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Improving the Management of IT Acquisitions and Operations

This information appears as published in the 2015 High Risk Report.

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Although the executive branch has undertaken numerous initiatives to better manage the more than $80 billion that is annually invested in information technology (IT), federal IT investments too frequently fail or incur cost overruns and schedule slippages while contributing little to mission-related outcomes. We have previously testified that the federal government has spent billions of dollars on failed IT investments, such as

  • the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Expeditionary Combat Support System, which was canceled in December 2012, after spending more than a billion dollars and failing to deploy within 5 years of initially obligating funds;
  • the Department of Homeland Security’s Secure Border Initiative Network program, which was ended in January 2011, after obligating more than $1 billion to the program, because it did not meet cost-effectiveness and viability standards;
  • the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Financial and Logistics Integrated Technology Enterprise program, which was intended to be delivered by 2014 at a total estimated cost of $609 million, but was terminated in October 2011 due to challenges in managing the program;
  • the Office of Personnel Management’s Retirement Systems Modernization program, which was canceled in February 2011, after spending approximately $231 million on the agency’s third attempt to automate the processing of federal employee retirement claims;
  • the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Defense, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System, which was a tri-agency weather satellite program that was terminated in February 2010 after having spent 16 years and almost $5 billion on the program, when a presidential task force decided to disband the system; and
  • the VA Scheduling Replacement Project, which was terminated in September 2009 after spending an estimated $127 million over 9 years.

These and other failed IT projects often suffered from a lack of disciplined and effective management, such as project planning, requirements definition, and program oversight and governance. In many instances, agencies have not consistently applied best practices that are critical to successfully acquiring IT investments.

We have identified nine critical factors underlying successful major acquisitions that support the objective of improving the management of large-scale IT acquisitions across the federal government: (1) program officials actively engaging with stakeholders; (2) program staff having the necessary knowledge and skills; (3) senior department and agency executives supporting the programs; (4) end users and stakeholders involved in the development of requirements; (5) end users participating in testing of system functionality prior to end user acceptance testing; (6) government and contractor staff being stable and consistent; (7) program staff prioritizing requirements; (8) program officials maintaining regular communication with the prime contractor; and (9) programs receiving sufficient funding.[1]

Nonetheless, agencies continue to have poorly performing projects. Such projects have often used a “big bang” approach—that is, projects are broadly scoped and aim to deliver functionality several years after initiation. According to the Defense Science Board, this approach is often too long, ineffective, and unaccommodating of the rapid evolution of IT. Further, it is inconsistent with OMB guidance directing that IT investments deliver functionality in 6-month increments. We recently reported that only slightly more than a quarter of selected investments were following this guidance.[2]

Federal IT projects have also failed due to a lack of oversight and governance. Executive-level governance and oversight across the government has often been ineffective, specifically from chief information officers (CIO). We have reported that not all CIOs have the authority to review and approve the entire agency IT portfolio and that CIOs’ authority was limited. This has also been highlighted by Congress—recently enacted law is intended to strengthen CIO authority and provide the oversight IT projects need.[3]

While there have been numerous executive branch initiatives aimed at addressing these issues, implementation has been inconsistent. Over the past 5 years, we have reported numerous times on shortcomings with IT acquisitions and operations, and have made about 737 related recommendations, 361 of which were to OMB and agencies to improve the implementation of the recent initiatives and other government-wide, cross-cutting efforts. As of January 2015, about 23 percent of the 737 recommendations had been fully implemented.



[1] GAO, Information Technology: Critical Factors Underlying Successful Major Acquisitions, GAO‑12‑7 (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 21, 2011).

[2] GAO, Information Technology: Agencies Need to Establish and Implement Incremental Development Policies, GAO‑14‑361 (Washington, D.C.: May 1, 2014).

[3] Carl Levin and Howard P. ‘Buck’ McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015, Pub. L. No. 113-291, § 831(a) (Dec. 19, 2014).

To help address the government’s poor track record of delivering new IT systems, OMB and the agencies have several key initiatives under way. However, implementation of these initiatives has been inconsistent.

  • We have reported on a governance initiative developed by OMB that has had shortcomings—TechStats.[1] In January 2010, the Federal CIO began leading TechStat sessions—face-to-face meetings to terminate or turn around IT investments that are failing or are not producing results. These meetings involve OMB and agency leadership and are intended to increase accountability and transparency and to improve performance. Subsequently, OMB empowered agency CIOs to hold their own TechStat sessions within their respective agencies.

