Acquisitions Office Focuses on Information Gathering

WASHINGTON, June 6, 2011 — When senior Defense Depart­ment lead­ers sit down to make tough pol­i­cy deci­sions on major acqui­si­tions sys­tems that inevitably get the atten­tion of every­one from the sec­re­tary of defense to Con­gress and the pres­i­dent, they rely on the work of a small office of pub­lic ser­vants here who are qui­et­ly chang­ing the par­a­digm on infor­ma­tion gath­er­ing.
“It’s work that does­n’t seem that sexy, but it is fun­da­men­tal to the foun­da­tion of the depart­ment,” Mark E. Krzysko, deputy direc­tor of Enter­prise Infor­ma­tion and Office of the Sec­re­tary of Defense Stud­ies, said in a June 2 inter­view with Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice.

Krzysko had just com­plet­ed a pre­sen­ta­tion at the Asso­ci­a­tion for Enter­prise Infor­ma­tion Emerg­ing DOD Infor­ma­tion Plat­forms Con­fer­ence here, held in the same defense indus­try com­plex of high-rise office build­ings as his, a cou­ple miles south of the Pen­ta­gon.

It’s a niche field in which dis­cus­sions are laden with terms such as “ser­vice-ori­ent­ed archi­tec­ture,” “seman­tic tech­nolo­gies” and “agile method­olo­gies.” But before the tech­ni­cal talk begins, Krzysko reminds his col­leagues of the end users of the major sys­tems for which they col­lect data.

The sec­ond slide in his Pow­er­Point pre­sen­ta­tion shows two sol­diers stand­ing with three Afghan chil­dren, and a sec­ond pho­to of a remem­brance to a fall­en U.S. ser­vice mem­ber. “Remem­ber those who serve; remem­ber those who made the ulti­mate sac­ri­fice,” he said.

Enter­prise Infor­ma­tion and OSD Stud­ies began as a pilot pro­gram that was char­tered in the Pentagon’s acqui­si­tions office in 2008. It falls under the purview of Nan­cy Spruill, direc­tor of acqui­si­tion resources and analy­sis. Its begin­nings can be traced to the mid-1980s when, the depart­ment began work­ing to devel­op stan­dard pro­to­cols for data shar­ing between gov­ern­ment and indus­try.

EI’s spe­cif­ic charge is to com­pile infor­ma­tion on major acqui­si­tions pro­grams quick­ly and with con­sis­tent met­rics and pro­to­col, Krzysko said.

In the past, lead­ers could get inun­dat­ed with insuf­fi­cient infor­ma­tion devel­oped by mul­ti­ple sources with dif­fer­ent method­olo­gies, Krzysko said. In today’s envi­ron­ment of asym­met­ri­cal threats and uncer­tain bud­gets, lead­ers need the right infor­ma­tion quick­ly, he said.

“If we cre­ate an orga­ni­za­tion that can tack­le these prob­lems, we are in a bet­ter posi­tion to help those who serve,” he said. “You could con­found your­self with more infor­ma­tion, but it’s about get­ting the right infor­ma­tion quick­ly.”

Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates has direct­ed that any bud­get cuts be done through care­ful risk analy­sis, not the kind of across-the-board cuts that have led to past “hol­low­ing out” of the mil­i­tary. The depart­ment iden­ti­fied $78 bil­lion in sav­ings over five years through the effi­cien­cies ini­tia­tive Gates announced last sum­mer. That review began in acqui­si­tions, with at least 20 sys­tems being cur­tailed or can­celled.

Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma has since asked that DOD lead­ers look for an addi­tion­al $400 bil­lion in sav­ings over 12 years, mak­ing Enter­prise Information’s work that much more crit­i­cal. With a focus on the devel­op­ment and demon­stra­tion phase of acqui­si­tions pro­grams, the Enter­prise Infor­ma­tion office works to reply to requests for infor­ma­tion in weeks or months, not years, and pro­vides month­ly reviews of major sys­tems cov­er­ing some $1.7 tril­lion, Krzysko said.

Defense lead­ers “decide which side they want to push on,” he said. “They tell us what their pri­or­i­ties are, and we go after it.”

The office has been break­ing some of the his­tor­i­cal par­a­digms of gath­er­ing and using infor­ma­tion, not just in the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, but also in indus­try, Krzysko said. It uses more than 180 data points — and is on its way to increas­ing to 700 data points — to mea­sure the val­ue of dozens of pro­grams by look­ing at areas such as the sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy, abil­i­ty for sus­tain­ment, how it is admin­is­tered, and its abil­i­ty to meet mile­stones, he said.

“The end-game for us is about get­ting the deci­sion-mak­ers the best infor­ma­tion they can have,” he said. “Infor­ma­tion is nev­er real­ly per­fect. But if you have that author­i­ta­tive infor­ma­tion, you are bet­ter able to make those deci­sions.

“I real­ly view this as a core capa­bil­i­ty,” he added.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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