The Business of Defense Business Transformation

No one in the Department of Defense owns “transformation.” The term is used freely by just about anyone who wishes to make a significant change in the Department. Changes attempted under the banner of “transformation” are as varied as the people who use the word.

We assume that most “transformations” are attempts to make the DoD environment better. We also assume that most “transformations” will involve making some significant transition from current state to future state – inevitably engaging all of the related cultural, policy, process, and other “transformation” challenges along the way. Most “transformation” movements have a champion and a following of dedicated believers who make the transformation happen.

Defense Business Transformation (sometimes referred to as DBT) is unique for several reasons:

1. It was directed by Congress, and has its own set of statutes:

* 10USC2222 which establishes the mandate
* 10USC186 which establishes the governance body for the effort
* 31 U.S.C. § 1341(a)(1)(A) which establishes the penalties for not doing it

2. It applies to the entire Department of Defense: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, DFAS, DLA, TRANSCOM, SOCOM, Joint Staff… you name it. No group that falls under Title 10 is exempt.

3. It acts on the growth plates of the organization. Investment Review only applies to new developments, modernizations or enhancements. DBT isn’t trying to go back in time and retrofit everything in the Department. Good thing too, because the cost for such an effort would be prohibitive. And it’s just too hard to recreate the level of documentation needed for things that were done a long time ago by people who have moved on.

4. It must use a common set of tools:

* Enterprise Architecture: all new business IT investments must assert compliance against the Enterprise Architecture.
* Enterprise Transition Plan: The DoD must have a transition plan for all new investments. The DBT plan speaks to the six Business Enterprise Priorities (BEP’s) and the sequence in which activities will be completed.
* Investment Review: All new business IT investments must be reviewed, due diligence must be conducted (to assert compliance against the enterprise architecture, for example), and the must be recorded before authority to obligate funds is granted. Investments of more than $1 million that are not reviewed carry a penalty as described in 31 U.S.C. § 1341
* Annual Review: all business IT investments must be reviewed not less than annually (every 12 months).

5. All Principle Staff Assistants (PSA’s) have a role to play in Defense Business Transformation.

The word “Defense” in Defense Business Transformation is important to call special attention to. It refers to the fact that this is a Defense-wide program, not an Army-wide program, a Navy-wide program, an Air-Force-wide program, a DFAS-wide program, etc. So if a capability is being developed well in the Army, for example, it would make perfect sense in the context of DBT to expose that capability to the other Services & evaluate it for re-use or as a possible replacement for a similar investment in another area of the Department.

Defense Business Transformation treats the Department of Defense as if it were one big department with several valuable branches. It attempts to make course corrections – one investment at a time – to bring the Department closer to interoperability; information sharing; agility; visibility over finances, personnel, acquisition, materiel, real property, and common supplier engagement.

It is the responsibility of every DoD employee involved in modernizing, developing or enhancing business IT – from contracting officers and their representatives, to program managers, PEO’s, CIO’s and anyone wishing to dedicate resources to automating business functions – to understand and comply with the law pertaining to Defense Business Transformation.

At the end of the day, if DBT is successful, the Department of Defense will have visibility of its assets, a cohesive suite of IT products, a disciplined approach to spending money on business IT, and a solid platform from which to launch more transformational projects such as Service Oriented Architecture.

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John Kamensky

As an addition to your background info on Defense Transformation, the IBM Center sponsored a report last year by Jack Gansler and Bill Lucyshyn (both are at the University of Maryland and formerly worked in Defense) entitled: “Transformation of the Defense Department’s Business Systems.” The report summarizes the history and progress of defense transformation and offers a series of recommended actions to the new Administration on ways to improve the effort. Here’s the link:

David Dejewski

I read that report last year when it came out, and I agree with John that it offers value to the discussion about Business Transformation in the Department of Defense. There are also GAO reports and testimony that attempt to do the same thing. See reports I’ve posted in the past.

I have come to believe that the subject of business transformation is like the Indian Elephant Story. I have responded to many different “customer segments” in the process of building the Defense Business Transformation program from scratch. I’ve learned that, as with anything, similar “customers” carry similar perspectives or bias about the program. I can usually tell which community wrote a piece based on the language and assertions.

The acquisition community, the program management community, the leadership community, the architecture community, the financial community, the GAO, the Joint staff… each has their own slant. Some are more vocal than others.

The subject is important enough to read about, but I advise the researcher to read from a variety of sources and look for the problem and the root cause of the problem that we are trying to solve. Consider that every published work – including my own, is a perspective.