Defense bill harnesses IT to drive savings

Provisions in the 2012 defense bill include some measures that will have a big impact this year on contracting, cyber defense, intelligence and the use of cloud.

When President Barack Obama signed the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, he passed into law some new rules that will have serious impact on the defense IT and acquisition communities.

The bill puts a number of high-profile issues under a microscope, including Army enterprise e-mail and the Defense Department’s broader use of cloud, rules on contractor ethics and roles, acquisition reform and counterfeit electronic parts in the DOD supply chain. At the same time, the legislation catalyzes within DOD the wider federal government view of IT as a money-saver, ordering the use of technology to streamline operations and the ways DOD does business.

There’s plenty of fodder for discussion in the 565-page bill, but our analysis found nine areas in which its effects may be felt very soon, and in some cases, quite profoundly.

  • Consideration of contractors’ work: Defense officials now have to think about contractors, as well as their civilian employees and military personnel, as they draw up plans for future operations. The law requires officials to include contractor support requirements in DOD planning documents. Officials have to identify the support functions that contractors will likely need to do under those contingency plans. Officials also need to lay out the risks associated with contractors doing those assignments.
  • Federal Acquisition Institute reorganization: The bill clears up issues that lawmakers have said left FAI largely unused. The legislation establishes a clear line of responsibility and accountability for the institute by requiring FAI to report directly to the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. It also requires all existing civilian agency training programs to follow guidelines issued by OFPP, which would ensure consistent cross-government training standards. The provision is based on companion bills introduced in the House and Senate in 2011.
  • Ban on disclosure of political contributions: The authorization act stops the government from requiring contracting companies or its executives to include in their bid proposals which party or the candidate they supported.
  • Targeting of counterfeit electronic parts: The bill establishes guidance for defining and dealing with fake electronic parts in the supply chains of weapons systems and related defense IT, and puts suppliers and contractors on the hook. According to the language, contractors are responsible for detecting and avoiding fake products, as well as for the cost of their replacement; it also calls for the use of “trusted suppliers” whenever possible.
  • Use of cloud: DOD is to migrate its data and services to less expensive but equally or more secure commercial cloud offerings. The provision also calls on DOD CIO Teri Takai to establish performance standards and provide detailed reports to Congress on savings.
  • Crackdown on Army enterprise e-mail: The bill strips funding from the Army’s migration to a DISA cloud-based enterprise e-mail system, which was already underway, pending further review. It establishes the project as a formal DOD acquisition program with accompanying oversight. The provisions also demand Takai furnish a report on the enterprise e-mail plans, including DISA’s broader strategic fit, relevance to the other services and the use of fair and open competition.
  • Cyber defense and information security expansion: The bill has a number of measures targeting cybersecurity, including training and education, “advanced capabilities” to fight network intrusions and other threats, and strengthening of the U.S. Cyber Command’s defense of DOD networks. The bill also notes the military’s authority to conduct offensive operations in cyberspace.
  • IT for intelligence-sharing improvement: Provisions in the bill call for open-source IT, advanced capabilities for searching across multiple information databases, and cloud-based, network-driven and open-source tools for sharing information across the federal intelligence community and DOD. A new pilot program the bill provides for will demonstrate high-speed database search capabilities, with a report due Nov. 1.
  • Defense business systems overhaul: The defense bill takes aim at DOD’s copious, redundant systems for accounting and business operations, directing the DOD deputy chief management office to set up an investment review board by March to comb through business systems and management processes. The goal will be to aggressively streamline systems across DOD’s business management communities.