Army Automation: Decisions Needed on SIDPERS-3 Before Further Development

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-09-05.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

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                                                                                                                      ARMY AUTOMATION
                                                                                                                      Decisions Needed on
                                                                                                                      SIDPERS-3 Before
                                                                                                                      Further Development


                                                                                                                      BESTRICTED --Not      to be released outside the
                                                                                                                      General Accounting Office unless specifically
                                                                                                                      approved by the Office of Congressional
             United States
GAO          General Accounting Office
             Washington, D.C. 20548

             Information Management and
             Technology Division


             September 51990

             The Honorable John Conyers, Jr.
             Committee on Government
             House of Representatives

             Dear Mr. Chairman:

             This report responds to your July 21, 1989, request that we review the
             Army’s development of an automated personnel management system
             called the Standard Installation/Division Personnel System III (SIDPERS-
             3). Your request expressed concern about SIDPERS-3 costs, whether the
             Army had considered alternative systems, and the use of the Ada pro-
             gramming language.

             During our work, Defense’s Major Automated Information Systems
             Review Committee (MAISRC)reviewed SIDPERS~and raised a number of
             concerns similar to yours. As a result, we agreed with your office to
             provide information on the MAISRCreview and the actions the Army took
             to evaluate alternative systems and the use of the Ada programming
             language. Appendix I provides detailed information on our objectives,
             scope, and methodology.

                    was initiated in 1982 to replace Army personnel systems and to
Background   improve personnel services by automating functions such as organiza-
             tion and personnel recordkeeping, manpower accounting, and personnel
             management reporting. It was originally intended to replace all military
             personnel systems used by the active Army, National Guard, and
             Reserves. However, in responding to congressional concerns that the
             Reserve component of SIDPERS-3  would duplicate other systems under
             development, the Army in fiscal year 1988, decided instead that it
             would replace only the active Army systems.

             Although the scope of SIDPERSShas been reduced significantly, the
             Army’s cost estimate to develop and deploy the system increased from
             $80 million in 1985 to $151 million in 1990. In addition, the estimated
             date for full deployment has been extended by almost 3 years to March
             1993. The cost growth and schedule delay were attributable to problems
             with the program structure and development approach, such as
             (1) switching to the Ada programming language, and (2) eliminating

             Page1                                       GAO/IMTJW-90-96
                                                                      Army Automation

                   duplication between SIDPERS3and the system being developed for the
                   Army Reserves.

                   Since the 197Os, Defense has required a structured process (life cycle
                   management) for developing or modernizing major automated informa-
                   tion systems such as SIDPERS-3. The process emphasizes developing sys-
                   tems that will meet requirements and stresses sound technical and
                   financial management and continuing oversight. The level of oversight
                   required by life cycle management is generally commensurate with the
                   anticipated investment-the greater the investment, the higher the level
                   of oversight. The Office of the Secretary of Defense established the
                   MAISRCto oversee the development of systems when cost estimates
                   exceed $26 million for 1 year, $100 million in total, or the system is of
                   special interest.

                   Life cycle management involves six development phases and six decision
                   points (called milestones) where system progress is assessed and docu-
                   mented. Appendix II shows the six life cycle management phases, the
                   corresponding milestones, and the questions which must be answered
                   affirmatively before a system can proceed to the next phase.

                   During its September 1989 review of SIDPERSS,the MAISRCraised signifi-
Results in Brief   cant concerns about whether the Army selected the best program alter-
                   native in terms of system cost, hardware, and software. In spite of these
                   concerns, the MAISRCallowed the Army to continue design and develop-
                   ment of the system. We believe the MAISRCinstead should have directed
                   the Army to stop additional work until its concerns were resolved. More-
                   over, the Army still has not adequately addressed MAISRCconcerns such
                   as the use of alternative systems and the Ada programming language. In
                   the meantime, the Army has paid a contractor about $6 million for con-
                   tinuing technical design and software development of SIDPERS-3.    Finally,
                   developing this Army automated personnel system at this time may be
                   contrary to the Secretary of Defense’s recent initiative to establish
                   single systems, such as one for personnel, for all military services and
                   Defense agencies.

