Defense Communications:

Performance Measures Needed to Ensure DISN Program Success

AIMD-97-9: Published: Nov 27, 1996. Publicly Released: Nov 27, 1996.

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Jack L. Brock, Jr
(202) 512-4841


Office of Public Affairs
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Pursuant to congressional request, GAO reviewed the steps taken by the Department of Defense (DOD) in selecting and implementing its acquisition strategy for the Defense Information System Network (DISN) Continental United States (CONUS), focusing on whether: (1) DOD considered alternative approaches, such as use of an integrated bid, in its selection of an acquisition strategy; and (2) the selected acquisition strategy will yield the best value to the government over DISN's life-cycle.

GAO found that: (1) DOD considered several options prior to selecting an acquisition strategy for DISN, including an approach that would have involved using a single comprehensive service provider to furnish an integrated set of services to the government and another one that involved separately acquiring component services with the government integrating those components itself; (2) DOD considered the advantages and disadvantages of each option in terms of five factors: requirements; technology enhancement; schedule; management; and cost; (3) after evaluating its options and receiving industry comments on its draft request for proposals, DOD ultimately decided on an approach that calls for the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) to separately acquire and integrate component services itself, using contracts awarded on a staggered schedule; (4) DOD believes that this strategy will best meet national security needs at a reasonable cost; (5) in reviewing DOD's DISN efforts in 1995, GAO reported that DOD had yet to define the program's minimal acceptable requirements; (6) GAO also reported that DOD had not yet developed an estimate of what it would cost to acquire, operate, and sustain the DISN infrastructure; (7) without this information, DOD has no objective cost and performance baseline for measuring DISN's success; (8) without this baseline, GAO cannot determine whether the selected acquisition strategy will yield the best value to the government over the course of DISN's life cycle, which is estimated to be over 10 years; (9) once this baseline is developed, DOD must also establish effective measures for tracking DISN's progress; (10) at present, DOD is far from meeting federal requirements for establishing performance measures; and (11) by developing measures that focus on benefits, costs, and risks, DOD management can target problem areas, highlight successes, and ensure DISN meets its cost and performance goals.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DISN performance metrics for FY 2000 were finalized as part of DISA management performance contract that was approved by the Deputy Secretary in December 1999. Measures included reflect DISA activities rather than objective, customer-oriented outcomes, and do not correspond to the five factors -- requirements, technology enhancement, schedule, management, and cost -- that DISA used to select its DISN acquisition strategy.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence to establish the objective measures needed to gauge DISN success. At a minimum, these measures should include the concerns of DISN customers and should correspond to the five factors, requirements, technology enhancement, schedule, management, and cost, that DISA used to select its acquisition strategy.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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