Defense Information Management:

Continuing Implementation Challenges Highlight the Need for Improvement

T-AIMD-99-93: Published: Feb 25, 1999. Publicly Released: Feb 25, 1999.

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Jack L. Brock, Jr
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the Department of Defense's (DOD) efforts to implement the Clinger-Cohen Act and strengthen its information technology (IT) management processes.

GAO noted that: (1) in 1995, GAO designated DOD's effort to streamline its business operations and deploy more efficient and less redundant standard information systems as a high risk area; (2) DOD was spending some $3 billion annually to develop and modernize information systems, while major business processes supported by these systems were not being examined for business process reengineering opportunities; (3) not surprisingly, DOD cannot show whether it has achieved significant results from its major technology investments; (4) in a comprehensive review of DOD's $18 billion effort to replace functionally duplicative and inefficient automated information systems with the best existing systems, GAO found that DOD consistently failed to adhere to sound IT decisionmaking and oversight processes; (5) this review showed that perhaps the biggest impediment to successful IT projects is DOD's organizational environment, which has resisted departmentwide efforts to standardize business processes and information systems and to increase oversight and visibility over information resources; (6) in view of DOD's long-standing information technology management weaknesses and reforms called for by the Clinger-Cohen Act and related legislation, DOD was required by December 1, 1998, to review and report on its efforts to improve IT management; (7) GAO's analysis of DOD's report and initial actions taken by DOD shows that, for the most part, they represent good first steps toward strengthening decisionmaking and oversight processes for IT; (8) however, it is still very premature to determine whether DOD can overcome its cultural inertia and go beyond these first steps; (9) many of the problems GAO identified in its earlier reviews of DOD's IT efforts are rooted in the fact that DOD's management and oversight processes over IT projects are not effectively integrated to enable DOD to manage from a portfolio perspective; (10) DOD's report recognizes these problems, and states that the department has been significantly reorganized to more effectively measure DOD information technology performance within the context of functional mission outcomes; (11) DOD's report contained only a single paragraph addressing cultural barriers to change and did not provide any specifics on how these impediments will be overcome; and (12) although they cited many DOD reform initiatives which should help address this problem, DOD officials offered little more in the way of specifics of how these barriers will be removed or how DOD's progress with respect to doing so will be measured.

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