New Defense secretary talking IT consolidation, cyber

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New Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is moving forward with implementing the 2016 defense bill, including splitting the office of Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act mandated the split of the Pentagon's AT&L office into two entities: an office of Research and Engineering and an Office of Acquisition and Sustainment, each headed by an undersecretary of defense.

Mattis issued a memo on Feb. 17 tasking acting deputy secretary Robert Work with leading a review of Pentagon business practices – particularly those that do not merit individual military department approaches -- to improve efficiency and come into compliance with the 2017 NDAA.

"We have sometimes allowed our focus on service uniqueness to extend into business operations, leading to duplication of effort and costs we can no longer afford," Mattis wrote. "To achieve greater departmental efficiency in savings, we must now pursue cross enterprise consolidation of business activities."

Mattis cited work done by the deputy secretary, deputy chief management officer and the CIO staffs in 2014-2015 as "a good place to start" in looking for savings through consolidating business operations.

Mattis directed Work to explore potential efficiencies across a long list of Pentagon business functions including: human resource management; financial management; acquisition and contract management; logistics and supply chain management; cyber and information technology management.

"As the teams consider horizontal consolidations they should keep a clear sight picture on maintaining or improving overall mission performance outcomes," Mattis wrote.

The memo was released publicly the same day the Center for a New American Security put out a report titled: "Seizing the Initiative: Turning AT&L Reorganization into Technical Advantage."

The authors of the report argued that rather than simply meeting the terms of the NDAA, the DOD should use the reorganization as an opportunity to drive change in innovation and acquisition systems that are not keeping pace with technological change today.

The CNAS report offered three possible approaches that Mattis could take in driving the congressionally mandated reforms. They argued that Mattis could approach the AT&L split through a "military-technical innovation problem," "strategic misalignment problem" or "business management problem" framework.

Depending on the framework Mattis chooses, that would set in motion different approaches to restructuring the DOD.

CNAS's Ben Fitzgerald, one of the authors of the report, told FCW that he sees the memo as "Mattis endorsing Title IX of the NDAA and communicating his intent to take action in alignment with Congress. This is wise and exactly what we recommended in the report."

But, Fitzgerald said that he doesn't yet see that Mattis is choosing a particular framework and right now is just asking for a review and options.

"Regardless, I'm encouraged by the memo. I think that Mattis and Congress have common intent and a rare opportunity to push for meaningful change," said FitzGerald.

About the Author

Sean Carberry is a former FCW staff writer who focused on defense, cybersecurity and intelligence.

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