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A Review of the Federal Enterprise Architecture

One of the mandates of the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 was the creation of the Information Technology Architecture. In subsequent 1999 guidance the Federal CIO Council defined the Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA) as the process for developing, maintaining, and facilitating the implementation of integrated systems.

Chief Information Architects were then appointed at the Federal and DoD levels. However, as of June 2011 the GAO reports that the enterprise architecture methodology was not deployed. Between 2001 and 2005, GAO reported that DoD spent hundreds of millions of dollars on an enterprise architecture development that was of limited value. None of the three military departments have so far demonstrated that they have made commitments to deploy an architecture needed to manage the development, maintenance, and implementation of systems.

Senior DoD IT executives have stated that the development of an architecture methodology has been pushed back due to budget limitations. As yet, no time frames have been established for producing a FEA.  There is no specific time when the enterprise architecture would be delivered.  The current focus is on other resource-intensive commitments.

Nevertheless, the use of well-defined enterprise architectures remains nowadays an attribute of managing IT in successful commercial firms. A centrally directed architecture remains the basis for system integration and for delivering lower IT costs.  In spite of the significant potential benefits, the enterprise architecture has not guided DoD systems over the past fifteen-years.

While DoD was promoting departmental and agency-wide enterprise concepts actual implementation of integration was missing except in isolated cases.  Consequently DoD ended up lacking a coherent blueprint for creating the technology environment that would be interoperable, economically efficient and easily accessible for innovation. The absence of a working architecture has prevented DoD from making progress at speeds in which information technologies are now progressing in leading commercial firms.

The absence of a guiding DoD architecture also opened the floodgates to excessive project fragmentation, to technology incompatibilities and to operations that were contract-specific rather then DoD enterprise integrating. That increased not only the costs of maintenance and of modernization upgrades, but also put a brake on the ability to innovate, which would meet the rapidly rising demands to achieve information superiority. If there was innovation, it had to take place as stand-alone new projects and not as an enhancement to systems that could be improved at a lesser cost.

The Clinger-Cohen Act also passed to the Chief Information Officers (CIOs) the responsibility for the management of total IT spending. That did not take place as originally legislated.

At present CIOs cannot be held accountable for the contracting decisions that are made by acquisition officers who use regulations found on 2,017 pages printed in small font. The management of IT, as of March 2011, is split into 2,258 business systems with only spotty direct component CIO oversight.  Meanwhile, the influence of the DoD CIO to control rising costs continues to be limited.

There are also over a thousand of national security systems that were not listed in the DoD Information Technology Portfolio Repository (DITPR). Such projects included intelligence systems, military command and control networks and equipment included as an integral part of weapons. Whereas in the years of the cold war national security systems could be set up as stand-alone applications, modern warfare conditions now required a real-time interoperability between national security systems and selected business applications such as logistics.

As the consequence of having no architecture as well as a weak CIO control over IT costs, DoD ended up with largely isolated enclaves – silos - of projects.

IT projects are now managed as separate contracts. Applications are not interoperable across the DoD because they cannot share enterprise-wide data. IT projects are run in over 700 data centers as well as in an untold number of special-purpose servers that often have data center capabilities.
Such outcomes were not originally hoped for in 1996. The flawed outcomes, predicted in 1995 Senate hearings, pointed to the inadequacies of Clinger-Cohen to meet post-cold war needs. The 1996 legislation did not offer changes in the organizational structure for managing IT. It did not alter the DoD component-entrenched budgeting practices.  It did not set out to deliver a shared information technology infrastructure that would compare favorably with best commercial practices. Security was not as yet on the agenda. Rising DoD requirements would be then met with rapidly rising spending for IT.

The absence of a coherent Federal Enterprise Architecture represents a fundamental flaw that prevents the Federal Government to use information technologies effectively and efficiently.

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