DoD mandates use of online tools for cost estimates

Monday - 1/10/2011, 7:29pm EST

By Jared Serbu
Reporter
Federal News Radio

Defense Department employees have only a few weeks to get themselves familiar with a set of online tools designed to estimate the costs of everything from hosting a conference to commissioning a new report to holding a ceremony.

Effective Feb. 1, DoD Secretary Robert Gates is requiring all the services and the Defense agencies to use the Web applications to generate cost guidance on a range of business activities, according to a memo signed on Dec. 27 and made public on Monday.

The department-wide directive follows instructions Gates gave in August that any new proposal or initiative come with a cost estimate. Since then, the office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation has been developing guidance, methods and tools that employees will use to meet that mandate.

Gates' memo stated the website also includes guidance on performing business case and economic analyses on proposed changes to DoD policies and programs. The tools are hosted on a secure Pentagon server and not visible to the public or media. Employees can access the site by using their Common Access Card.

The requirement to generate cost estimates also will apply to any report or study generated by DoD. Also starting in February, the cost of preparing those documents must appear on the cover page. Gates said in his August announcement that DoD was "awash" in reporting requirements -- with more than 700 Congressionally mandated reports per year, and even more generated by internal DoD policy.

Gates said last week that the department would eliminate 400 internally-required reports that he said "have consumed vast amounts of staff time and energy, often to produce documents that are of questionable relevance, value, and in many cases have been rarely read."

"Nearly a third of the total reporting requirements originated decades ago, and in some cases date back to the 1950s," Gates said. "Overall, this reduction in DoD's internal reporting burden--about 60 percent of all non-statutory reports--when coupled with the reduction in funding for studies represents an estimated $1.2 billion in savings over the next five years."

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