The Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a 48-page report blasting the Air Force’s canceled audit-management program, entitled, “The Air Force’s Expeditionary Combat Support System (ECSS): A Cautionary Tale on the Need for Business Process Reengineering And Complying with Acquisition Best Practices.”

The report, released Monday afternoon, concludes the Air Force violated guidelines and best practices in its effort to acquire ECSS, a logistics and supply-chain management platform built around an enterprise resource system that would have managed Air Force logistics, including both goods and people worldwide.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

“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 report says the end result was “a waste of $1.1 billion in taxpayer money, a loss of eight years of effort, the same old inadequate logistics system far inferior to the promise of ECSS, and a major setback to the Air Force’s attempt to transform how it does business.”

More specifically, the investigation concluded that the Air Force did not follow business process reengineering (BPR) guidelines to ensure a smooth transition from old to newer and more efficient ways of doing business. The report cites a cultural resistance to change, lack of leadership and inadequate mitigation of identified risk factors at the outset of the procurement process as reasons for the Air Force failing to follow best practices.

“According to [ECSS contractor Computer Sciences Corporation [CSC]], when the company proposed changes to Air Force business processes to reflect these commercial best practices, however, the Air Force resisted and asked CSC to alter the commercial software to conform to the Air Force’s existing practices.  The Subcommittee investigation found that this cultural resistance to change on the part of the Air Force contributed to years of delay and massive cost overruns,” according to the report.

The report also notes high turnover rates in senior positions during the life of the program–six program managers and five program executive officers from 2004 to 2012–which led to a lack of institutional knowledge and an ineffective decision-making process–sometimes run by the contractors instead of Air Force officials, the report charges.

Even before the program got to making unnecessary changes to commercial off-the-shelf software, the report says the program failed in its beginning stages to properly set its requirements, conduct a reliable risk assessment and determine accurate cost estimates.

Ultimately, the Air Force had a good plan in place in 2006 to keep the program on track–it emphasized the need to forego modifications to the COTS software, conduct significant test and evaluation, establish leadership and accountability and adhere to “change management” guidelines to help the Air Force adapt to new day-to-day business practices–but by 2012 it was clear the Air Force had not followed its own strategy.

The report warns that the Air Force’s failure to heed industry best practices is not limited to just ECSS. Rather, “the Defense Enterprise Accounting and Management System (DEAMS), an ERP system intended to modernize Air Force accounting practices, has encountered cost overruns and delays. Currently, DEAMS is behind schedule and over-budget by $1.7 billion and, on top of that, is not fully operational. The Air Force has requested many changes in the commercial software for DEAMS, but once again has not provided adequate training for lower-level personnel, suggesting that the Air Force has not yet remedied the BRP shortcomings exhibited in the ECSS procurement.”

The report offers six recommendations, which resemble the Air Force’s original ECSS implementation strategy that was never followed.

“Moving forward, we must apply the lessons learned from this debacle so that the Department of Defense’s current and future efforts to modernize those large business information technology systems that are vital to its strategy to becoming auditable and improving how it ‘does business’ do not face the same disastrous fate as ECSS,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), ranking member of the subcommittee, said in a statement Monday afternoon.

The full report is available here: Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Air Force ECSS