We have since reported that OMB and selected agencies had held multiple TechStats, but additional OMB oversight was needed to ensure that these meetings were having the appropriate impact on underperforming projects and that resulting cost savings were valid. Specifically, OMB reported conducting TechStats at 23 federal agencies covering 55 investments, 30 of which were considered medium or high risk at the time of the TechStat. However, these reviews accounted for less than 20 percent of medium- or high-risk investments government-wide. As of August 2012, there were 162 such at-risk investments across the government. Further, we reviewed four selected agencies and found they had held TechStats on 28 investments. While these reviews were generally conducted in accordance with OMB guidance, areas for improvement existed. We concluded that until OMB and agencies develop plans to address these investments, the investments would likely remain at risk. Among other things, we recommended that OMB require agencies to address high-risk investments. OMB generally agreed with this recommendation.

Highlighting the importance of focusing more oversight on high-risk initiatives, we have identified a number of ongoing investments with significant issues requiring attention:

  • The Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) HealthCare.gov website, which was to establish a health insurance marketplace by January 2014, encountered significant cost increases, schedule slips, and delayed functionality. In a July 2014 report, we noted that Healthcare.gov and its related systems were developed without effective planning or oversight practices and many of its issues were attributable to changing requirements that were exacerbated by oversight gaps.[2] We recommended that actions be taken to assess increasing contract costs, ensure that acquisition strategies were completed, and ensure oversight tools were used as required. The department generally concurred with our recommendations. In addition, we reported in September 2014 that HHS and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) had not fully implemented security and privacy controls for systems supporting Healthcare.gov and its related systems.[3] We also have ongoing work to review CMS’s implementation of system development best practices for the Healthcare.gov initiative and plan to issue the results early in 2015.
  • The Department of Agriculture Farm Program Modernization, which is intended to modernize the IT systems supporting the Farm Service Agency’s 37 farm programs, had not implemented a number of key management and oversight practices to ensure its successful completion. As of July 2011, the implementation cost estimate was approximately $305 million, with a life-cycle cost of approximately $473 million.[4] However, we concluded that the implementation cost estimate was uncertain because it had not been updated since 2007, and the program schedule had not been updated to account for delays. In addition, we reported that the program’s management approach, while including many leading practices, could be strengthened. Finally, we found there was a lack of clarity and definition regarding the roles of executive-level governance bodies responsible for overseeing the program. We recommended that Agriculture update cost and schedule estimates, address management issues, and clarify the roles and coordination among governance bodies. The department agreed with our recommendations and described plans to address them.
  • The Department of Commerce Census Enterprise Data Collection and Processing investment was initiated in fiscal year 2015 and is expected to be the backbone of the Census Bureau’s target IT architecture. It will be designed to integrate the disparate, program-specific survey data collection and processing systems that the bureau uses to conduct its many surveys. It consists of 14 projects, 4 of which are related to the 2020 Decennial Census Internet response option. Particular attention to this area is warranted in order to avoid repeating the mistakes of the 2010 Decennial Census, in which the bureau had to abandon its plans for the use of handheld data collection devices, due in part to fundamental weaknesses in its implementation of key IT management practices.
  • DOD Defense Enterprise Accounting and Management System (DEAMS), which is the agency’s planned accounting system designed to provide accurate, reliable, and timely financial information, has experienced significant delays and cost increases. In March 2012, we reported that DEAMS faced a 2-year deployment delay and an estimated cost increase of about $500 million from its original life-cycle cost estimate of $1.1 billion, an increase of approximately 45 percent.[5] Further, in February 2012, we reported that assessments by DOD users had identified operational problems with the system, such as data accuracy issues, an inability to generate auditable financial reports, and the need for manual workarounds.[6] We recommended that DOD take actions to ensure the correction of system problems prior to further system deployment, including user training. DOD generally concurred with our recommendations and described its efforts to address them.
