DoD's Wennergren works to drive business process changes

Wednesday - 11/30/2011, 9:19pm EST

Dave Wennergren, assistant deputy chief management officer, DoD

Download mp3

As the Pentagon official charged with reengineering the business operations of the Defense Department, the deputy chief management officer is driving the pursuit of some new business goals for DoD. And those goals are accompanied by a new level of accountability for meeting the seven objectives over the next couple years.

The Pentagon's Strategic Management Plan is an annual document designed to align DoD's business practices with the overarching goals laid out in the Quadrennial Defense Review, the Pentagon's regular study on military strategy. The current version, however covers both fiscal years 2012 and 2013. Some of the areas are updates to goals in previous years' plans, but there are also some new priorities on this year's list, said Dave Wennergren, DoD's assistant deputy chief management officer.

Wennergren was a guest on On DoD, a new weekly program on Federal News Radio.

One priority is to increase the department's energy efficiency, both on its bases and among its deployed forces. That follows the recent creation of a new director of operational energy for DoD, and the department's first-ever report on operational energy earlier this year.

Also new on the list is the goal of rebuilding and using end-to-end business processes, a topic the office of the Deputy Chief Management Officer has been championing.

And one of last year's workforce goals has been stated differently this year. Last year's plan called for enhancing the civilian workforce. This year's version aims at a "rightsizing" of the mix between military, civilian and contractor personnel during a time of constrained resources.

Wennergren said DoD also is assigning each of the seven areas to a senior "goal owner" within the department, and that ownership will bring accountability.

"You need a set of goals, but then you need explicit performance measures that help you actually measure the progress of your plans," he said. "The strategic management plan has those measures in them. Those measures begin at the very top of the organization and then they drive down to how individual organizations contribute, until you get down to how individual leaders and individual employees contribute. And that has to find its way all the way down into performance plans."

Other goals include:

  • Strengthening financial management
  • Building secure and agile IT capabilities
  • Increasing the buying power of the department
  • Creating agile business operations that support contingency missions
The annual report first grew out of a Congressional mandate in the 2008 DoD authorization bill, but has since taken on added importance as a priority-setting document for the department, Wennergren said.

"One of the things I'm really proud about as it's grown and morphed over the years is the commitment of the senior leadership team at DoD to its development," he said. "It took a number of meetings with the deputy secretary of Defense, the deputy chief management officer, the undersecretaries of the military departments who are their chief management officers, the undersecretaries of Defense who are the functional owners of the department, to actually lay out what our strategic business priorities are. And how we will then align our activities and measure our results against that set of imperatives."

Helping to manage the business side of the Defense Department is one of only several hats Wennergren has been wearing lately. In addition, he is temporarily serving as the program executive for the joint interagency program office that is managing an effort between the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments to create a joint interoperable electronic health record. The departments are recruiting for a permanent program executive; a solicitation on USAJobs closed recently.

The iEHR effort started with a series of meetings between then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki last year. Since then, the building blocks have been falling into place as the two departments try to develop ways seamlessly share health care information.

"It really is a dramatic change," Wennergren said. "Already, DoD and VA had been sharing more information than any other two health care organizations in the world. But it was an information exchange between these different legacy systems. Both departments needed to modernize their systems, and the leadership of both organizations decided our military members and veterans would be served if we did this together rather than do it separately and figure out how to glue things together. It's exciting, and it will change the way a lot of health care service is delivered." At the core of the change is a modular approach to delivering the technology that the two departments will rely on. DoD and VA leaders think the agility of their approach will lead to rapid innovation and allow more firms and organizations to contribute their technology.