DOD Business Systems Modernization:

Improvements to Enterprise Architecture Development and Implementation Efforts Needed

GAO-03-458: Published: Feb 28, 2003. Publicly Released: Feb 28, 2003.

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The Department of Defense (DOD) is developing an enterprise architecture, or corporate modernization blueprint, to guide and constrain its ongoing and planned business system investments. GAO was asked to review DOD's processes and controls for developing the enterprise architecture and ensuring that ongoing IT investments are consistent with its enterprise architecture development efforts.

DOD has undertaken a challenging and ambitious task to, within 1 year, develop a department-wide blueprint for modernizing its over 1,700 timeworn, inefficient, and nonintegrated business processes and supporting information technology (IT) assets. Such a blueprint, commonly called an enterprise architecture, is an essential modernization management tool. We support the Secretary of Defense's decision to develop an architecture and the department's goal of acquiring systems that provide timely, reliable, and relevant information. Successfully doing so requires the application of effective enterprise architecture and IT investment management processes and controls. While DOD is following some of these enterprise architecture practices, it is not following others, in part because it is focused on meeting its ambitious schedule. More specifically, with respect to developing the architecture, DOD has yet to (1) establish the requisite architecture development governance structure and process controls needed to ensure that ownership of and accountability for the architecture are vested with senior leaders across the department, (2) clearly communicate to intended architecture stakeholders the purpose, scope, and approach to developing the initial and subsequent versions of the architecture, and their roles and responsibilities, and (3) define and implement an independent quality assurance process. Until it follows these practices, DOD increases the risk of developing an architecture that will be limited in scope, be resisted by those responsible for implementing it, and will not support effective systems modernization. DOD has taken initial steps aimed at improving its management of ongoing business system investments. However, DOD has yet to establish the necessary departmental investment governance structure and process controls needed to adequately align ongoing investments with its architectural goals and direction. Instead, DOD continues to allow its component organizations to make their own parochial investment decisions, following different approaches and criteria. This stove-piped decision-making process has contributed to the department's current complex, error-prone environment of over 1,700 systems. In particular, DOD has not established and applied common investment criteria to its ongoing IT system projects using a hierarchy of investment review and funding decision-making bodies, each composed of representatives from across the department. DOD also has not yet conducted a comprehensive review of its ongoing IT investments to ensure that they are consistent with its architecture development efforts. Until it takes these steps, DOD will likely continue to lack effective control over the billions of dollars it is currently spending on IT projects.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should gain control over ongoing IT investments by establishing a standard set of criteria to include (1) alignment and consistency with the DOD enterprise architecture and (2) GAO's open recommendations governing limitations in business system investments pending development of the architecture.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to the Ronald W. Reagan National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005, in June 2005, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics issued criteria for reviewing all business system investments costing more than $1 million. Further, in April 2006, the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Business Transformation) and the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Financial Management) also issued standardized criteria for review of proposed DOD business system investments. This action taken by DOD is consistent with the intent of our recommendation and should better enable the department to gain control of its information technology investments.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should gain control over ongoing IT investments by establishing a hierarchy of investment review boards, each responsible and accountable for selecting and controlling investments that meet defined threshold criteria, and each composed of the appropriate level of executive representatives, depending on the threshold criteria, from across the department.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to the Ronald W. Reagan National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005, on March 19, 2005, the Deputy Secretary of Defense delegated the authority for the review, approval, and oversight of the planning, design, acquisition, deployment, operation, maintenance, and modernization of defense business systems to the designated approval authority--investment review board--for each business area. Additionally, on June 2, 2005, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics set forth guidance that identified the processes to establish and operate the investment review boards for the purpose of reviewing all business system investments costing more than $1 million. This action taken by DOD is consistent with the intent of our recommendation and should help the department to gain greater control of its business system investments.

    Recommendation: To assist DOD in its efforts to effectively develop and implement an enterprise architecture, and guide and constrain its business system investments, and to address the problems discussed during the briefing, the Secretary of Defense should ensure that the quality assurance function (1) includes the review of adherence to process standards and reliability of reported program performance, (2) is made independent of the program management function, and (3) is not performed by subject matter experts involved in the development of key architecture products.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The department has established a quality assurance function, which is an embedded process within the overall architecture development effort. This function includes the review of adherence to process standards, as appropriate and it reports to a BTA division that is independent of the division responsible for developing and maintaining the architecture. It is also authorized to elevate issues to the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. DOD's actions are consistent with the intent of our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To assist DOD in its efforts to effectively develop and implement an enterprise architecture, and guide and constrain its business system investments, and to address the problems discussed during the briefing, the Secretary of Defense should ensure that the enterprise architecture program is supported by a proactive marketing and communication program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Business Transformation Agency (BTA) established a communications team that is responsible for achieving strategic communications objectives and promoting external awareness of the department's vision, mission and progress. In addition, in August 2007, BTA developed a communications strategy plan that outlined goals for maximizing public outreach and stakeholder participation in order to create stakeholder awareness, buy-in, and understanding and involvement. DOD's actions are consistent with the intent of our recommendation and should better enable the department to better control its information technology investments.

    Recommendation: To assist DOD in its efforts to effectively develop and implement an enterprise architecture, and guide and constrain its business system investments, and to address the problems discussed during the briefing, the Secretary of Defense should ensure that the enterprise architecture executive committee members are singularly and collectively made explicitly accountable to the Secretary for delivery of the enterprise architecture, including approval of each version of the architecture.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In February 2005, DOD established the Defense Business Systems Management Committee (DBSMC), which, according to its charter, is accountable to the Secretary of Defense for the delivery and approval of each version of the enterprise architecture. The DBSMC is chaired by the Deputy Secretary of Defense and the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics) serves as the vice chair. The committee is comprised of senior leadership from across the department, including the military service secretaries and the defense agency heads. DOD's actions are consistent with the intent of our recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should gain control over ongoing IT investments by directing these boards to immediately apply these criteria in completing reviews of all ongoing IT investments, and to not fund investments that do not meet these criteria unless they are otherwise justified by explicit criteria waivers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to the Ronald W. Reagan National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005, in June 2005, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics issued guidance pointing out that one of the key elements in evaluating the department's business system investments is the importance of ensuring consistency with the business enterprise architecture (BEA). Furthermore, in April 2006, the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Business Transformation) and the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Financial Management) issued BEA compliance guidance for its investment review boards to use in reviewing proposed business system investments costing more than $1 million. This action taken by DOD is consistent with the intent of our recommendation and should better control the department's information technology investments.

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