                   Page2                                        GAO/IMTElG9986
                              was not reviewed by the MAISRCbefore September 1989 because
MAISRC Questions       the Army’s earlier cost estimates did not exceed the threshold for a
SIDPERS-3Concept       major system. When the MAISRCconducted an in-process1 review of
                       SIDPERS-3 in September 1989, the Army was in the design phase of life
                       cycle management, and officials were projecting that the design would
                       be complete and ready for review (Milestone II) by February, 1990.
                       Although the Army had spent about 7 years and more than $20 million
                       selecting the concept and designing the system, the MABRCtold the Army
                       to go back and address its concerns about the SIDPERS-3 development
                       approach (Milestone I). The Army had approved the concept in October
                       1986. Specific areas the MAISRCdirected the Army to assess and to con-
                       sider modifying included:

                   l Available alternatives not previously assessed including use of a Marine
                     Corps system;
                   l The technical architecture, particularly the hardware components and
                     the use of Ada, to ensure it is effective, appropriate, and economical;
                   . The program structure to ensure proper levels of oversight and control
                     over development activities.

                       The MAISRCtold the Army it should provide the results of its efforts to
                       the Committee’s Executive Secretary within 2 weeks of completing the
                       revalidation. Although the MAISRC’Sdirection to assess a number of areas
                       could have resulted in a decision that the concept was not valid, the
                       MAISRCdid not direct the Army to halt or minimize design and develop-
                       ment work until the concept was revalidated. At that time, the Army
                       was paying a contractor for the technical design and software develop-
                       ment of SIDPERS-3. During the first 9 months of fiscal year 1990, the
                       Army paid the contractor about $6 million.

                       Army officials told us in February 1990 that they addressed most of the
                       MABRC’Sconcerns and decided that no other system could adequately
                       meet its requirements. About 2 months later, on April 6, 1990, the Army
                       re-approved SIDPERS-3   as the best program alternative for replacing the
                       current personnel systems. The Army also granted approval for full-
                       scale development pending completion of an economic analysis and all
                       system design activities. The Army submitted the concept documents to
                       the MAISRCin June 1990. The Army also submitted documentation on the
                       system design phase and requested MAISRCapproval to proceed into full-
                       scale development. The MAHRCaction officer responsible for SIDPERS-3
                       told us a Milestone II review is scheduled for September 1990.

                       ‘TheMAISRC  usesin-process
                                                reviewsto assess
                                                                                  of systemdevelopment

                       Page3                                             GAO/IMTEGfJO-66

                  Federal and Defense policies for automated information system develop-
Alternatives to   ment require the identification and analysis of alternative approaches
SIDPERS-3Not      that will satisfy the approved mission need. This is required to ensure
Adequately        that the best available approach is selected, and to avoid duplication
                  and unnecessary expenditures on new systems by effectively using
Considered        existing systems. When the MAISRCreviewed SIDPERS-3    in September 1989,
                  it directed the Army to assess available alternatives not previously con-
                  sidered, including use of the Marine Corps military personnel system.
                  Our work shows that the Army has not adequately considered alterna-
                  tives to SIDPERS-3.

                  Specifically, our review of the SIDPERS-3 concept development paper dis-
                  closed that when the Army selected SIDPERS-3    in 1985, it did not consider
                  a full range of alternatives. Although the Army considered four alterna-
                  tives, they did not represent a full spectrum of possible approaches.
                  Two alternatives were earlier versions of Army personnel systems that
                  had either been replaced or were identified for replacement. The
                  remaining alternatives were the SIDPERS-3   concept that was chosen and a
                  variation of it. Although the SIDPERS-3 project manager said that use of
                  the Air Force personnel system was considered at that time, he could not
                  provide documentation to support this claim. Officials of the Army Pro-
                  gram Evaluation Office for Standard Automated Management Informa-
                  tion Systems told us other alternatives were not considered because
                  SIDPERS-3 was viewed as an acceptable concept.

                  In a September 1989 study, performed to answer questions raised by the
                  Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives, the Army con-
                  cluded that the Air Force military personnel system could not meet its
                  requirements in a cost effective manner. According to the study, the Air
                  Force system would require extensive and costly modification to meet
                  Army needs because the services’ structures and supporting personnel
                  policies are very different. However, we found that the SIDPERS-3 cost
                  estimate in this Army study did not include all of the costs necessary to
                  support SIDPERSBand that other costs were estimated poorly. For
                  example, the Army excluded the costs of certain hardware components
                  totalling about $102 million.

