GAO: Defense fails to follow guidance in development of pay system

Pentagon officials did not adhere to the Defense Department's information technology acquisition policy when they started modifying the military pay system earlier this year, according to the General Accounting Office.

In September, Pentagon officials announced an initiative to integrate 79 personnel and pay systems at the department into a single, fully consolidated personnel system for all the military services. Because the Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System, or DIMHRS, is not expected to be ready for roll-out before 2006, Pentagon officials decided to use an interim military pay system the Forward Compatible Military Pay System-while DIMHRS was being developed, according to a letter from GAO (04-149R) to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Like DIMHRS, the interim system would serve all active duty, reserve and guard members in the military.

But in developing the interim system, Defense Financial and Accounting System (DFAS) officials did not adhere to the department's Business Enterprise Architecture, which sets the guidelines for technology investments, GAO found. The development of the interim system was also out of step with other legal and administrative requirements, such as the 1996 Clinger-Cohen Act, which requires agencies to present detailed business plans for large-scale IT purchases.

"By failing to complete all required studies and analyses, DoD lacks assurance that it is meeting its goal of making quality information technology investments, as required," wrote Derek Stewart, GAO's director of defense capabilities and management, in the letter. "By determining compliance with the architecture, DoD can be sure that the Forward Compatible Military Pay initiative will not result in a system that performs the same tasks or stores the same data as existing systems, cannot communicate with other DoD systems, and is costly to operate and maintain."

The watchdog agency recommended that DFAS officials complete and submit the required reports for review before any financial investment is made in the new interim pay system.

In a written response, Lawrence Lansillotta, Defense's deputy undersecretary for management reform, noted that the interim system would use the same software as DIMHRS, and as such, would be compatible with the larger system once it was deployed.

Lansillotta also said that DFAS officials were finalizing the paperwork needed to comply with the various laws and guidelines and would submit them once a decision was made to formally pursue the interim pay system.