Information Resources Management:

Comprehensive Strategic Plan Needed to Address Mounting Challenges

GAO-02-292: Published: Feb 22, 2002. Publicly Released: Mar 11, 2002.

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Congress passed the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) to establish a single, overarching policy framework for the management of government information resources. The act established information resources management (IRM) as an approach governing the collection, dissemination, security, privacy, and management of information. The act also created the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to provide leadership, policy direction, and oversight of governmentwide IRM. It further required OIRA to develop and maintain a governmentwide strategic IRM plan and charged that office with responsibilities for general IRM policy and information technology. Although OIRA designated the Chief Information Officers Council's strategic plan for fiscal years 2001-2002 as the governmentwide strategic IRM plan required by the PRA, this does not constitute an effective and comprehensive strategic vision. OIRA has issued policy and implementing guidance, conducted oversight activities, and taken various steps in each of the functional areas. GAO found that the documents cited by OMB during it's review did not, separately or collectively, meet the requirements for a governmentwide strategic IRM plan established by PRA.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: In particular, the administrator, OIRA, should, as part of an assessment of the government's internal environment, determine the resources, including human capital, needed to meet governmentwide IRM goals. This could include an assessment of OIRA's human capital capability, including the numbers of staff and types of skills needed, to conduct this strategic planning process and lead governmentwide implementation of the resulting plan. Based on this assessment, the administrator, OIRA, should seek to fill any gaps identified.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget: Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On April 15, 2005, OMB requested agencies to submit plans to OMB for closing important information technology skill and competency gaps. Subsequently, the CIO Council identified three competencies that have a direct impact on an agency's ability to manage information: project management, architecture, and security. Agencies then used their workforce plans to identify the number of vacant positions to be filled by the end of fiscal year 2005. This showed a shortage of 211 project management positions, 229 security positions, and 179 architecture positions. In addition, OMB uses the President's Management Agenda Human Capital Scorecard to measure progress each quarter in hiring, training, and use of skills incentive programs to close these three competency gaps. Moreover, agencies are addressing IT project management gaps in several ways including bonuses and other incentives and improving recruitment and retention. Finally, agencies are using the following guidance to ensure their IT workforce has the skills necessary to deliver government information and services: (1) OMB's Memorandum 04-19 which helps ensure project managers have qualifications validated against approved criteria; (2) OPM's "Information Technology Workforce Development Road Map" to identify individual employee skill gaps and necessary training; and (3) the CIO Council's "Workforce Management Resource Package" to assist in workforce planning and development of training programs and standards. Together, these initiatives provide OMB and agencies with the ability to determine the human capital resources needed to meet their governmentwide IRM goals.

    Recommendation: In particular, the administrator, OIRA, should assess the external environment and emerging future challenges and trends, including the recent terrorist attacks, and their impact on the government's collection, use, maintenance, and dissemination of information.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget: Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Consistent with the recommendation, OMB has taken action to identify future challenges. For example, an assessment of the government's external environment was a critical element in developing OMB's March 2005 Federal Enterprise Architecture Action (FEA) Plan prepared by OMB's Office of E-Gov. The purpose of this plan, which covers a wide range of information activities, is to achieve the efficient design and implementation of IRM governmentwide, while reducing costs to the taxpayer. The FEA consists of a set of interrelated reference models designed to facilitate cross-agency analysis and the identification of duplicative IT investments, gaps and opportunities for collaboration within and across agencies on a range of IRM activities. The challenges that emerged from OMB's assessment of the external and internal environment in which the government manages information were incorporated into the Federal Enterprise Architecture. For example, the assessment found agencies were not able to compete effectively with the private sector in retaining skilled IT workers, resulting in skill and competency gaps. Consequently, agencies' enterprise architectures were not aligned effectively with IT policies or other guidance. In addition, OMB, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency, completed a comprehensive study on emerging challenges in using IT to enhance crisis preparedness and response to natural and man-made disasters. The Computer Science and Telecommunications Board Committee of the National Academy of Sciences is aiding in this effort. The planning study included a June 2005 workshop attended by over 75 practitioners representing Federal, State, and local officials, disaster management experts, and IT researchers. The workshop covered an assessment of the external environment, from which three major challenges emerged: (1) the critical and evolving role of IT in disaster management; (2) research directions for IT in disaster management; and (3) collaboration, coordination, and interoperability. Furthermore, OMB worked with agency and State, local, and private sector officials to identify two future challenges for strategically-managing IRM in the government in response to recent terrorist attacks. These challenges evolved into two E-Gov initiatives: "Disaster Management" and "SAFECOM." Both of these initiatives, described below, are led by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with State and local organizations. Disaster Management Initiative, among other things, will provide a portal (www.disasterhelp.gov) through which all Federal disaster management-related information is conveyed to first responders and the public. SAFECOM is a communications program providing research, development, testing, evaluation, guidance and assistance for local State and Federal safety agencies to improve public safety response through more effective interoperable wireless communications. This initiative is intended to develop better technologies and processes for the cross-jurisdictional and cross-disciplinary coordination of existing systems and networks.