                  At the direction of the MAISRC,the Army also studied the Navy and
                  Marine Corps military personnel systems, and concluded that neither
                  system could meet its needs in a cost effective manner. However, our
                  review of the Army studies showed that this conclusion was not based
                  on comparisons of the total cost and benefits that would be derived

                  Page4                                         GAO/IMTEG90-66hnyAutomation

                     under each alternative. Instead, the Army reviewed the military ser-
                     vices’ systems to determine whether they provided capabilities planned
                     for SIDPERS-3. The Army determined that neither system had all the capa-
                     bilities planned for SIDPERSB,and then without sufficient analysis, con-
                     cluded they could not be modified to meet its requirements in a cost
                     effective manner.

                     We are also concerned that the Army’s assessments of alternatives have
                     not considered the implications of Defense’s ongoing initiative to elimi-
                     nate duplicate automated information systems. One goal of Defense’s
                     Corporate Information Management initiative, which was started in
                     October 1989, is to establish single automated systems for areas such as
                     personnel and financial management that are common to all the military
                     services and Defense agencies. The single systems will be established by
                     designing and developing new ones, or by adopting one of the existing
                     systems for use throughout Defense.

                     Although common to all the services, military personnel management is
                     not one of the eight common areas that will be studied during fiscal year
                     1990. Because Defense plans to cover all common areas, the Secretary is
                     likely to include military personnel management in the Corporate Infor-
                     mation Management program, and probably before SIDPERS3could be
                     fully developed and deployed. Thus, it may not be prudent for the Army
                     to proceed with SIDPERS-3  development at this time. Instead, it could rely
                     upon the interim system called SIDPERS-2.75, which was deployed in
                     1985. Over the years, this system has been enhanced and has become an
                     essential part of personnel management operations, even though it does
                     not meet all known user requirements.

                     During its September 1989 review of SIDPERS-3,  the MAISRCexpressed con-
Ada Questions Have   terns about the use of the programming language Ada. According to the
Not &en Answered     MAISRCaction officer responsible for SIDPERW,the MAISRCwas concerned
                     that the Army had not analyzed other programming languages to deter-
                     mine whether they would better satisfy requirements. The action officer
                     also said the Army had not assessed the ability of Ada applications to
                     interface with the Structured Query Language data base management
                     system planned for SIDPERS-3. As a result, the MAISRCdirected the Army
                     to ensure that the use of Ada would be effective, appropriate, and

                     The Army completed its assessment of Ada in February 1990, but our
                     work has shown that the Army has not adequately addressed all of the

                     Page5                                         GAO/IMTEG904MArmyAutomation

                  MAISRC'Sconcerns. The Army study noted that there is a general lack of
                  empirical data on Ada’s cost and benefits for comparing it to other pro-
                  gramming languages, but nonetheless concluded that Ada is effective,
                  efficient, and promises to be the most economical choice over the life
                  cycle of the project. Moreover, the Army also cited our March 1989
                  report that there is no standard method for interfacing Ada applications
                  with the Structured Query Language. The Army stated that this does
                  not diminish the benefits of its use, but did not support this claim. We
                  believe that this is an important and potentially costly issue because the
                  Army will have to develop its own method for interfacing Ada with the
                  Structured Query Language.

                  Given the importance of the areas questioned by the MAISRCand the
Conclusions       wisdom of developing systems in accordance with Defense life cycle
                  management principles, the MAISRCshould have directed the Army to
                  stop system design and development efforts until the program concept
                  was reviewed and approved by the MAISRC.Moreover, our work shows
                  that the Army has not adequately addressed all MAISRCconcerns. In the
                  meantime, the Army has paid a contractor about $6 million for technical
                  design and software development, based upon a development approach
                  questioned by the MAISRCand in the face of unanswered technical

                  The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to
Recommendations   stop funding SIDPERS-3design and development until the MAISRChas
                  determined that the system’s concept is valid. We also recommend that
                  the Secretary of Defense determine whether it’is prudent for the Army
                  to continue designing and developing a potentially unique military per-
                  sonnel system, given Defense’s intention to establish single automated
                  systems for common management areas and given that the Army
                  already has an automated system in use that could possibly be modern-
                  ized to meet user needs.

