Acquisitions Office Focuses on Information Gathering
By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
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.