  • The DOD and VA electronic health records initiative is intended to share data among the departments’ health information systems, but achieving this has been a challenge for these agencies over the last 15 years. In March 2011, the Secretaries of DOD and VA committed their two departments to developing a new, common, integrated electronic health record, and in May 2012 announced their goal of implementing it across the departments by 2017. The departments estimated the life-cycle cost of this effort at about $25 billion. However, as we noted, the Secretaries announced in February 2013 that instead of developing a new common, integrated electronic health record system, the departments would focus on integrating health records from separate DOD and VA systems.[7] VA has stated that it will continue to modernize its existing system while pursuing the integration of health data, while DOD announced in May 2013 that it planned to purchase a commercial, off-the-shelf product. The Secretaries offered several reasons for this new direction, including cutting costs, simplifying the problem of integrating DOD and VA health data, and meeting the needs of veterans and service members sooner rather than later. Nevertheless, the departments’ recent change in the program’s direction and history of challenges in improving their health information systems heighten concern about whether this latest initiative will be successful.
  • The Department of Homeland Security United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Transformation program is to transition USCIS from a fragmented, paper-based filing environment to a consolidated, paperless environment using electronic case management tools, but it is unclear whether the department is positioned to successfully deliver these capabilities. Its key requirements were approved in 2011, but in 2013 they were revised due to risks with the program’s approach. Since then, the program has produced a draft requirements document, but it has not yet demonstrated the extent to which it can meet any of the draft document’s six key capability requirements using its new system architecture. Further, between July 2011 and September 2014, the program’s life-cycle cost estimate increased from approximately $2.1 billion to approximately $2.6 billion.
  • The Department of Homeland Security Human Resources IT investment is to consolidate, integrate, and modernize the department’s human resources IT infrastructure, but it has experienced a long history of issues. As of August 2014, this investment is rated as “moderately high risk” by the department’s CIO. According to the CIO, this investment was experiencing significant governance and technical challenges as of August 2014, but the department is working to address them.
  • The Department of Transportation Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) is an advanced technology air-traffic management system that Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) anticipates will replace the current ground-radar-based system, at an expected cost of $15 billion to $22 billion through fiscal year 2025. However, NextGen has significantly increased the number, cost, and complexity of FAA’s acquisition programs, and it is imperative that these programs remain on time and within budget, particularly given current budget constraints and the interdependencies of many NextGen-acquisitions. In February 2012, we reported that key NextGen-related acquisition programs were generally proceeding on time and on budget.[8] However, delays with the En Route Automation Modernization program—a critical program for NextGen—illustrate how delays can increase the costs and schedules of other acquisitions as well as the maintenance costs of the system that is meant to be replaced. To improve cost estimates and schedules for NextGen and other major air traffic control acquisition programs, we recommended that FAA, among other things, require cost and schedule risk analysis, independent cost estimates, and integrated master schedules, which the agency is working to implement.
  • VA has invested significant resources into developing a system for outpatient appointment scheduling, but these efforts have faced major setbacks. The department terminated its previous scheduling system project in September 2009, after spending an estimated $127 million over 9 years. The investment was to modernize VA’s more than 25-year-old outpatient scheduling system, but the department had not yet implemented any of the planned system’s capabilities before terminating the project. On October 1, 2009, VA began a new initiative that it refers to as HealtheVet Scheduling. In May 2010, we reported that VA’s efforts to successfully complete the Scheduling Replacement Project were hindered by weaknesses in several key project management disciplines and a lack of effective oversight that, if not addressed, could undermine the department’s second effort to replace its scheduling system.[9] We recommended that, as the department proceeded with future development, it take actions to improve key processes, including acquisition management, system testing, and progress reporting, which are essential to the department’s second outpatient scheduling system effort. VA generally concurred with our recommendations and described actions to address them.

Beyond focusing attention on individual high-risk investments, an additional key reform initiated by OMB emphasizes incremental development in order to reduce investment risk. In 2010, it called for agencies’ major investments to deliver functionality every 12 months and since 2012, has required investments to deliver functionality every 6 months. However, we recently reported that less than half of selected investments at five major agencies planned to deliver capabilities in 12-month cycles.[10] Accordingly, we recommended that OMB develop and issue clearer guidance on incremental development and that selected agencies update and implement their associated policies. Most agencies agreed with our recommendations or had no comment. Table 4 shows how many of the total selected investments at each agency planned to deliver functionality every 12 months during fiscal years 2013 and 2014.

