US Air Force IT Department ‘Made Horrific Technology Choices’ Says Senate


You know how people get hung up on titles?

There are certain professions that we are all taught we should trust – but that doesn’t mean to say they are any good at what they do.

For example, just because someone is an accountant doesn’t mean to say they are a good one. Or a doctor or nurse.

But, because they hold the title you tend to believe what they say. Well, that and the fact that unless you specialise in that particular field yourself you have to as most of it is gibberish until they get to the bit that matters, what it means to you.

So, when a government IT department is investigated and called ‘incompetent’ this may matter, for a reason which may surprise you as reported by Sean Gallagher of Ars Technica:

Senate committee report excoriates Air Force for IT incompetence

ERP system effort becomes “cautionary tale” for bad project management.

A full two years after its cancellation, Congress is still taking the Air Force to task for the failure of an eight-year logistics system project that was intended to consolidate somewhere between 175 and over 900 legacy software systems—depending on who you asked and when. In a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs investigative report (PDF) completed on July 7 and publicly released last week, Senate investigators called the Expeditionary Combat Support System (ECSS) “a cautionary tale” of poor management practices and horrific technology choices.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed enterprise resource planning (ERP) projects in government and business over the past decade, especially since the software the Air Force attempted to use to solve its problems was an off-the-shelf package that was supposed to be only superficially modified to meet the needs of the Air Force. But ERP systems aren’t just software projects—they often require a total restructuring of organizational processes to make them fit the software rather than just making existing processes more efficient.

“The Air Force failed in its procurement of [ECSS]… because it lacked a clear objective and the organizational will to implement changes to its internal business processes vital to integrating ECSS into the organization,” the Senate investigators wrote in the report. “In doing so, the Air Force violated many crucial guidelines and best practices for information technology acquisition.”

When the Air Force cancelled the program in November of 2012, a report issued by the service said, “ECSS has cost $1.03 billion since 2005 and has not yielded any significant military capability. We estimate it would require an additional $1.1 billion for about a quarter of the original scope to continue and fielding would not be until 2020.” Instead, the Air Force decided that it would have to rely on existing systems with minor modifications in order to meet a Congressional mandate for audit compliance by 2017. The service has not been able to certify itself as audit-ready.

The Air Force also failed to properly plan for the purchase of the system in advance. The program leaders only knew that they wanted to replace a collection of older systems with a new one; they had no real understanding of the functionality required to do that. In the original contract solicitation, the Air Force said that it wanted a system that was “truly ‘off-the-shelf’: unmodified and available to anyone.” But it also wanted a fully integrated system out of the box. What it got instead was three separate software products from Oracle and a collection of tools that a system integrator (Computer Sciences Corporation) could use to put them all together in the fashion the Air Force wanted.

That didn’t exactly work out, partially because the Air Force didn’t standardize on a set of business processes before the project started. The Air Force detailed in its own report that as the result of shifting Air Force and Department of Defense regulations, ”the program found itself attempting to comply with various elements of… three methodologies.”

The project increasingly deviated from the Air Force’s original concept of “off-the-shelf” and rapidly turned into a Frankenstein’s monster of modified commercial software and custom code. But the monster was never successfully animated.

Given that the Air Force was trying to replace hundreds of purpose-built software systems across the service with a single, allegedly off-the-shelf solution from Oracle, the fact that the failed project came with a price tag of just $1.1 billion could almost be seen as a blessing. But the Air Force has yet another ERP project still underway—the Defense Enterprise Accounting and Management System, an auditing support system that is supposed to eventually be used by all of the Defense Department. And the service is getting ready for another go at a logistics system. Hopefully, Air Force leadership has learned from the service’s previous mistakes.

Now, you may wonder why on earth this has landed at UTB?

The answer is simple.

This is one of the very few government departments throughout the WORLD who decided to drop BlackBerry. This is the same department accused of ‘horrific technology choices’. And what did they decide to replace their BlackBerry’s with?


So, the US government’s most incompetent Defence IT department went with the world’s most incompetent smartphone.

You really couldn’t make it up.

Quick guys…

Run #BackToBlack asap…

Before the Senate hear about that one too…


Bigglybobblyboo is a legend almost nowhere at all. He is a founder member of UTB and spends his spare time taking out his anger at the world with a fishfork and a spatula. He is also a Cribbage Master, having won 1 fight online as the other guy refused to turn up out of fear for his life.

  • mscloutier

    Is it polite to be laughing my ass off at this point!? =)) =))

    • Bigglybobblyboo

      In a word or two… yes. Very!

  • BB Racer !!

    Catastrophic of first order

  • shanerredflag

    And the funny part is, they paid 7 figures to a consulting firm to come to that conclusion. And, they will pay another 7 figures to a consulting firm to decide what to do next. Then….pay, well…you get the idea. :)

  • mscloutier

    I can see the future now, the Chinese have taken control of the US Air Force via hacked iPhone’s, a QNX controlled drone assassinates John Legere (John Chen denies any involvement), BlackBerry acquires Google to develop Disney stickers for BBM and Alicia Keys is one of only four people left in North America still using an iPhone.

    • Robert