DoD's E-Commerce Success Story
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 17, 1999 The lofty hopes of DoD's Electronic Commerce Day last year have fast become reality, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen told the 600 attendees of this year's conference here June 10.
Cohen called last year's gathering and the creation of the Joint Electronic Commerce Program Office "the beginning of the end." "The end of a department that was burdened by paper," he said. "It was the beginning of a new department whose lifeblood was going to be the electron. Indeed, when we created that Joint Electronic Commerce Program Office, we turned our rhetoric into reality."
Cohen's 1997 Defense Reform Initiative established the office at Fort Belvoir, Va., in January 1998. Tasked to accelerate the use of electronic commerce, it is a major facet of a "Revolution in Business Affairs" to make the DoD contracting process paperless by Jan. 1, 2000.
Since the first E-Day, Cohen said, suppliers participating in a DoD electronic "mall" sold more than $27 million worth of everything from socks to semiconductors. DoD has dramatically reduced overhead costs and delivery times for countless agencies and instituted the widespread use of government purchasing cards for most small purchases, he said.
DoD is "rapidly approaching the point where we can say we're going to have a virtually paper-free contracting system [next year]," Cohen said. "These were once simply lofty hopes. We are turning those into reality.
Conferees included military personnel, DoD and other federal civilian employees, state and local government representatives and private sector providers of electronic commerce. The meeting highlighted how DoD is using electronic commerce to improve warfighter support, trading-partner interface and the defense business infrastructure.
He said the administration has agreed to the first major spending increase for military purposes in 15 years -- at least $112 billion over the next six years. He warned the audience, though, not to let the infusion of money derail defense reform.
Cohen said successful reform depends on the willingness of the people within and outside the Defense Department to change. "We have to change not only the way in which we operate, but the way in which we think about operating," the secretary said.
"We have to continue to harness the power of the microchip so our men and women in uniform can get what they need when they need it, faster, better, cheaper than ever before," Cohen said. "Bear in mind your essential mission: They can't be successful unless you are successful -- unless we are successful."