Table 4: Number of Selected Investments Planning to Incrementally Deliver Functionality

Agency

Total number
of selected investments

Investments
 planning to deliver functionality every
12 months

Department of Defense

37

11

Department of Health and Human Services

14

11

Department of Homeland Security

12

6

Department of Transportation

20

7

Department of Veterans Affairs

6

6

Totals

89

41

Source: GAO analysis of agency data. | GAO‑15‑290

Given these issues, it is important for the federal government to be transparent both when it is acquiring new investments and when it is managing legacy investments. To help the government achieve such transparency, in June 2009, OMB established a public website, (referred to as the IT Dashboard) that provides detailed information on major IT investments at 27 federal agencies, including ratings of their performance against cost and schedule targets.[11] The public dissemination of this information is intended to allow OMB; other oversight bodies, including Congress; and the general public to hold agencies accountable for results and performance. Among other things, agencies are to submit ratings from their CIOs, which, according to OMB’s instructions, should reflect the level of risk facing an investment relative to that investment’s ability to accomplish its goals.

As of August 2014, according to the IT Dashboard, 183 of the federal government’s 759 major IT investments—totaling $12.3 billion—were in need of management attention (rated “yellow” to indicate the need for attention or “red” to indicate significant concerns). (See figure 3.)

Figure 3: Overall Performance Ratings of Major Investments on the IT Dashboard, as of August 2014

We have identified concerns with the accuracy and reliability of cost and schedule data on the IT Dashboard, and a recent report noted that agencies had removed major investments from the site, representing a troubling trend toward decreased transparency.[12] We also reported that, as of December 2013, the public version of the IT Dashboard had not been updated for 15 of the previous 24 months. Over the past several years, we have made over 20 recommendations to help improve the data accuracy and reliability of the information on the IT Dashboard and to increase its availability.

In addition to spending money on new IT development, agencies also plan to spend a significant amount of their fiscal year 2015 IT budgets on the operations and maintenance (O&M) of legacy (i.e., steady-state) systems. Specifically, in fiscal year 2015, of the overall $79 billion budgeted for federal IT, 27 federal agencies[13] plan to spend about $58 billion, or almost three-quarters of the total budgeted, on the O&M of these legacy investments.[14] Figure 4 provides a visual summary of the relative cost of major and nonmajor investments, both in development and O&M.

Figure 4: Summary of Planned Fiscal Year 2015 Major and Nonmajor Investments in Development and Operations and Maintenance (Dollars in Billions)

Given the size and magnitude of these investments, it is important that agencies effectively manage the O&M of existing investments to ensure that they (1) continue to meet agency needs, (2) deliver value, and (3) do not unnecessarily duplicate or overlap with other investments. To accomplish this, agencies are required by OMB to perform annual operational analyses of these investments, which are intended to serve as periodic examination of an investment’s performance against, among other things, established cost, schedule, and performance goals. However, we have reported that agencies were not consistently performing such analyses and that billions of dollars in O&M investments had not undergone needed analyses.[15] Specifically, as detailed in our November 2013 report, only 1 of the government’s 10 largest O&M investments underwent an OMB-required operational analysis. We recommended that operational analyses be completed on the remaining 9 investments.

An additional area of concern is agencies’ management of their software licenses. We recently reported on federal agencies’ management of software licenses and determined that better management was needed to achieve significant savings government-wide.[16] In particular, 22 of the 24 major agencies did not have comprehensive license policies, and only 2 had comprehensive license inventories. As a result, agencies’ oversight of software license spending was limited or lacking, and thus they may miss out on savings. The potential savings could be significant considering that, in fiscal year 2012, one major federal agency reported saving approximately $181 million by consolidating its enterprise license agreements, even though its oversight process was ad hoc. We recommended that OMB issue needed guidance to agencies and made more than 130 recommendations to the agencies to improve their policies and practices for managing licenses. OMB disagreed with the need for guidance. However, without such guidance, agencies will likely continue to lack the visibility into what needs to be managed. Most agencies generally agreed with the recommendations or had no comments.

To address agencies’ management of operational IT investments, OMB and the agencies have implemented two cross-cutting initiatives.

