Tag Archives: Department of Defense

How Will DOD’s Workforce Shift Post-COVID-19?

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“Social distancing, masks and virtual meetings are the new normal across government, including at the Department of Defense. But what will working in DOD look like on the other side of the COVID-19 curve?”


“I don’t think the world’s going back,” Dave Mihelcic, the Defense Information Systems Agency’s former CTO who now consults with DMMI, told FCW, noting that he’s already setting up virtual meetings on mobile devices to keep business going domestically and internationally. “There’s some big advantages to letting people work from home.”

Lower facility costs and better recruiting capabilities are easy wins with the majority of a workforce being remote. And there are several areas that will see significant changes in the near future: The explosive demand for secure devices being chief among them.

“You will see more interest in general in mobility and telework, specifically within organizations other than DOD that have to deal with very sensitive information. And much more interest in better security, and the ability to do multiple levels of security on single devices,” said Terry Halvorsen, a former DOD CIO and now Samsung’s CIO and executive vice president for IT and mobile business.

Mihelcic said with that demand will come the need for IT workers to provision devices without touching them.

“DOD may need to rethink parts of how it does IT and be better prepared for how to do things remotely in a no-touch environment,” he said. “How do you minimize the number of people who have to touch an item?”

Mihelcic predicted those solutions, whatever they are, will not only need to work with all of DOD’s mission partners but support a culture shift where data collection, sharing and analysis are all more precise.

Data access and processing at edge environments will become paramount post-pandemic, . Halvorsen said, because “you’ve got the ability now to store amazing amounts of data at the edge…. The phone I’m talking to you on, I’ve got a terabyte of storage on it.”

The computing power now available for edge devices paired with “augmented intelligence” that can be used to “filter the big volumes of data” will make working remotely much easier, he said.

“One of the other problems you’ve got when people are all working on edges, some of the tools that help people filter in and cut the data down are not available,” he said. “Today we flood people generally with data, not so much valuable information, but lots of data.”

Halvorsen said applications and data access aren’t guaranteed even when the network is available — an issue for government and industry.

“I think you will see an explosion in secure applications that allow this to be done more securely and to actually do more with the data, more analytical tools that can operate in a mobile fashion,” he said.

But there’s no large-scale data sharing without cloud, which will definitely become more important in future emergency events, Mihelcic said.

“If there was an environment that supports edge computing and edge cloud better — that’s the future and that’s helpful,” he said.

When asked how the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, the Pentagon’s embattled $10 billion cloud effort that’s under protest, would be helpful if it were already in place and running before the coronavirus infections spread throughout the U.S., Halvorsen said DOD is already on the path to more edge computing power and cloud usage.

“If there was an environment in place that supported edge computing and edge cloud better, and I think that’s where DOD is going to go, regardless of how JEDI turns out.” 


DOD Audit Uncovers Millions Of Dollars In Unaccounted-For Spare Parts

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“The Defense Department is just starting its second year of full-scale financial audits, and it’s likely to take many more before those efforts yield a clean opinion.

In the first year of the full-scope examination, auditors issued more than 170 separate findings and recommendations detailing the military services shortcomings in tracking their small-item inventory and real estate. “


“But the process is already having at least one beneficial effect: It’s pushed the military services to account for tens of millions of dollars in government property they’d lost track of.

David Norquist, DoD’s CFO and comptroller, said progress along those lines has already delivered concrete proof for why the audit is not merely a paperwork drill.

“We discovered there are certain facilities where what they thought they had in inventory did not match what they had in inventory. And if your responsibility is spare parts for airplanes, the accuracy of that inventory matters,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week.

One example was how, at Utah’s Hill Air Force Base, a stockpile of missile motors was erroneously listed as unserviceable even though they were in perfectly good condition. Putting them back into circulation instead of ordering new ones saved the Air Force $53 million.

“In other places, if you go to Osan and Kadena [air bases in Japan], they had 14,000 munitions worth $2.2 billion, and 100 percent were accounted for — not a single exception,” Norquist said. “What we’ve learned is there are some places that are doing this quite well, and there are others where we need to help them fix their processes, but the commanders in the field recognize the direct connection to mission and readiness. They saw the tangible value, and I think as we move forward, the accuracy of the data and adopting more businesslike practices will be tremendously helpful.”

Facilities ‘no one knew existed’

Instances of bad or missing data about entire warehouses worth of parts came up more than once during the course of the 2019 audit.

Thomas Modly, the undersecretary of the Navy, said the Navy found something similar when its auditors began examining a facility in San Diego.

“When we went out and actually started counting inventory and understanding where our stuff was, they found a warehouse that no one knew existed, and it had $26 million worth of parts for the E-2 and the F-18,” he said. “It was not categorized. It did not sit on any inventory system that we had in the whole Department of the Navy. Once that was identified, we were able to requisition $19 million worth of parts to aircraft that were waiting for them and were down because we didn’t even know we had those parts. This is a serious problem for us that we really have to get after, because at the end of the day, it impacts our ability to perform the mission, and our costs.”

