While blazing a trail on the frontier of paperless contracting, the U.S. Defense Department is discovering that a new set of opportunities and challenges emerges from change in the workplace. As in any formidable military operation, its leaders are striving to complete the mission successfully, while gathering information to share with others who are sure to follow the path to more efficient business practices.
The U.S. Defense Department is counting on small businesses to support its transformation, e-government and homeland security initiatives. Although the military is known for the procurement of large weapons and information technology systems, department acquisition officials recognize that success demands the innovation and support of hundreds of smaller, yet key, firms. Enlisting the expertise of these modest-size businesses enables the department and large companies to provide for the full spectrum of warfighter needs.
The increasing use of the World Wide Web as a platform for communication, e-commerce and procurement is paving the way for a new partnership between branches of the U.S. government and the commercial sector. The government is reviewing its procurement practices and related legacy systems and merging this analysis with its plans for Internet use. Studies indicate that by 2003, 60 percent of local, state and federal agencies could be participating in Internet procurement, and online government spending could climb to more than $6.5 billion annually by 2005.
The U.S. government's information technology efforts are being coordinated by a new office responsible for holding agency programs accountable to budget limits and sound business plans. Part of an ongoing drive to streamline government and provide better services to the public, the department promotes the development of innovative ideas and methods to achieve these goals.
While the U.S. military is diligently building network centricity into the battlespace, the federal government is constructing virtual bridges between agencies and citizens on the home front. Cyberspace is now a two-way street where information is driven to the public, and citizens steer through the bureaucratic maze. Considerable advances already have been made, and plans on the drawing board promise to increase home-delivery of government services.
A new World Wide Web-based service allows emergency first responders to access government databases, conduct live online collaborative meetings and send encrypted e-mail in the event of a terrorist attack. Designed to serve a variety of user communities, the secure network service's home page provides links and information on terrorism, disaster mitigation and homeland security issues.
While the U.S. Defense Department continues its quest for transformation, federal agencies are undergoing a transformation of their own. Earlier this year, a task force, under the direction of the Office of Management and Budget, launched 24 e-government initiatives that will change the way citizens interact with agencies and bureaus. The goals of the effort are to make it easier for individuals and businesses to work with government agencies and to cut costs by eliminating procedural and information systems redundancy.