Army's new PEO-EIS wants to engage with industry sooner

Wednesday - 12/28/2011, 5:10am EST

Doug Wiltsie, program executive officer for enterprise information systems

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Like just about everyone else in DoD, the Army's new program executive officer for enterprise information systems says his office will have fewer dollars to spend in the coming years. His job, he said, is to make sure Army leaders have the information they need to decide how to allocate those dollars and to make sure they're spent rapidly and responsibly when they arrive.

Doug Wiltsie took over as the new PEO-EIS in October. Since that time, he's been learning the ropes and mapping out how to manage the office's myriad IT programs in an era of declining dollars.

Informed tradeoffs

His plan, he said, includes adopting an approach to manage portfolios of capability rather than just individual products and adjusting the office's timelines for acquisition projects in an effort to get money out the door more quickly.

Doug Wiltsie, program executive officer for enterprise information systems, U.S. Army

"When money arrives, I want to spend it," Wiltsie told an industry audience at a recent AFCEA Northern Virginia event. "What that means to my team and to you is that we are going to start to engage with industry and to build our requirements documents significantly earlier than we have in the past. We will start to engage you with draft (requests for proposals) and industry days to get those discussions going. That might be a year out before the award's going to be made. What I'd like to do is get everybody together so that everybody knows where we're going. And then when the money arrives, it's going to be a pretty short RFP."

Wiltsie said the approach won't mean cutting corners in the acquisition process. He still wants quality competitions and RFPs that don't leave vendors surprised.

PEO-EIS manages many major programs for the Army, including everything from several huge enterprise resource planning systems like the General Fund Enterprise Business System, to DoD biometrics capabilities, to electronic medical records, to commercial hardware and software purchases. As Wiltsie looks across that huge portfolio, he wants to take a management style that focuses on capabilities and not just individual products. That strategy will let Army leaders make informed tradeoffs as resources come down, Wiltsie said.

"If it was written in a requirements document that Product A has to do this, and Product B also includes the same requirement, I need to be able to provide the recommendation that I put in one product because it's easier, they're in the right phase of development, we have a better plan, or we can get more lift out of Product A," he said. "The reason I say that is you may see decisions that come out of PEO-EIS, but also out of the Army, that don't appear to make sense from a product level. The reason is we've got to start thinking like this: As money gets tighter, we need to understand where else we can pull capability to meet the total requirement."

Capability portfolio reviews

That philosophy comes from the idea of capability portfolio reviews, a process implemented by Army Vice Chief of Staff Peter Chiarelli in February 2010. Wiltsie said he's also a huge fan of that process.

"It's really something that allowed him to look at the Army enterprise holistically, from a capability focus, and then decide where he wanted to take risk," he said. "He didn't have all the money that he wanted and we have lots of programs out there. And when you look at things holistically, you can see that when all the systems come together, they provide an operational capability. You may be able to reduce the requirements you have on one, because you're picking it up somewhere else."

One example of the way the Army can start using existing capabilities rather than spending more money on duplicative requirements is in the area of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in Afghanistan. Wiltsie said there already is plenty of ISR capability on the ground and in the air, and that the Army needs to do a better job of using those capabilities rather than buying more of them. That's one of the goals of the Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS-A), which the Army is deploying to tie its intelligence resources together and make them instantly available to soldiers.

After 10 years of war, Wiltsie said it's also time for the Army to start planning its major IT systems for the future and to move from reactionary acquisitions to proactive ones.

"The entire acquisition community is coming out of an environment where operational requirements were written and vetted in days, and we had to react," he said. "What we need to be able to do as things get fiscally constrained is to start looking forward. We need to get proactive. Money is going to get cut, that's the only thing I can promise you. And we need to be able to explain with facts, unemotionally, that when you cut this program, this is the effect that you've created. Right or wrong, good or bad, we need to be able to give that to the Army so that the Army can make a decision."

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