  • To better manage existing IT systems, OMB launched the PortfolioStat initiative, which requires agencies to conduct an annual, agency-wide IT portfolio review to, among other things, reduce commodity IT[17] spending and demonstrate how their IT investments align with the agency’s mission and business functions. We reported that agencies continued to identify duplicative spending as part of PortfolioStat and that this initiative had the potential to save at least $5.8 billion through fiscal year 2015; however, weaknesses existed in agencies’ implementation of the initiative, such as limitations in the CIOs’ authority.[18] We made more than 60 recommendations to improve OMB and agencies’ implementation of PortfolioStat. OMB partially agreed with our recommendations, and responses from 21 of the agencies varied.
  • Concerned about the size of the federal data center inventory and recognizing the potential to improve the efficiency, performance, and environmental footprint of federal data center activities, OMB, under the leadership of the Federal CIO, established the federal data center consolidation initiative in February 2010. In a series of reports, we found that, while data center consolidation could potentially save the federal government billions of dollars, weaknesses existed in the execution and oversight of the initiative. Most recently, we reported that, as of May 2014, agencies collectively reported that (1) they had a total of 9,658 data centers, (2) they had closed a total of 976 data centers, and (3) they were planning to close an additional 2,689 data centers—for a total of 3,655—by the end of September 2015.[19] We also noted that between fiscal years 2011 and 2017, agencies reported planning a total of about $5.3 billion in cost savings and avoidances due to the consolidation of federal data centers. See table 5 for a summary of agencies’ total cost savings and cost avoidances between fiscal years 2011 and 2017.

Table 5: Agencies’ Data Center Consolidation Cost Savings and Avoidances

Dollars in millions

 

Estimated and actual

Planned

 

 

Fiscal year

2011

2012

2013

 

2014

2015

2016

2017

 

Total

Total savings and avoidances

$192

$268

$683

 

$895

$1,250

$917

$1,144

 

$5,350

 

$1,143 total

 

$4,206 total

Source: GAO analysis of agency data. | GAO‑15‑290

Note: Totals may not add due to rounding.

However, we noted that planned savings may be understated because of difficulties agencies encountered when calculating savings and communicating their estimates to OMB. We concluded that it was important for OMB to continue to provide leadership and guidance on this initiative, and we made recommendations to ensure the initiative improves governmental efficiency and achieves cost savings. Most agencies agreed with our recommendations or had no comment.

Recognizing the severity of issues related to government-wide management of IT, in December 2014, the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform provisions were enacted as a part of Carl Levin and Howard P. ‘Buck’ McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015. Among other things, the law includes the following requirements: [20]

  • Agencies, except for DOD, shall ensure that CIOs have a significant role in, among other things, programming and budgeting decisions, as well as management, governance, and oversight processes related to IT. For example, agencies (other than DOD) may only enter into contracts for IT and IT services that are reviewed and approved by the agency CIO.
  • OMB shall provide guidance that requires CIOs to certify that IT acquisitions are adequately implementing incremental development.
  • OMB shall issue guidance that requires the CIO to adequately reflect each major IT investment’s cost, schedule, and performance in the investment evaluation.
  • OMB shall make available to the public a list of each major IT investment including data on cost, schedule and performance.
  • The General Services Administration shall identify and develop a government-wide program for the acquisition, dissemination, and shared use of software licenses.
  • OMB, in consultation with agency CIOs, shall implement a process to assist agencies in managing their IT portfolios.
  • Agencies shall annually report to OMB’s Administrator of the Office of Electronic Government specific information to include progress in consolidating federal data centers and the associated savings.


[1] GAO, Information Technology: Additional Executive Review Sessions Needed to Address Troubled Projects, GAO‑13‑524 (Washington, D.C.: June 13, 2013).

[2] GAO, Healthcare.gov: Ineffective Planning and Oversight Practices Underscore the Need for Improved Contract Management, GAO‑14‑694 (Washington, D.C.: July 30, 2014).

[3] GAO, Healthcare.gov: Actions Needed to Address Weaknesses in Information Security and Privacy Controls, GAO‑14‑730 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 16, 2014).

[4] GAO, USDA Systems Modernization: Management and Oversight Improvements Are Needed, GAO‑11‑586 (Washington, D.C.: July 20, 2011).

[5] GAO, DOD Financial Management: Reported Status of Department of Defense’s Enterprise Resource Planning Systems, GAO‑12‑565R (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 30, 2012).

