Small Computers in the Federal Government:

Management Is Needed To Realize Potential and Prevent Problems

AFMD-83-36: Published: Mar 8, 1983. Publicly Released: Mar 8, 1983.


Thomas P. Giammo
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GAO identified a rapidly evolving problem relating to the acquisition and use of small computers by federal agencies. GAO based its report on earlier findings and on current monitoring efforts of automatic data processing performance at several agencies.

GAO found that the use of small computers in the government has advanced much faster than agency efforts to manage these resources. Existing guidance, directed toward large computers and centralized data processing, does not cover some of the unique aspects of the small computer environment. Present conditions allow waste and inefficiency in the short run and adversely affect broad policies and goals in the long run. GAO stated that lack of planning and guidance at all levels has allowed uncoordinated and uncontrolled proliferation of small computers. GAO concluded that, collectively, small computers constitute a large block of resources that need increased attention from data processing management.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • 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: The Office of Management and Budget, working with the General Services Administration (GSA) and the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) in their respective areas of responsibility, should formulate policy and issue guidance to federal agencies to provide the framework for a more informed, controlled, and systematic approach to the justification, acquisition, installation, and operation of small computers.

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

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA issued a guidance manual, contracted for micro software, and is now operating the microcomputer store. NBS published an experience document.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) should ask the Reform 88 staff to: (1) specifically address the impact and implications of small low-cost computers; (2) report to him on how much and what kind of guidance is needed; and (3) make recommendations to him on the guidance to be issued on small computers.

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

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: OMB indicated that: (1) Reform 88 initiatives have begun, but no additional actions are feasible now; and (2) NBS and GSA have already issued guidance on small computers.

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