    Recommendation: In particular, the administrator, OIRA, should, consistent with the Paperwork Reduction Act, establish governmentwide goals for IRM that are linked to improvements in agency and program performance, identify strategies for achieving the goals that clearly define the roles of OIRA and agencies, and develop performance measures to assess progress in using IRM to improve agency and program performance.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget: Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OMB has taken numerous actions to establish governmentwide goals, strategies and performance measures for IRM that are linked to improvements in agency and program performance. First, the CIO Council's Strategic Plan establishes a vision and governmentwide goals that address e-government, security, and IT skills and resources, as well as strategies for reaching the goals. Next, OMB's March 2005 Federal Enterprise Architecture Action (FEA) Plan has as its purpose to achieve the efficient design and implementation of IRM governmentwide, while reducing costs to the taxpayer. While strategic planning answers the question: "what" are a program's goals and objectives, the FEA acts as the bridge to implementation by providing a roadmap of strategies on "how" to achieve them. The FEA consists of a set of interrelated reference models designed to facilitate cross-agency analysis and the identification of duplicative IT investments, gaps and opportunities for collaboration within and across agencies. The FEA also includes a Records Management Profile that establishes governmentwide goals for IRM that are linked to improvements in agency and program performance, identifies strategies for achieving the goals that define the roles of OIRA and agencies, and develops performance measures to assess progress in using IRM to improve agency and program performance. To achieve these goals, the FEA plan is to execute a framework called the Federal Transition Framework, which extends across the entire life cycle of information technology--architecture, investment, and implementation. Through 17 cross-agency initiatives (e.g., e-grants), it links the essential elements of the FEA with key IRM activities. Each initiative includes a discussion of performance measures and strategy for achieving the goals. Finally, the President issued an Executive Order in December 2005 at OMB's request that provides goals, strategies and performance measures for improving the dissemination of government information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This Order provides a results-oriented framework by which agency heads can hold officials accountable for improvements in FOIA processing. Together, these OMB actions establish governmentwide goals for IRM that are linked to improvements in agency and program performance, identify strategies for achieving the goals that clearly define the roles of OIRA and agencies, and provide performance measures to assess progress in using IRM to improve agency and program performance.

