DoD’s Wennergren works to drive business process changes

Dave Wennergren, assistant deputy chief management officer, DoD

Jared Serbu | June 4, 2015 2:35 pm

As the Pentagon official charged with reengineering the business operations of the Defense Department, the deputy chief management officer is driving the pursuit of some new business goals for DoD. And those goals are accompanied by a new level of accountability for meeting the seven objectives over the next couple years.

The Pentagon’s Strategic Management Plan is an annual document designed to align DoD’s business practices with the overarching goals laid out in the Quadrennial Defense Review, the Pentagon’s regular study on military strategy. The current version, however covers both fiscal years 2012 and 2013. Some of the areas are updates to goals in previous years’ plans, but there are also some new priorities on this year’s list, said Dave Wennergren, DoD’s assistant deputy chief management officer.

Wennergren was a guest on On DoD, a new weekly program on Federal News Radio.

One priority is to increase the department’s energy efficiency, both on its bases and among its deployed forces. That follows the recent creation of a new director of operational energy for DoD, and the department’s first-ever report on operational energy earlier this year.

Also new on the list is the goal of rebuilding and using end-to-end business processes, a topic the office of the Deputy Chief Management Officer has been championing.


And one of last year’s workforce goals has been stated differently this year. Last year’s plan called for enhancing the civilian workforce. This year’s version aims at a “rightsizing” of the mix between military, civilian and contractor personnel during a time of constrained resources.

Wennergren said DoD also is assigning each of the seven areas to a senior “goal owner” within the department, and that ownership will bring accountability.

“You need a set of goals, but then you need explicit performance measures that help you actually measure the progress of your plans,” he said. “The strategic management plan has those measures in them. Those measures begin at the very top of the organization and then they drive down to how individual organizations contribute, until you get down to how individual leaders and individual employees contribute. And that has to find its way all the way down into performance plans.”

Other goals include:

  • Strengthening financial management
  • Building secure and agile IT capabilities
  • Increasing the buying power of the department
  • Creating agile business operations that support contingency missions

The annual report first grew out of a Congressional mandate in the 2008 DoD authorization bill, but has since taken on added importance as a priority-setting document for the department, Wennergren said.

“One of the things I’m really proud about as it’s grown and morphed over the years is the commitment of the senior leadership team at DoD to its development,” he said. “It took a number of meetings with the deputy secretary of Defense, the deputy chief management officer, the undersecretaries of the military departments who are their chief management officers, the undersecretaries of Defense who are the functional owners of the department, to actually lay out what our strategic business priorities are. And how we will then align our activities and measure our results against that set of imperatives.”

Helping to manage the business side of the Defense Department is one of only several hats Wennergren has been wearing lately. In addition, he is temporarily serving as the program executive for the joint interagency program office that is managing an effort between the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments to create a joint interoperable electronic health record. The departments are recruiting for a permanent program executive; a solicitation on USAJobs closed recently.

The iEHR effort started with a series of meetings between then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki last year. Since then, the building blocks have been falling into place as the two departments try to develop ways seamlessly share health care information.

“It really is a dramatic change,” Wennergren said. “Already, DoD and VA had been sharing more information than any other two health care organizations in the world. But it was an information exchange between these different legacy systems. Both departments needed to modernize their systems, and the leadership of both organizations decided our military members and veterans would be served if we did this together rather than do it separately and figure out how to glue things together. It’s exciting, and it will change the way a lot of health care service is delivered.” At the core of the change is a modular approach to delivering the technology that the two departments will rely on. DoD and VA leaders think the agility of their approach will lead to rapid innovation and allow more firms and organizations to contribute their technology.

“The power of a service oriented world is you can create a common data model,” Wennergren said. “It will be aligned to national standards. VA will move into our (Defense Information Systems Agency) Defense Enterprise Computing Centers, so we’ll have co-located facilities. The same facilities and the same data model, along with an enterprise service bus and common open architecture that’s understood by everyone. Anybody who provides medical applications or capabilities will understand how they can plug in. So applications will be bought as individual capabilities, not as one massive health records system from one company, top to bottom, with proprietary data.”

The systems will also offer a common user interface, so that an employee working at any VA facility experiences the same look and feel as an employee at a DoD health care site. Wennergren says the iEHR process is letting both departments put into practice one of the key messages the DCMO preaches within DoD: technology alone won’t solve all your problems, and process changes need to be done first.

“We’re taking a look at how VA does business and we do business and optimizing and aligning those processes,” he said. “We’ve mapped out the as-is process from the moment of accession of a military member through the end of their life as a veteran. Then we work on the to-be model. For example, in pharmacy, the business practices are different between the two organizations. So we’ve mapped out a model for how to align those processes so that you can go buy a pharmacy application that works for both of us.”

Wennergren recently took of a third hat, as the final director of the agency that was in some ways the forerunner to the Deputy Chief Management Officer. The Business Transformation Agency was identified for closure as part of the efficiency initiatives introduced by former Defense secretary Robert Gates. Wennergren managed the wind-down of the agency until it was formally shut down at the end of September.

“That’s been a lot of hard work,” he said. “There are a large number of really dedicated people doing really dedicated work, and their legacy will live on.”

The various missions the agency had are being split between two DoD organizations. One set, the responsibility for developing and improving some of the department’s large backoffice IT systems will go to the Defense Logistics Agency.

“DLA already manages a lot of big business systems, so we’ll build on the synergies of that organization, putting this other set of enterprise business systems with the portfolio that DLA has already had,” he said. “Then the rest of the mission of BTA will come to the DCMO.”

The DCMO’s office is inheriting the policy functions of the Business Transformation Agency, such as business enterprise architecture, acquisition oversight, portfolio management and investment reviews.


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