Information technology programs represent a considerable portion of all acquisition programs within the Defense Department, the assistant secretary of defense for acquisition said Tuesday (Feb. 25, 2014).
In fiscal year 2010, the National Defense Authorization Act directed that DOD develop and implement new acquisitions processes for IT systems, Katrina G. McFarland said during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s readiness and management support subcommittee.
So, based on recommendations contained in the 2009 Defense Science Board Report, the department is working to speed up the route to acquiring new systems by increasing collaboration and improving processes, McFarland said.
“To do this, one must start with the defined requirement or capability,” she added.
In the past, once an IT requirement or capability was defined, organizations were able to acquire only that technology which precisely met the predefined parameters.
The introduction of the “IT box” concept is a significant change to the IT acquisition process, McFarland said. The IT box gives organizations the ability to acquire technology that improves on already-approved technology, as long as the changes don’t exceed certain parameters.
In addition to the IT box, the department has introduced interim guidance to adopt “modular, open system methodology, with heavy emphasis on design for change,” which will help DOD adapt to the changing IT environment, the assistant secretary said.
“The policy addresses the realization that IT capabilities may evolve, so desired capabilities can be traded off against cost and initial operational capability to deliver the best product to the field in a timely manner,” she said.
In accordance with the fiscal year 2011 NDAA, the department chartered the Cyber Investment Management Board, which unites IT policy and operational requirements by identifying gaps in resources and in capabilities, McFarland said. But, she said, finding personnel with the required expertise work in IT acquisitions and development is “challenging.”
“The talent pool is small,” she noted.
One way the department is working to address these challenges is through the Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund, McFarland said, which is supporting training of IT acquisitions personnel through the Defense Acquisition University.
In addition, DOD is developing a cybersecurity guidebook for program managers to assist them in understanding what cybersecurity activities are necessary at each point of the acquisition life cycle, she said.
“The department will continue its efforts to operate as affordably, efficiently, and as effectively as possible,” McFarland said. “We are evolving our approach to acquisition for IT and recognize the distinct challenges that come with it.”