Troubled DoD Procurement System Makes Move to The Web

The U.S. Department of Defense is gearing up to move its once-beleaguered procurement system from a client/server model to the Web, which will let it support some 40,000 users, nearly double the current total. Officials from the Standard Procurement System (SPS) office, which oversees development and management of the Procurement Desktop-Defense 2 (PD2) system, last month began work on moving the system to the Web.

The current client/server PD2 system is installed on 23,000 desktops at 800 DOD locations worldwide.

The move to the Web is a significant milestone for the SPS program, which halted development of PD2 for a year beginning in 2002 after facing harsh criticism from the Government Accountability Office. A 2001 GAO report concluded that the DOD hadn’t justified its PD2 investment and was unable to validate whether it had any benefits for users since work was started in 1994.

Since then, the development operation has established an internal requirements board, radically overhauled its integration strategy by standardizing on XML to eliminate lengthy hand coding, built tools to automatically generate documentation and begun the Web project.

The new Web-based version, due to be rolled out in mid-2006, will expand the PD2 system to include procurement of weapons systems, DOD officials said.

Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer at Federal Sources Inc., a federal government IT research firm in McLean, Va., said the SPS program is progressing well after earlier missteps. He cited several reasons for the improvements, including the agency’s decision to focus on including users in the process.

"They [now] have enough of an infrastructure in place to be able to handle major changes and do it in an orderly, systematic way," he said.

The SPS office began to work more closely with users on requirements and testing processes in 2002 and 2003 -- after the suspension of the project. That effort helped considerably, since users earlier "didn’t feel like they had a voice in the process," said Gino Magnifico, SPS deputy program manager.

Officials established a joint requirements board composed of middle managers, high-level executives and users, who submitted suggestions for features and product direction based on their needs. The middle managers looked across the department to make sure the requests would have broad applicability, and high-level executives mapped those needs to the strategic vision of the program.

"Now users feel like they have ownership of the process of developing the system," Magnifico said.

--By Heather Havenstein, IDG News

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