We all know the pace of innovation in technology. New technologies are coming out daily and making the technologies developed the day before obsolete. If you’re going to purchase IT systems or solutions, you have to do it quickly, or the solutions you’re purchasing may no longer be worth the investment by the time it’s approved, purchased and integrated.
In this environment, it would seem counterproductive to handle the acquisition of IT solutions, such as cloud services, the same way you would, say, a new military helicopter. Sadly, that’s the way that the Department of Defense has been purchasing IT solutions for the past three decades.
According to a recent Federal News Radio article, the DoD is working to diverge and differentiate the IT acquisition process from the process for acquiring weapons systems. In fact, they recently released a 19 page report that was mandated by the 2010 Defense Authorization Bill and outlines the steps that they’re going to take to streamline the acquisition process for IT.
The DoD currently funds IT projects through three distinct appropriations (research and development, procurement, and operations and maintenance), which is designed more for weapons systems rather than IT. In the report, they state that this might need to become more flexible for IT, since not all solutions need to be custom developed and some can be purchased off the shelf.
The DoD is also toying with the idea of a non-expiring revolving fund for IT. Congress would still control which projects would be paid for with the fund, but DoD officials could authorize programs and give Congress a heads-up after the fact.
Also recommended was a shift in how the Pentagon approaches its IT spending. Currently, large projects and systems are developed and acquired over a long time frame. The new mentality would have the Pentagon approve funding based on desired capabilities, which means funding could be shifted to new products or services that have proven they can provide the capabilities desired. They will also shift the focus onto short-duration, “incremental” IT projects.
The way the DoD was developing and acquiring IT solutions was broken and forcing the agency as a whole to move much slower than the private sector in adoption of new, beneficial IT solutions. With new technological advances, such as the cloud, becoming more widely embraced and adopted due to their ability to make organizations more effective and efficient, it was time for the DoD to make a change and find a way to move at the speed of innovation.
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