Senate to probe failed Air Force software project as lawmakers call for stop to IT waste

The move comes a few months after Air Force officials decided to scrap the struggling Oracle-based ERP implementation

By , IDG News Service |  Software

The Senate Armed Services Committee plans to investigate what happened with a massive, failed U.S. Air Force ERP (enterprise resource planning) project, amid a rising tide of calls for action on Capitol Hill to reduce wasteful IT spending.

"I remain deeply troubled by the failure of the Air Force's Expeditionary Combat Support System (ECSS) program," said Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, who chairs the committee, in a statement provided by his office. "I have directed the Committee's investigative staff to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the program in the next Congress to determine the causes for the failure and assess steps that can be taken to avoid similar failures in the future."

The project had racked up US$1 billion in costs since 2005, and the Air Force announced in November that it would scrap the implementation rather than continue, after determining that completing it would cost billions more for too little benefit.

Computer Sciences Corporation had worked as a systems integrator on the project, which involved Oracle software, but its contract was terminated in March 2012, according to the Air Force.

"CSC will provide any requested information regarding our contributions to the Air Force's goal to modernize logistics," CSC spokeswoman Heather Williams said via email, when asked for comment on the Senate panel's announcement.

ECSS was "an enormously complex task," and CSC's work "provided the Air Force with the foundational capabilities and IT assets for implementing the software system in the future," Williams added. In addition, CSC's experience on the project helped it improve its methodology for building such systems, Williams said.

But the Senate panel's decision to investigate the project "offers too little, too late," said analyst Michael Krigsman, CEO of consulting firm Asuret and an expert on why IT projects fail.

Still, if they move forward, "the committee should examine the problem from two directions," Krigsman added. "Looking at the overall procurement to delivery process while also digging into the money trail on this specific project."

Meanwhile, the Senate's move to investigate comes during the same week as the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing titled "Wasting Information Technology Dollars: How Can the Federal Government Reform its IT Investment Strategy."

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