    Recommendation: In order to address the current and emerging challenges that the government faces in managing information resources and take advantage of opportunities for improvement the administrator, OIRA should develop and implement a governmentwide strategic IRM plan that articulates a comprehensive federal vision and plan for all aspects of government information. In addition, recognizing the new emphasis that OMB has placed on e-government, it will be important that the administrative work in conjunction with the associate director for technology and e-government in developing this plan.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget: Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Consistent with this recommendation, the Office of E-Gov and OIRA have taken numerous actions to address the need for a governmentwide IRM strategic plan (that is, a range of information activities such as collection, dissemination, security, privacy, and systems management coupled with goals, strategies and performance measures). First, the CIO Council's Strategic Plan established a vision and governmentwide goals that address e-government, security, and IT skills and resources, as well as strategies for reaching the goals. Next, OMB's March 2005 Federal Enterprise Architecture Action (FEA) Plan prepared by OMB's Office of E-Gov covers a wide range of information activities. The purpose of this plan is to achieve the efficient design and implementation of IRM governmentwide while reducing costs to the taxpayer. The FEA consists of a set of interrelated reference models designed to facilitate cross-agency analysis and the identification of duplicative IT investments, gaps and opportunities for collaboration within and across agencies on a range of IRM activities. The FEA also includes a Records Management Profile that provides a strategy for agencies to establish management controls for the transparent use of information and records. It also establishes performance goals for evaluating IT investments and ties those investments to agencies' strategic planning goals. If implemented properly, it will provide the foundation for sound IRM management practices, end-to-end governance of IT investments, and the alignment of IT investments with the goals of the agency. The third OMB action is the Federal Transition Framework, which OMB developed to increase the alignment of agency enterprise architecture with federal IT policy decisions and increase sharing of common, cross-agency business processes, service components and technology standards. Through 17 cross-agency initiatives (e.g., e-grants), this Framework is to link the essential elements of the FEA with key IRM activities and each initiative includes a discussion of performance and strategy for achieving the outcome. Finally, OMB issued the December 16, 2004, government-wide plan for the effective management of electronic records as required by the E-Gov Act of 2002. This plan contains recommendations that are intended to infuse information and records management requirements into agency business processes rather than treated as a stove-piped set of requirements. For example, it recommends that OMB, NARA, and GSA work together to provide agencies with clear, non-conflicting guidance on information management along with the appropriate accountability mechanisms. Together, these OMB actions articulate a comprehensive federal vision and plan for all aspects of government information.

    Recommendation: In particular, the administrator, OIRA, should seek involvement in the planning processes from the CIO Council, the Office of Homeland Security, entities involved in information security and critical infrastructure protection, federal agencies, private-sector organizations, state and local governments, and other relevant stakeholders in meeting the government's needs for a strong and unified information management vision.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget: Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OMB has sought out the involvement of many agencies and organizations in developing a strategic IRM vision. For example, OMB, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency, completed a comprehensive study on emerging challenges in using IT to enhance crisis preparedness and response to natural and man-made disasters. The Computer Science and Telecommunications Board Committee of the National Academy of Sciences aided in this effort. The planning study included a June 2005 workshop attended by over 75 practitioners representing Federal, State, and local officials, disaster management experts, and IT researchers. The workshop covered an assessment of the external environment from which three major challenges emerged: (1) the critical and evolving role of IT in disaster management; (2) research directions for IT in disaster management; and (3) collaboration, coordination, and interoperability. In addition, OMB considered input from a variety of sources including agencies and obtained comments from the public in issuing new policy on December 16, 2005 that promotes greater access to government information through active dissemination. This policy recognizes (1) significant advances in commercial search technologies and standards permit agencies to publish directly to the Internet and (2) the need for advance information preparation (e.g., metadata) when other search functions are ineffective. OMB has also sought out the views of other organizations to identify emerging issues in workforce planning. For example, on April 15, 2005, OMB requested agencies to submit plans identifying their challenges for closing important IT skill and competency gaps. In addition, the CIO Council identified three competencies that have a direct impact on an agency's ability to manage information: project management, architecture, and security. OMB also sought input from the following organizations to address the emerging workforce issues that arose from its assessment of the external environment: (1) OPM was asked to develop a method to identify individual IT employee skill gaps and necessary training; (2) the CIO Council was asked to assist in IT workforce planning and development of training programs and standards; and (3) OPM was asked to issue final regulations to implement the Information Technology Exchange Program for agencies to exchange executives with the private sector.

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