Senate NDAA wants Pentagon to improve IT systems that handle business management

(REUTERS / Erin Scott)

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The Senate wants the Department of Defense to have stronger IT systems to monitor its budget and work better with the private sector, according to the summary of its fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.

The IT-related items focus on improving the business systems at the Pentagon and providing Congress better visibility into how taxpayer dollars are being spent.

The bill would direct the Pentagon to use “modern data visualization” tools on its budget. The committee also wants a report on how many discrete IT systems the department uses to monitor its budgetary information. The department with the largest discretionary budget in the government has long struggled to audit and track how hundreds of billions of dollars get spent.

The department’s business operations “must be nimble, efficient, and responsive,” the summary states.

The legislation also seeks more clarity about the information that the DOD is supposed to provide to Congress by law. The Pentagon’s head of legislative affairs would have to find a tool to track the many studies that are requested under each year’s version of the NDAA.

The bill, approved by the Armed Services Committee with bipartisan support Wednesday, would have a top line of $740 billion, up $2 billion from last year’s enacted $738 billion.

The NDAA is a long way from becoming law. Committee leaders have said they hope their version can make it to the floor of the Senate before July 4. President Trump recently indicated he would be unwilling to sign a bill that includes some of the Senate committee’s provisions, including renaming bases named after Confederate generals.

5G policy, boosts to R&D

When it comes to technology development, the Senate wants the DOD to prioritize the strategic competition with China and Russia. If passed, the bill would require the secretary of Defense to find ways to mitigate against the development of Chinese 5G in partner nations and for the Pentagon to continue its testing and development of the emerging technology.

The bill would also add $300 million above the president’s $14.1 billion request for DOD research and development. The Senate request would still leave the science and technology budget far below the roughly $16 billion appropriated for fiscal 2020.

“As our strategic competitors develop more and more advanced weapons, equipment, and technology, it’s critical that the United States keep pace through deliberate, knowledge-based development,” the summary states.

The bill also touches on securing the DOD’s networks. The summary includes reference to 11 recommendations made by the Cyberspace Solarium Commission report. The bill would not create a national cyber director, as the report calls for, but would elevate the “principal cyber advisory” in the DOD to implement cyber strategy. It also calls for an industrial base threat intelligence sharing portal to give more information to companies that work with the DOD on cyber threats.

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2021 budget, Congress, Cybersecurity, Department of Defense (DOD), NDAA, research and development, science and technology
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