Leveraging Best Practices and Reform Initiatives Can Help Agencies Better Manage Investments
GAO-14-568T: Published: May 7, 2014. Publicly Released: May 7, 2014.
What GAO Found
Information technology (IT) acquisition best practices have been developed by both industry and the federal government to help guide the successful acquisition of investments. For example, GAO recently reported on nine critical factors underlying successful major IT acquisitions. Factors cited included (1) program officials were actively engaged with stakeholders and (2) prioritized requirements.
One key IT reform initiative undertaken by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to improve transparency is a public website, referred to as the IT Dashboard, which provides information on 760 major investments at 27 federal agencies, totaling almost $41 billion. The Dashboard also includes ratings of investments' risk on a scale from 1 (high risk) to 5 (low risk). As of April 2014, according to the Dashboard, 559 investments were low or moderately low risk (green), 159 were medium risk (yellow), and 42 were moderately high or high risk (red).
GAO has issued a series of reports on Dashboard accuracy and, in 2011, found that while there were continued issues with the accuracy and reliability of cost and schedule data, the accuracy of these data had improved over time. Further, a recent GAO report found that selected agencies' ratings were mostly or completely consistent with investment risk. However, this report also noted that agencies had removed major investments from the IT Dashboard, representing a troubling trend toward decreased transparency and accountability. Additionally, GAO reported that as of December 2013, the public version of the Dashboard was not updated for 15 of the previous 24 months because OMB did not revise it as the President's budget request was being created. Consequently, GAO made recommendations to improve the Dashboard's accuracy, ensure that it includes all major IT investments, and increase its availability. Agencies generally agreed with the report or had no comments.
In an effort to consolidate the growing number of federal data centers, OMB launched a consolidation initiative intended to close 40 percent of government data centers by 2015, and in doing so, save $3 billion. GAO reported that agencies planned to close 1,055 data centers by the end of fiscal year 2014, but also highlighted the need for continued oversight of these efforts. Among other things, GAO recommended that OMB improve the execution of important oversight responsibilities, with which OMB agreed.
To better manage the government's existing IT systems, OMB launched the PortfolioStat initiative, which, among other things, requires agencies to conduct annual reviews of their IT investments and make decisions on eliminating duplication. GAO reported that agencies continued to identify duplicative spending as part of PortfolioStat and that this initiative has the potential to save at least $5.8 billion by fiscal year 2015, but that weaknesses existed in agencies' implementation of the initiative's requirements. Among other things, GAO made several recommendations to improve agencies' implementation of PortfolioStat requirements. OMB partially agreed with these recommendations, and most of the other 20 agencies commenting on the report also agreed.
Why GAO Did This Study
The federal government reportedly plans to spend at least $82 billion on IT in fiscal year 2014. Given the scale of such planned outlays and the criticality of many of these systems to the health, economy, and security of the nation, it is important that OMB and federal agencies provide appropriate oversight and transparency into these programs and avoid duplicative investments, whenever possible, to ensure the most efficient use of resources.
GAO has previously reported and testified that federal IT projects too frequently fail and incur cost overruns and schedule slippages while contributing little to mission-related outcomes. Numerous best practices and administration initiatives are available for agencies that can help them improve the oversight and management of IT acquisitions.
GAO is testifying today on the results and recommendations from selected reports that focused on how best practices and IT reform initiatives can help federal agencies better manage major acquisitions and legacy investments.
What GAO Recommends
GAO has previously made numerous recommendations to OMB and federal agencies on key aspects of IT acquisition management, as well as the oversight and management of these investments. In particular, GAO has made recommendations regarding the IT Dashboard, efforts to consolidate federal data centers, and PortfolioStat.
For more information, contact David A. Powner at (202) 512-9286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.