The DoD Inspector General reported similar issues in its summary of the 2019 audit findings. More than 100 Blackhawk helicopter blades that were listed as available for use, but that were actually damaged. Fuel injectors stored in warehouses with no documentation to show which military service owned them. Entire facilities that had been demolished years ago, but are still listed as active on the military’s property books.

The IG reported 20 overall material weaknesses after the first audit, and then refined the list down to six that auditors thought were most concerning. Two of the six had to do with property — one encompassed spare parts and other inventory, while the other dealt with bigger-ticket items like real estate.

“We’ve gone out and said, ‘Give us a list of a certain asset and how many you have and where they’re located.’ And when we go, we either find that they have more than they thought, or the ones on their lists don’t exist,” said Carmen Malone, the deputy assistant inspector general for audit. “If you have something in your inventory records that actually can’t be used, you’re not going to order something, because you think you already have it. From an inventory standpoint, that is a big deal.”

Malone said one of the reasons the IG considers the property issue so serious is that it has a direct bearing on military readiness.

“It’s not just from a financial statement standpoint,” she said. “We are out talking to the everyday operating people and making sure that they understand that what they do impacts not just the financial statements. This information will be used as a central location for decision makers across the department from a readiness and logistics standpoint as well. If the information is accurate for financial statements, it’s going to be accurate for the decision makers, which ultimately affects the operations and readiness of the department.”

At last week’s hearing, Norquist declined to predict when the department will finally earn a clean opinion on its full financial statement, but he said he expected that either the Army or the Marine Corps would pass an audit of a small portion of their individual statements — namely,  their working capital funds — within the “next couple years.”

But Modly said his department has major, systemic challenges it still needs to solve with its accounting systems before audit passage is a reasonable probability — at least on an ongoing, repeatable basis.

“We have nine current general ledger systems. They’re not connected, and they create all kinds of disparities in our ability to truly understand our financial information,” he said. “We have business systems that are even more complicated that require interfaces that cause breaks in data security. Because of all those problems, we’re doing a lot of estimating, a lot of hand-jamming of information that most modern industrial corporations never have to do. Most modern industrial corporations can push a button and generate a financial report. We are not even close to that, and we have to get better.”


Outrageous and Wasteful Defense Spending


Pentagon Spending


“Doggy MRIs, bubble soccer, jazz-playing robots and other items at the Defense Department.

Sen. John McCain’s document includes a total of $27 billion in federal spending.

According to McCain and his staffers, most of the waste came from Social Security disability overpayments, unemployment insurance fraud, cost overruns on a VA hospital in Colorado, failed Obamacare health care cooperatives and Amtrak losses. But the Pentagon faced the senator’s scrutiny, too.

McCain highlighted somewhat expected targets, including the Pentagon’s troubled program to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels, the National Guard’s advertising with professional sports teams, and Office of Personnel and Management’s contract to provide credit-monitoring services in the wake of the massive data breach.

But the report also identified numerous other examples of questionable defense spending, from doggy MRIs to bubble soccer to jazz-playing robots. The following are excepts from the document.

–$1.1 million on Pentagon’s puppy project:

Using a technique called functional MRI (fMRI), Berns said he learned “dogs’ brains, in many ways, look and function just like human brains. We share many of the same basic structures (called a ‘homology’), including a brain region that is associated with positive emotions.”

–$13,495 for Army National Guard bubble soccer:

In 2014, the Army National Guard spent $13,495 on 10 “Bubble Bump” brand inflatable plastic bubbles to partake in the fgling sport of Bubble Soccer. The plastic orbs, weighing around 30 pounds each, allow players to hurl into each other with minimal risk of injury.

–$2.3 million for jazz-playing robots:

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an agency within the Department of Defense (DOD), is spending $2.3 million to build and study jazz-playing robots. The multi-million-dollar defense grant awarded to the University of Arizona “will address the question of whether information systems, such as computers, are capable of collaborating with humans.”

–$14.7 million to build a warehouse in Afghanistan that no one will ever use:

In September of 2010, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) awarded a $13.5 million contract for the construction of a Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) warehouse facility at Kandahar Airfield … In August 2013, the Army decided to terminate the mission of DLA in Afghanistan as the Obama Administration planned to further reduce U.S. forces in Afghanistan. As a result, the new warehouse was no longer needed.

–At least $330 million to protect victims of the biggest federal data breach in history:

What is most concerning about this data breach is that it may have been preventable. In November of 2014, the [Office of Personnel Management] Inspector General (IG) released an audit report warning OPM about cyber security weaknesses with its IT systems … Despite these warnings, OPM failed to act.”

–$41 million to train five Syrian rebels:

In December 2014, Congress passed H.R. 3979, the Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act, that approved $500 million to fund a Pentagon program that would train and arm 5,400 Syrian rebels. Nearly a year later, the program has failed, training only 60 fighters and only “four or five” fit for battle.

–$49 million of Army National Guard spending wasted on pro-sports advertising instead of training

Sponsorship deals involved contracts worth $32.2 million to sponsor NASCAR superstar #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. and $12.7 million to sponsor the Indy Racing League’s #15 Graham Rahal and an additional $4.2 million on deals with teams in the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the men’s and women’s National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, the Tiger Woods Deutsche Bank Professional Golf Association Championship, and the Alaskan Iron Dog snowmobile race.”