[6] GAO, DOD Financial Management: Implementation Weaknesses in Army and Air Force Business Systems Could Jeopardize DOD’s Auditability Goals, GAO‑12‑134 (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 28, 2012).

[7] GAO, Electronic Health Records: Long History of Management Challenges Raises Concerns about VA’s and DOD’s New Approach to Sharing Health Information, GAO‑13‑413T (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 27, 2013).

[8] GAO, Air Traffic Control Modernization: Management Challenges Associated with Program Costs and Schedules Could Hinder NextGen Implementation, GAO‑12‑223 (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 16, 2012).

[9] GAO,Information Technology: Management Improvements Are Essential to VA’s Second Effort to Replace Its Outpatient Scheduling System, GAO‑10‑579 (Washington, D.C.: May 27, 2010).

[11] GAO,IT Dashboard: Agencies Are Managing Investment Risk, but Related Ratings Need to Be More Accurate and Available, GAO‑14‑64 (Washington, D.C.: Dec. 12, 2013).

[12] GAO‑14‑64.

[13] The 27 agencies are the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Archives and Records Administration, National Science Foundation, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Office of Personnel Management, Small Business Administration, Smithsonian Institution, Social Security Administration, and U.S. Agency for International Development.

[14] According to the analytical perspectives associated with the President’s fiscal year 2015 budget request, the remainder is classified Department of Defense IT investments.

[15] GAO, Information Technology: Agencies Need to Strengthen Oversight of Multibillion Dollar Investments in Operations and Maintenance, GAO‑14‑66 (Washington, D.C.: Nov. 6, 2013), and Information Technology: Agencies Need to Strengthen Oversight of Billions of Dollars in Operations and Maintenance Investments, GAO‑13‑87 (Washington, D.C.: Oct.16, 2012).

[16] GAO, Federal Software Licenses: Better Management Needed to Achieve Significant Savings Government-Wide, GAO‑14‑413 (Washington, D.C.: May 22, 2014).

[17] According to OMB, commodity IT includes services such as IT infrastructure (data centers, networks, desktop computers and mobile devices); enterprise IT systems (e-mail, collaboration tools, identity and access management, security, and web infrastructure); and business systems (finance, human resources, and other administrative functions).

[18] GAO, Information Technology: Additional OMB and Agency Actions Are Needed to Achieve Portfolio Savings, GAO‑14‑65 (Washington, D.C.: Nov. 6, 2013).

[19] GAO, Data Center Consolidation: Reporting Can Be Improved to Reflect Substantial Planned Savings, GAO‑14‑713 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 25, 2014).

[20] Unless otherwise noted, the provisions apply to the agencies covered by the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990. 31 U.S.C. § 901(b).

Given the federal government’s continued experience with failed and troubled IT projects, coupled with the fact that OMB initiatives to help address such problems have not been fully implemented, the government will likely continue to produce disappointing results and will miss opportunities to improve IT management, reduce costs, and improve services to the public, unless needed actions are taken. Further, it will be more difficult for stakeholders, including Congress and the public, to monitor agencies’ progress and hold them accountable for reducing duplication and achieving cost savings.

To help address the management of IT investments, OMB and federal agencies should expeditiously implement the requirements of the December 2014 statutory provisions promoting IT acquisition reform. Doing so should (1) improve the transparency and management of IT acquisitions and operations across the government, and (2) strengthen CIOs’ authority to provide needed direction and oversight. To help ensure that these improvements are achieved, congressional oversight of agencies’ implementation efforts is essential.

Beyond implementing the recently enacted law, OMB and the agencies need to continue to implement GAO’s previous recommendations in order to improve their ability to effectively and efficiently invest in IT. Several of these are critical, such as

  • conducting TechStat reviews for at-risk investments,
  • updating the public version of the IT Dashboard throughout the year, and
  • developing comprehensive inventories of federal agencies’ software licenses.

To ensure accountability, OMB and agencies should also demonstrate measurable government-wide progress in the following key areas:

  • OMB and agencies should, within four years, implement at least 80 percent of GAO’s recommendations related to the management of IT acquisitions and operations;
  • Agencies should ensure that a minimum of 80 percent of the government’s major acquisitions should deliver functionality every 12 months; and
  • Agencies should achieve no less than 80 percent of the over $6 billion in planned PortfolioStat savings and 80 percent of the more than $5 billion in savings planned for data center consolidation.
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