USDA Telecommunications:

Missed Opportunities to Save Millions

AIMD-95-97: Published: Apr 24, 1995. Publicly Released: May 25, 1995.

Contact:

Joel C. Willemssen
(202) 512-6253
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed whether the Department of Agriculture (USDA) is consolidating and optimizing Federal Telecommunications Systems (FTS) 2000 services across the department to maximize savings.

GAO found that: (1) USDA has identified opportunities to significantly reduce telecommunications costs by consolidating and optimizing its FTS 2000 services, but it has not acted on all the identified opportunities and is wasting millions of dollars each year; (2) USDA field offices are failing to coordinate their FTS 2000 acquisitions and are often purchasing redundant systems; (3) USDA could save up to $10 million a year if its field offices consolidate and optimize FTS 2000 services; (4) the USDA Office of Information Resources Management (OIRM) has not effectively carried out its responsibility to reduce telecommunications costs; (5) some USDA agencies are independently consolidating and optimizing FTS 2000 services and reducing telecommunication costs; (6) senior USDA officials state that leadership transitions have made it difficult for OIRM to implement FTS 2000 consolidation plans; and (7) although USDA is reducing and consolidating its field offices, it has no operational plan or time frame for consolidating and optimizing telecommunications at the centers or to ensure that FTS 2000 is cost-effectively used.

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 Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Assistant Secretary for Administration to take immediate and necessary action to ensure that OIRM effectively fulfills its management responsibility to reduce the Department's FTS 2000 telecommunications costs. At a minimum, the Assistant Secretary should oversee implementation of all telecommunications cost-savings initiatives and report progress to the Secretary periodically as deemed appropriate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As part of USDA's April 1997 TNSMP, USDA's Office of the Chief Information Officer and USDA mission and agency representatives established procedures for overseeing implementation of GAO's recommendations and for tracking actual cost savings realized from the FTS 2000 service optimization effort. Through these efforts, USDA has achieved some savings.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Assistant Secretary for Administration to take immediate and necessary action to ensure that OIRM effectively fulfills its management responsibility to reduce the Department's FTS 2000 telecommunications costs. At a minimum, the Assistant Secretary should establish, in cooperation with the Under Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries, an implementation team consisting of OIRM and agency staff who have the technical capabilities and resources necessary to implement departmentwide FTS 2000 cost-savings solutions based on the established priorities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to the recommendations, USDA established an implementation team, composed of both agency representatives and OIRM personnel, to work together to identify and implement cost reduction opportunities nationwide and to analyze other cost-savings options that may be available to USDA. The team is continuing to work on implementing cost reduction recommendations that it identifies through the use of a modeling tool that analyzes FTS 2000 traffic and costs region by region.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Assistant Secretary for Administration to take immediate and necessary action to ensure that OIRM effectively fulfills its management responsibility to reduce the Department's FTS 2000 telecommunications costs. At a minimum, the Assistant Secretary should work directly with the Under Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries to develop a plan for consolidating and optimizing FTS 2000 telecommunications at new USDA field office service centers and identifying additional USDA headquarters and field office sites where it is cost-effective to consolidate and optimize FTS 2000 telecommunications services.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: USDA began to implement the recommendation in December 1996 and achieved annual savings totalling $3.1 million.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Assistant Secretary for Administration to take immediate and necessary action to ensure that OIRM effectively fulfills its management responsibility to reduce the Department's FTS 2000 telecommunications costs. At a minimum, the USDA Assistant Secretary for Administration should advise appropriate Under Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries immediately about all opportunities identified by OIRM and the Telecommunications Services Division to reduce telecommunications costs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In his letter to GAO, USDA's Assistant Secretary for Administration stated that he had advised USDA's Under and Assistant Secretaries about some opportunities to reduce telecommunications costs during 1995. In November 1996, USDA also imposed a departmentwide moratorium on all telecommunications purchases and in April 1997, USDA began implementing its Telecommunications Network Stabilization and Migration Program (TNSMP) to identify and act on all FTS 2000 cost savings opportunities. Through these efforts, USDA has achieved some savings.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Assistant Secretary for Administration to take immediate and necessary action to ensure that OIRM effectively fulfills its management responsibility to reduce the Department's FTS 2000 telecommunications costs. At a minimum, the Assistant Secretary should preclude USDA component agencies and offices from obtaining and using redundant FTS 2000 telecommunications services by requiring that OIRM technical approvals be made contingent on the component agencies having considered and sufficiently addressed departmentwide consolidation and optimization of FTS 2000 services.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: USDA's technical review and approval process was eliminated with the passage of the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996. Instead, in April 1997, USDA established the TNSMP, which sets specific compliance requirements for mission areas and agencies to follow when acquiring telecommunications services in line with the recommendations. Through these efforts, USDA has achieved some savings.

    Jul 22, 2014

    Jun 23, 2014

    Apr 23, 2014

    Mar 10, 2014

    Jan 6, 2014

    May 23, 2013

    May 22, 2013

    May 21, 2013

    Apr 24, 2013

    Apr 18, 2013

    Looking for more? Browse all our products here