Defense Plans to Replace 19-Year-Old Retiree Pay System

Dan Kosmayer/

Time to leave the COBOL-based application behind.

The Defense Department has decided to retire its 19-year-old retiree pay system written in “antiquated” computer code and replace it with a lower cost, easier to use application based on off-the-shelf technology.

The Defense Retiree and Annuitant Pay System, or DRAS, maintains military pay accounts for more than 2.6 million military retirees, former spouses and survivor beneficiaries totaling $40 billion a year. The system was introduced in 1995 and is based on Common Business Oriented Language computer code of the time.

DRAS uses “antiquated mainframe technology dating back to 1980 that has exceeded the end of its planned lifecycle,” the Defense Logistics Agency said in a request for proposals released last week for a new DRAS2 to go to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service.

The current, aging DRAS, the solicitation said, has 40 internal interfaces between subcomponents for data file transfers, and over 220 external interfaces “resulting in a system that is difficult and costly to maintain and modify and is highly susceptible to errors and rework.”

The old pay system only offers limited automated data validation checks, does not conform to the current Defense data standard taxonomy and does not have a common data environment (master data model). Further, the data elements are not compliant with Standard Financial Information Systems requirements, DLA said, explaining the need for a new system.

DLA seeks a vendor versed in the seven-stage Business Capability Lifecycle for planning, design, acquisition, deployment, operations, maintenance and modernization of Defense Business Systems.

The RFP calls for the winning vendor to develop new system architecture, a functional and technical design, convert and manage data migration from the old to new systems, develop new data interfaces, and provide a software development methodology, among other tasks. Interested vendors must reply to the RFP by June 4.

Paul Strassmann, an information technology consultant who served as director of Defense Information from 1991 to 1993, doubted the department’s timing and priorities with the DRAS2 contract. “DoD should not replace retiree systems until it can be integrated with the employee personnel database,” he said. “There are too many duplicate databases involved in human resources. The savings are in overhead costs, not in the operating costs on hardware.”

Strassmann added, “With [computer] security spending 19.3 percent of its 2015 funding, and a 6 percent cut in the IT budget, there is no money available to replace a legacy system. DLA should be allocating scarce funds to improve the security of the legacy retiree pay system, which is likely to be vulnerable to hacking and corruption, before spending money on anything else.”

(Image via Dan Kosmayer/