GAO says Defense should overhaul information grid

The transformational programs that are helping the Defense Department build its Global Information Grid are being mismanaged in a stovepiped manner, with no one held accountable for results.

Those were the findings of a recent Government Accountability Office report that looks at how DOD is managing the development of GIG, a set of interconnected classified and unclassified programs and systems comprising communications satellites, next-generation radios, a bandwidth-expanded network, a group of net-centric core services and an information assurance layer.

In the report, GAO found that the DOD will spend about $34 billion over the next five years developing the GIG network, yet it has a decentralized management structure that could lead to cost and schedule overruns, disparate systems and a failure to meet key performance objectives.

"Clear leadership and the authority to enforce investment decisions across organizational lines are needed to achieve the level of coordination and cooperation required, but no one entity is clearly in charge of GIG or equipped with the requisite authority, and no one entity is accountable for results," wrote Michael J. Sullivan, GAO's director of acquisition and sourcing management.

GAO pointed out that in the past a decentralized management structure across DOD has often lead to interoperability problems. A key recommendation was for the department to create a senior executive, chief management officer position to serve as the deputy secretary of Defense for management. The position would oversee strategic planning, enterprise architecture development and implementation, IT and financial management within the department.

"Without a management approach optimized to enforce investment decisions across the department, DOD is at risk of continuing to develop and acquire systems in a stovepiped and uncoordinated manner, and of not knowing whether the GIG is being developed within cost and schedule, whether risks are being adequately mitigated, and whether the GIG will provide a worthwhile return on DOD's investment," according to the report.

Sullivan said although DOD's CIO has been assigned leadership responsibility for developing, maintaining and enforcing compliance with the GIG architecture, he has "less influence on investment and program decisions than the military services and defense agencies, which determine investment priorities and manage program development efforts."

"Consequently, the services and Defense agencies have relative freedom to align or not align their investments with GIG objectives," Sullivan added. "A result of this shared responsibility for the GIG is that the various offices and programs managing development of initiatives related to the GIG lack a clear understanding of what the GIG concept is and neglect to coordinate with each other."

The DOD agreed with GAO findings.

"DOD agrees that a management approach and specific measures are necessary to better assess and enforce GIG investment decisions that cut across organizational lines," said Cheryl J. Roby, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for resources, in a prepared response.

Dawn S. Onley is a staff writer for Washington Technology's sister publication, Government Computer News.

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