The U.S. Department of Defense is moving forward to deploy a $34 billion Global Information Grid, but it is not clear who is in charge of the project and nobody is held accountable for the results, according to the Government Accountability Office.
The Pentagon has characterized the massive network undertaking as the cornerstone of its effort to establish information superiority. The goal is to provide real-time information to military personnel, enable network-centric warfare and transform the countrys defense mechanisms. However, an inherent lack of high-level coordination and cooperation among the departments divisions is leaving the project somewhat up in the air, the GAO found.
"DOD is at risk of not knowing whether the GIG is being developed within cost and schedule, whether risks are being adequately mitigated, or whether the GIG will provide a worthwhile return on DODs investment," the GAO said in a report released Jan. 31.
The main problem, according to the GAO, is that the Pentagons decision-making processes are not set up to promote the interdependent efforts needed to deploy a system like the GIG. To the contrary, in some ways its processes encourage the individual services and agencies to invest in systems specific to them, and dont encourage a high level of cooperation and coordination. Recent changes at the agency have not overcome such structural impediments, the GAO found.
The departments CIO is responsible for the GIG initiative, but the armed services and defense agencies have more to say about investments made in the program than the CIOs office does. As a result, the branches of the department are more or less free to invest or not invest in the concerted systems needed to build the GIG.
"In fact, these vertically-oriented or `stovepiped ways of doing business have helped perpetuate the very interoperability problem that the GIG is intended to overcome," the GAO researchers said. "We believe DOD will not be successful in horizontal or crosscutting initiatives such as the GIG unless it substantially changes its decentralized management approach and the service-centric, poorly integrated processes it uses to make investment decisions."
Warning that the stakes are high, the GAO said that inefficient management processes that were acceptable in the past could jeopardize efforts like the GIG because in an inter-dependent network, problems in one program will be felt in other programs.
The GAO recommended that the DOD establish more clearly defined leadership for the project, giving management the authority to invest across the agencys divisions.