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CHIPS Articles: Interview with Jim Clausen, OASD (NII)/DoD CIO ESI Working Group Co-Chair

Interview with Jim Clausen, OASD (NII)/DoD CIO ESI Working Group Co-Chair
By CHIPS Magazine - July-September 2003

The Enterprise Software Initiative (ESI) is a joint project designed to implement a software enterprise management process within the Department of Defense (DoD). The main problem identified with procuring software for DoD is that the software (including price, acquisition cost, distribution, training, maintenance, and support) costs too much. ESI objectives are to save money and improve information sharing. By pooling commercial software requirements and presenting a single negotiating position to leading software vendors, ESI provides pricing advantages not otherwise available to individual Services and Agencies. ESI's initial focus is on DoD common-use, standards-compliant software COTS software products.

CHIPS: How does ITEC-Direct and the DON IT Umbrella Program fit into the ESI program?

Mr. Clausen: The Umbrella Program fulfills the Navy's duties as ESI Executive Agent for Office Automation Tools and Enterprise Resource Planning software. The Program Manager, Barbara Johnson and her whole team, Linda Greenwade, Peggy Harpe and the ITEC-Direct group have been very supportive and proactive in pushing the ESI project. The ITEC-Direct Web site is great and the team is customer-focused. I am amazed at what they have accomplished and at what they continue to do.

CHIPS: How do you gather requirements for the IT products and services offered to DoD customers?

Mr. Clausen: We follow the money and leverage the marketplace. We continually monitor customer interest levels by collecting data to see who is purchasing, and what they are purchasing. As Service or Agency buyers purchase, or plan to acquire significant amounts of particular software products, we look into the feasibility of expanding the scope of their contracts for the benefit of all DoD buyers. Then we assign an Executive Agent, who develops an acquisition strategy and a business plan. We discuss this strategy and reach consensus within the group. The Executive Agent, through their Software Product Manager (SPM) then begins negotiations with the software publisher. What usually results is a BPA off the GSA Schedule; with substantial pricing discounts. For example, as he observed that there was substantial interest in the Navy for Merant software, Floyd Groce (Department of the Navy representative and co-chair of the ESI Working Group) brought the information to one of the bi-weekly ESI Working Group meetings. The group eventually approved the Navy's plan to move forward with an agreement, which included some up-front funding, resulting in a pre-purchased inventory for Navy customers, and a BPA for DoD-wide use priced at 21 percent off GSA Federal Supply Service (FSS).

CHIPS: Who are the ESI Working Group members?

Mr. Clausen: Our ESI Working Group includes members from: the Office of the Secretary of Defense (NII)/DoD CIO; Department of the Navy; Defense Finance and Accounting Service; Defense Logistics Agency; Office of the Secretary of Defense (CIO); Missile Defense Agency; Defense Intelligence Agency; National Imagery and Mapping Agency; Defense Information Systems Agency; Department of the Army; and the Department of the Air Force. They are truly just the "tip of the iceberg" though, because the really heavy lifting gets done by all the wonderful people in our Software Product Manager organizations, which include the Navy's IT Umbrella Program, the Army's Small Computer Program and the Air Force's Standard Systems Group. Our SPMs, in turn, are supported by a variety of superb contracting offices, including NAVICP, DITCO, and ITEC4. It's important to realize that all these folks have full-time "day jobs"; they perform their ESI functional roles in conjunction with their billeted duties.

CHIPS: Do you require IT products to be interoperable or to conform to a standard?

Mr. Clausen: We only require that products meet the JTA, the Joint Technical Architecture. By following the money, we allow the functional experts in the field to determine "best of breed." DoD PEOs (Program Executive Officers), Program Managers and field offices know their functional requirements quite well, and are also cognizant of the various interoperability and information assurance requirements. We have to assume that their purchasing decisions take all those requirements into account. It is a formula that has worked well for the past five years.

CHIPS: Do you work with the Service CIOs and other groups?

Mr. Clausen: Absolutely — DoD CIOs own this project! Priscilla Guthrie, the DoD Deputy Chief Information Officer is our champion and sponsor. The ESI Steering Group includes many of the department's CIOs and senior CIO staff within DoD, and meets as required to update our way ahead, and resolve issues