                  In accordance with your office’s wishes, we did not obtain official
                  agency comments on a draft of this report. We did, however, discuss its
                  contents with Army and Department of Defense officials and have
                  included their comments where appropriate. We conducted our review
                  between August 1989 and July 1990 in accordance with generally
                  accepted government auditing standards.

                  Page6                                        GAO/IMTEG90-66
As agreed with your office, unless you publicly announce this report’s
contents earlier, we plan no further distribution until 30 days from the
date of this letter. At that time we will send copies to interested parties
and make copies available to others upon request. This work was per-
formed under the direction of Samuel W. Rowlin, Director, Defense and
Security Information Systems, who can be reached at (202) 275-4649.
Other major contributors are listed in appendix III.

Sincerely yours,

Ra1ph.V. Carlone
Assistant Comptroller General

Page7                                         GAO/IMTEC9O-66

Letter                                                                                    1

Appendix I                                                                               10
Objectives, Scope,and
Appendix II
Defense’sLife Cycle
Management Phases
and Milestones
Appendix III
Major Contributors to
This Report


                        GAO      General Accounting Office
                        IMTEC    Information Management and Technology Division
                        MAISRC Major Automated Information Systems Review Committee
                        SIDPERS-3Standard Installation/Division Personnel System III

                        Page8                                  GAO/IM’l’J3C9O436
                                                                             Army Automation
Page9   GAO/IMTEG9O40
Appendix I

Objectives,Scope,and Methodology

              In July 1989, the Chairman, House Committee on Government Opera-
              tions, asked us to review the Army’s SIDPERS-3.
                                                            Our objectives were to
              obtain information on the MAISRCreview and the actions taken by the
              Army to assess the use of alternative systems and the Ada programming

              To accomplish our objectives, we reviewed Defense and Army policies
              for the development of automated information systems. We reviewed
              Army documentation on the development of SIDPERS-3,    and interviewed
              officials from the SIDPERS-3
                                         product office, the Program Executive Office,
              and the prime contractor responsible for system development. We also
              met with officials from the Army’s Personnel Information Systems Com-
              mand and the Information Systems Engineering Command to discuss
              user needs and the system development process. To obtain information
              on the MAISRCreview of SIDPERS-3, we met with officials from the Office
              of the Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) for Information Resources

              To address the questions related to the use of Ada and data base man-
              agement systems, we reviewed Army documentation, including test
              reports and correspondence. We also interviewed Army officials respon-
              sible for acceptance testing and obtained opinions on the adequacy of
              Army tests from officials at the National Institute of Standards and
              Technology, expert consultants, and Army data base management
              system contractors.

              Our review was conducted from August 1989 to July 1990, in accor-
              dance with generally accepted government auditing standards. As
              requested by your office, we did not obtain official agency comments on
              a draft of this report, However, we discussed the information contained
              in it with Army and Defense officials and have included their comments
              where appropriate.

              Page10                                     GAO/IMTEC90-66
Apphdix       II

Defense’sLife Cycle ManagementPhasesad

  Phase 0                Phase 1           Phase 2                Phase 3                 Phase 4               Phase 5

 I                                                               A,

        N0.d                                   Drlgn            1 1    Devrlopmrnl            Deployment
     JUdfk4lOfl              Dovolopmont

                                                                                                                          Time to
                                                     Has the
            What 18                                  system
                                                                                                                          or replace?

            needed?                                  been                                                                 How best
                                                                               Does th
            I8 it                                    properly
                                                                               system                                     can this

            justified?                               designed                                                             be done?

                                                      A II


                                             Page11                                                             GAO/IMTJSG90-66
                                                                                                                            Army Automation
Appendix III

Major Contributors to This Report

                       Thomas J. Howard, Assistant Director
Information            Gary R. Austin, Evaluator-In-Charge
Management and         Christopher E. Hess, Evaluator
Technology Division,   Janet Eackloff, Reports Analyst
Washington, D.C.

(tilO468)              Page12                                 GAO/IMTEC9086ArmyAutomation
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