New contracting era begins for U.S. Army

Policies push adoption of cloud, mobile and social media

Last year’s acquisition policy pronouncements are starting to be felt across to the U.S. Army, with upticks in cloud computing initiatives, increasing use of fixed-price contracts and adoption of social media.

“Army IT spending will remain stable; the goal is to optimize the IT [spending]. Optimization will be guided by computing trends,” said Gary Winkler, Army program executive officer for enterprise information systems.

He was one of several Army acquisition speakers at the AFCEA Belvoir Industry Days conference at the National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. Winkler also recently announced he is leaving the Army.

Efforts to improve efficiency, realign spending priorities and streamline a cumbersome acquisition process were launched during the past year amid a tightening national budget by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Ashton Carter, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

Leading the charge for the Army’s efforts to hold down spending and become more efficient are cloud computing initiatives, mobile technologies, data center consolidation and social collaboration, Winkler said.

Winkler said that mobile data traffic is on track to increase by 39 times between 2009 and 2014, and the social software market is showing 40 percent growth per year through 2013 — also contributing to getting the Pentagon’s policies rolling further down in operations.

The Army also wants to increase use of firm fixed-price and multiple-source contracts, as directed in Carter’s Better Buying Power initiative, and looking to maximize broadly scoped contracts that can be used for a variety of missions.

However, there are still plenty of challenges, and there likely will be more to come. Winkler predicted that force reductions could still lie ahead for DOD, citing his own experience in the 1980s when, like now, an insourcing effort was followed by a hiring freeze — which was later followed by layoffs.

“We can tighten our belts and squeeze a little bit [as directed by the Pentagon] — but I think it’s going to be more than just a little bit,” Winkler said.

Still, PEO-EIS has been involved in the development of Better Buying Power tenets, including helping shape concepts and strategies for improving tradecraft services, establishing common taxonomy and reforming IT acquisition — all banner items in Carter’s 23-point acquisition reform plan released last September.

At the tactical level, the Army is wrestling with balancing acquisition priorities, according to Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller, program executive officer for PEO-Soldier.

“The Army is struggling,” Fuller said. When debating implementing new capabilities, he has to weigh investments against each other. “Is this capability going to give me the power to reduce boots on the ground?”

It’s also a struggle to keep up with changing and sometimes conflicting policies that are being handed down, he said.

“We have schizophrenic statutes and requirements,” Fuller said. “We need to let the pendulum settle.”

It’s a learning process that’s happening at all levels of DOD, according to the conference speakers.

“[Chief information officers] do policy, but are not necessarily strong on compliance,” said Mike Krieger, deputy Army CIO/G-6. At his office, 300 data centers, which he called “299 too many,” are being consolidated and the Army-wide enterprise e-mail effort is on track for December completion despite reported hiccups.

Krieger also said CIO/G-6 is partnering with the office of the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology to develop new IT acquisition strategies and implement a new common operating environment. He said an implementation plan for the latter project is due in June.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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