, with the same identified problems, yet no resolution ever takes place. In fact, just last June I blogged about a different government study that said they had poor metrics in place and needed to hire more staff.

One important aspect that is missing from this latest report, and every report monitoring government procurement effectiveness, is that the government continues to follow the poor practices of allowing their suppliers to write the RFP (or in this case, the actual procurement process) for them. As we blogged before, allowing the suppliers to have too much control in the procurement process will absolutely lead to higher costs and confusing specifications that limit the buyer to a single solution. The report does identify a need to move to more open architecture, but does not address specific examples of how to get there. Having spent some time consulting for the government in IT procurement, I can tell you with absolute certainty that the government is more guilty of this practice than any private company I have ever seen. In fact, most of the "consulting" firms that they have in IT procurement are in fact suppliers, such as SAP, or resellers/agents of those suppliers, which of course will always help write "best practices" that conveniently put them in the front-runner position of any technology acquisition.

We will have to follow this report as it develops more, however it seems like another expensive study that identifies major problems (that translate to wasted tax payer money), and the end resolution will be to hire more consultants and staff without producing any results.

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William Dorn

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