DISA’s consolidation binge continues with contracts, processes

The Defense Information Systems Agency is sending a clear message to industry: consolidation and efficiencies are the top priorities in 2016.

Throughout the presentations at the annual Forecast to Industry day held Nov. 2, DISA senior executives, whether talking cloud, cyber or spectrum management, highlighted the need to reduce the number of contracts as well as run their procurements and programs more efficiently.

“We are looking also at some of the functional areas within DISA that we can potentially take advantage of consolidating. Functional areas like program management, systems analysis, things that we actually can say instead of having 18 contracts do that same function across 18 portfolios or program managers, why can’t we consolidate that and look at small business?” said Alfred Rivera, the director of DISA’s development and business center. “By virtue of doing some consolidation does not mean we will move away from a small business opportunity. It’s just how do we smartly and more effectively take advantage of specific core areas, functional areas that could help us in reducing costs but still promote some of those small businesses.”

The consolidation effort is part of a year-long reorganization across DISA. As of Dec. 31, the military’s IT services agency refocused its efforts to become more responsive to its customer needs through increased agility and adaptability.

Each of the major components in the reorganized DISA is trying to smooth the path to better IT services.

Maj. Gen. Sarah Zabel, vice director of DISA, said the new structure is aimed at streamlining business processes and reducing costs.

“Every dollar we spend in overhead translates to a dollar that a mission partner has to spend with us,” she said. “We want to make sure that is absolutely minimal. We need to institutionalize a rapid acquisition development and implementation cycle. This is because our mission partners … depend on DISA to bring them the tools and capabilities they need. When they need it, they need it. We need to respond to the speed of need, not at some graceful acquisition appropriate cycle.”

As DISA rolled out its procurement forecast for 2016 and beyond, each functional area, whether cloud or cyber or network operations, is following this theme of consolidation and efficiency.

Dave Bennett, the director of the implementation and sustainment center, said there are more than 700 different contracts or task orders currently in use across his organization.

Bennett said as his office is executing its daily mission and planning for the future, DISA is trying to reduce the number of contracts they have to manage.

“There is no intent to reduce competition or anything else relative to that, but I am trying to reduce costs,” he said. “Since I own the Defense Information Systems Network (DISN) and all the computing for the agency from a working capital fund perspective, a significant portion of my rates are tied to overhead and overhead is directly tied to the time, the materials and the people putting contracts in place, managing them and things like that. The more I can consolidate and become efficient and effective with my contracts, the better off I am in terms of responsiveness, capabilities we can provide as well as reducing costs to maintain and provide that capability.”

Over the past few years, DISA has been under pressure from the Office of the Secretary of Defense to reduce its overhead.

Martin Gross, the deputy director of the implementation and sustainment center, said OSD has told DISA to reduce its rate structure by 7 percent-to-10 percent each year over the last few years.

“The only way we can do that is through internal efficiencies because can’t reduce services,” Gross said.

One example of this is with DISA’s need to buy enterprise services and tools for spectrum management.

Mike Williams, DISA’s technical director of the Joint Spectrum Center, said instead of developing its own contract to provide software engineering, development and other IT services, DISA plans to use existing government contracts, whether ENCORE III or from the General Services Administration or from other agencies.

He said this decision is among the biggest changes DISA has made over the last 15 months.

Bennett said another example is around engineering support contracts. He said DISA supports around 200 currently and that is just too many.

“When you look at them and you really start to ask the question, ‘Do I really need 200 contracts focused on engineering?’ when somebody wrote their statement of objectives and used one or two keywords that distinguished it from something else” he said. “That is really the focus we are trying to get at, consolidating what the need is and leveraging small business, large business, etc., as appropriate to get to what the solution is. As we do consolidate, we do make the conscious look at how can we leverage both if it’s applicable.”

Zabel said DISA has specific focus areas for 2016 to reach these goals.

  • Acquisition plan discipline — She said this means DISA needs to do a better job of planning and taking active measures to meet customers’ needs the first time.
  • Increase effective competition — DISA must do more to ensure there is more than one offeror for acquisitions.
  • Manage consolidation efforts — Zabel said this means balancing small business goals with the need to reduce overhead by consolidating contracts. She and other executives stressed DISA’s success over the last few years in exceeding their small business contracting goals.
  • Reduce contract management overhead — DISA will consolidate program offices, contracting efforts and other costly back-office functions into the new organizations.

“You will see continued consolidation across our business enterprise because the numbers associated when you move a lot of things from a central perspective, there are a lot of overlaps that we can bring down,” Gross said. “That is what we are focused on right now in the implementation and sustainment side, whether it be the number of decks, whether it be the number of networks we support or how we support those networks, you’ll see that come together.”

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