Federal Agencies Could Save Time and Money With Better Computer Software Alternatives

AFMD-83-29: Published: May 20, 1983. Publicly Released: May 20, 1983.

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GAO undertook a review to identify: (1) problems federal agencies have in satisfying their application software needs; (2) options available to agencies in acquiring application software; (3) whether agencies are taking advantage of the most beneficial options; and (4) recommendations to help satisfy federal software needs faster and more economically.

GAO found a number of methods that can reduce the costs and delays associated with custom development of new software. Currently, application software needs can be satisfied by: (1) making new software through software development; (2) using generators or problem-oriented packages; (3) using vendor software packages; (4) sharing existing software; and (5) modifying and enhancing existing software. GAO found that no overall process exists to ensure that federal agencies consider alternative methods of satisfying software needs. In the data processing installations which GAO visited, over 98 percent of the software inventories had been custom-developed, which is a long and costly process. Only about 1 percent of their applications software was acquired off the shelf. Many federal and private computer installations have common tasks, and existing software developed elsewhere is available. Despite the general lag in federal use of packaged software and other alternatives, GAO has found that a few federal agencies have initiated cost-effective solutions to their software needs.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: GSA does not intend to act on this recommendation because it feels that the concept has already been demonstrated.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should direct that the Federal Software Exchange Center demonstrate the concept of deliberate reuse of federally-owned application software by acquiring, enhancing, and advertising for general use at least one commonly used large-scale application, such as a federal personnel system, as a pilot project.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: GSA does not intend to act on this recommendation because it feels that it is not practicable.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should direct that the Office of Software Development demonstrate the concept of federal use of vendor-developed proprietary application software by selecting from one to three vendor-developed application packages and modifying them for general use by federal agencies as pilot projects.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should direct that the schedule contracts branch of the GSA Office of Information Resources Management require vendors to complete a standard software summary on each software product for which they negotiate a contract and forward the summaries to the Federal Software Exchange Center for inclusion in the catalog section that deals with vendor software.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) should direct agencies that develop applications and agencies that operate software sharing activities to make their software, documentation, and directories available to the Federal Software Exchange Center operated by the General Services Administration (GSA) Office of Software Development. In addition, he should analyze the possibility of combining some of the other agencies' software sharing efforts with the Exchange Center's efforts to reduce duplication.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GAO has indication of action by several agencies. Since this was a recommendation to many agencies, formal responses were not required and there were no date commitments. Also, no reporting was required and saving estimates thus were not available.

    Recommendation: The heads of federal agencies should install formal software selection procedures on how to identify, evaluate, and select ways of meeting software needs, including vendor packages and shared software as well as custom development, and require that the selection process be documented.

    Agency Affected: Heads of Federal Agencies

 

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