Department of State IRM:

Strategic Approach Needed to Better Support Agency Mission and Business Needs

AIMD-95-20: Published: Dec 22, 1994. Publicly Released: Dec 29, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of State's information resources management (IRM) program and ongoing IRM improvement efforts.

GAO found that: (1) State has poorly managed its information resources and continues to use inadequate and obsolete information technology, which has resulted in critical information shortfalls and interrupted operations; (2) although State has a number of initiatives to improve IRM, its failure to follow the best IRM practices and commit top-level management to IRM jeopardizes its improvement efforts; (3) State lacks an adequate mechanism to prevent IRM duplication and ensure sufficient funding; (4) State needs a chief information officer (CIO) to provide leadership and guidance for IRM and an investment and oversight process involving senior regional and functional bureau managers; and (5) State needs to address long-standing fundamental barriers to effective IRM and commit to a departmentwide IRM approach to meet its critical mission and business functions.

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 Chief Information Officer, in conjunction with participants from the IRM investment review board, should ensure that the IRM organization: (1) issues adequate guidance to govern agencywide IRM, including the areas of strategic planning and acquisition; and (2) develops information and technical architectures and standards to ensure integration of data and systems.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In May 1999, State finalized a new IT capital investment management process to conform to capital planning guidelines contained in the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), the Clinger-Cohen Act, and OMB Circular A-11. Under the new process, State's Information Technology Program Board (ITPB) proposes agencywide IRM projects, which are reviewed by senior managers in two groups: the Management Review Advisory Group, which determines business suitability and return on investment, and the Technical Review Advisory Group, which evaluates technical suitability and risk. The ITPB is also responsible for maintaining State's IT Strategic Plan. State's Information Technology Architecture and IT Standards Profile were published on April 16, 1999.

    Recommendation: The Chief Information Officer, in conjunction with participants from the IRM investment review board, should integrate IRM planning with budgeting and other related processes.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State's IRM Tactical Plan has been the focal point for ensuring that IT projects are integrated with planning, budgeting, and acquisition processes, and aligned with the strategic plan. State's adaptation of Managing Agencies Projects (MAP) as the standard project management methodology has also helped ensure that IT projects are properly planned and budgeted. This methodology, along with recently standardized guidance, will help ensure that projects are completely and consistently planned before presentation for resource allocation. A Technical Review Board and configuration management boards have been established, with department-wide representation. Planning for future IRM personnel staffing and training needs has been closely coordinated with Personnel and the Foreign Service Institute. Finally, the CIO meets on a biweekly basis with the CFO and the Assistant Secretary for Administration. Key budget and planning issues are routinely raised, discussed, and resolved.

    Recommendation: The Chief Information Officer, in conjunction with participants from the IRM investment review board, should ensure development of an agency business plan specifying mission goals, objectives, and priorities to provide a sound basis for IRM planning and business process improvements.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State has developed an IRM Strategic and Performance Management Plan that identifies State's business requirements and lays out what information technology is needed to support those requirements and the agency's users.

    Recommendation: To institute modern IRM practices in support of departmentwide mission and business needs, the Secretary of State should strengthen the recently established new IRM investment review board by: (1) increasing regional and functional bureau representation; and (2) ensuring that the board's determinations are implemented.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State concurs with this recommendation and has tailored the composition of its investment review board to examine IRM investments in a strategic and interdisciplinary framework. As GAO recommended, it is increasing regional and functional bureau representation. The Under Secretary for Management is responsible for ensuring that the board's determinations are implemented.

    Recommendation: To institute modern IRM practices in support of departmentwide mission and business needs, the Secretary of State should designate a Chief Information Officer, above the Assistant Secretary level, with the authority necessary to oversee the implementation of departmentwide IRM initiatives and standards.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State agreed with the recommendation to designate a Chief Information Officer, who will be responsible for addressing long-standing fundamental barriers to effective IRM at State. The Secretary has directed that the new CIO will report to the Under Secretary for Management.

    Recommendation: The Chief Information Officer, in conjunction with participants from the IRM investment review board, should require periodic evaluations of State's IRM practices against those of leading organizations and implement necessary improvements to continually strengthen practices.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Chief Information Officer has been evaluating the practices and technologies of other federal agencies and private industry as the Department has been revising its planning and investment processes and modernizing its IT infrastructure. In some cases, State has looked to commercially available products or products developed by other government organizations to improve its IRM activities. Furthermore, the CIO is an active participant on the Federal CIO Council and benefits from the wide range of experiences shared by other federal agencies represented there.

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