Department of State IRM:

Modernization Program at Risk Absent Full Implementation of Key Best Practices

NSIAD-98-242: Published: Sep 29, 1998. Publicly Released: Sep 29, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the: (1) progress made by the Department of State in implementing key information technology (IT) management oversight and investment planning requirements mandated in recent federal legislation and related Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidance; and (2) soundness of the 5-year cost estimate included in the Department's information resource management (IRM) strategic plan and whether this estimate incorporates potential cost savings and efficiencies from State's modernization efforts.

GAO noted that: (1) State has developed an IT planning and investment framework for managing its IT resources that is consistent with the intent of applicable federal guidance; (2) however, full implementation of the framework does not appear to be a top management priority; (3) without a fully functioning framework, State cannot be assured that it is making the most cost-effective decisions as it modernizes its IT operations, that systems will perform as expected, or that its IT cost estimates are sound; (4) as a result, there is substantial risk that State's modernization program will not achieve desired results, will cost more than anticipated, and will take longer to put in place; (5) State's oversight mechanisms are not fully functioning as envisioned in its conceptual framework; (6) while an IRM Program Board has been established, it has not yet adopted the more disciplined project management processes called for by the Clinger-Cohen Act and related OMB guidance; (7) State does not yet have an agency-approved IT architecture to help guide the Department's investment decisions; (8) the Department has not established a specific action plan or related timetable to implement these remaining components of the framework; (9) Department officials attributed delays in implementing this framework to a number of factors, including senior management turnover, internal reorganization, competing priorities such as the year 2000 and computer security issues, staffing shortages, and the absence of an agreed upon vision regarding the Department's technical direction and operational requirements; (10) State's 5-year cost estimate, prepared in October 1996 and referenced in State's strategic plan submitted to Congress, is speculative; (11) the estimate was not based on a rigorous analysis of IT requirements and related project funding needs; (12) an estimated $600 million in Consular Affairs' IT costs were not included in the estimate; (13) some of the requirements and associated costs included in the original estimate have changed; and (14) State's original budget estimate and related planning documents do not identify or quantify potential cost savings opportunities associated with its ongoing IT support and IRM modernization activities.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State has strengthened its IRM Program Board and is reactivating the Technical Review Board that meets regularly to help manage its Capital Investment Fund. It has also converted one of its project-specific configuration control boards into a department-wide board that addresses all projects. Meetings include representatives from all bureaus and offices.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should make the development of a fully implemented IT planning and investment process a top priority. The Secretary's implementation strategy should include establishing a fully functioning IRM Technical Review Board and IRM Configuration Control Board.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State has a high-level architecture in place and is now involved in the ongoing process of adding additional detail to this architecture.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should make the development of a fully implemented IT planning and investment process a top priority. The Secretary's implementation strategy should include establishing a validated information technology architecture to help guide the Department's IRM modernization and ongoing IT support decisions.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State drafted a new Strategic Plan that is under department-wide review and is preparing cost estimates that will be added to the plan. State is also updating the Tactical Plan every 6 months. Department officials believe cost avoidance opportunities will be more likely than cost savings.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should make the development of a fully implemented IT planning and investment process a top priority. The Secretary's implementation strategy should include revising (once the boards and architecture are in place) the strategic and tactical plans and 5-year cost estimate and identifying potential cost savings or efficiencies expected from the modernization effort.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State agreed with this recommendation and is including output and outcome performance measures and milestones for measuring progress in the new Strategic Plan and in subsequently revised IRM technical plans.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should make the development of a fully implemented IT planning and investment process a top priority. The Secretary's implementation strategy should include establishing specific milestones for completing the full implementation of the IT planning and investment process, and a mechanism to measure progress against these milestones.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

 

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