Land Management Systems:

BLM Faces Risks in Completing the Automated Land and Mineral Record System

AIMD-97-42: Published: Mar 19, 1997. Publicly Released: Mar 19, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) efforts to complete the development of the Automated Land and Mineral Record System/Modernization (ALMRS/Modernization), focusing on: (1) whether risks remain that could seriously affect the performance, capability, or cost of ALMRS; (2) whether BLM is operationally and managerially ready to deploy ALMRS in fiscal year (FY) 1997; (3) the latest cost estimates for ALMRS and reasons for any cost increases; (4) what the Department of the Interior is doing to promote the use of ALMRS by its other bureaus; and (5) whether other Interior bureaus are planning to use ALMRS for their land management needs.

GAO noted that: (1) BLM has recently encountered problems with the ALMRS/Modernization development that increase the risk of degraded performance and capability, and these problems have already resulted in higher costs; (2) during expanded testing of the ALMRS/Modernization, BLM discovered that the system performed some functions more slowly than expected and did not process all transactions correctly during tests using an operationally-sized database; (3) BLM also recently suspended the development of an important reporting capability and substituted some standard reports which cost less and take less time to finish; (4) BLM and the prime contractor have progressed in correcting these problems; (5) although BLM is preparing to begin deploying ALMRS in FY 1997 after development and testing are complete, it will not be ready to deploy ALMRS until it has completed essential management plans, policies, or procedures to help ensure a successful transition and operating environment; (6) still lacking are a configuration management plan and a system security plan and security architecture; (7) also, transition and operations and maintenance plans are incomplete; (8) these tools are essential to help ensure system availability and performance and to avoid security and operational problems; (9) the modernization is now expected to cost about $537 million through FY 2002 or about 33 percent above the $403 million estimate provided to the Office of Management and Budget in 1993; (10) according to BLM's Assistant Director for Information Resources Management, some project costs were underestimated and some were not included in the original estimate; (11) project delays have also added to the increase; (12) the Assistant Director also stated that the estimate could change as BLM refines its life-cycle cost model; (13) Interior established a working group of representatives from each of its bureaus to study the feasibility of using ALMRS to support each bureau's requirements; (14) the preliminary study indicates that, with modification, ALMRS can be used to support the needs of all bureaus; (15) the Department has stated that it intends to use ALMRS to support the land title and record management responsibilities of all bureaus but is waiting for the successful completion of ALMRS and the results of the final study before issuing procedures on the use of ALMRS; and (16) in the interim, the Bureau of Indian Affairs has already declared that it will use as much of ALMRS as it can to meet its needs.

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: To reduce the risks and strengthen the management of the ALMRS/Modernization, the Director, BLM, should develop transition plans outlining the changes in organizational roles, responsibilities, and interrelationships among the units and people using the ALMRS/Modernization system to reduce the risk associated with those changes.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior: Bureau of Land Management

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to the recommendation, BLM developed transition plans; however, the plans were not adequate. They did not outline needed changes in organizational roles, responsibilities, and interrelationships, or address issues such as how state and subordinate offices would deal with oil and gas, mining, and solid mineral business process changes that would result from implementing the ALMRS initial operating capability. This recommendation is no longer applicable, because BLM decided not to complete or deploy the ALMRS initial operating capability--the major software component of the modernization.

    Recommendation: To reduce the risks and strengthen the management of the ALMRS/Modernization, the Director, BLM, should establish a system security architecture and plan, including security policies and procedures; disaster and recovery plans; and security test, evaluation, and certification plans to reduce risks to the availability and integrity of stored and processed data.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior: Bureau of Land Management

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: BLM agreed and recently completed work in response to this recommendation. It performed a risk analysis, developed a system security plan and architecture, identified management and operational controls, and developed disaster and recovery plan procedures. GAO planned to review field office implementation of the security program after completion of the ALMRS initial operating capability--the major software component, but has not done so because the system will not be completed or deployed. Despite this, the risk analysis, security plan and architecture, management and operational controls, and disaster and recovery plan procedures will be useful as BLM continues to use the modernization platform and software that were deployed bureauwide. According to the Director of BLM's National Information Resources Management Center, these security controls are being used to help ensure the integrity of BLM systems and data.

    Recommendation: To reduce the risks and strengthen the management of the ALMRS/Modernization, the Director, BLM, should establish a robust configuration management plan, and related policies and procedures for establishing a program focused on managing the components of and all changes to all BLM information systems, including non-ALMRS/Modernization systems, to ensure successful management and integrity of the ALMRS/Modernization.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior: Bureau of Land Management

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: BLM agreed with this recommendation and finalized a configuration management plan, policies, and procedures for the ALMRS/Modernization. GAO did not review field office implementation of the configuration management program after completion of the ALMRS initial operating capability because the system will not be completed or deployed. Despite this, the configuration management plan, policies, and procedures will be used by BLM in managing the modernization platform, office automation, and other software that were deployed bureauwide. According to the Director of BLM's National Information Resources Management Center, the configuration management plan, policies, and procedures are being used to help ensure the successful management and integrity of the modernization architecture.

    Recommendation: To reduce the risks and strengthen the management of the ALMRS/Modernization, the Director, BLM, should disclose in BLM's certification to the House and Senate appropriations committees, information on: (1) how well the system performs; and (2) any automated capability that has been removed, suspended, or deferred to ensure that ALMRS initial operating capability is not deployed with degraded performance or capability loss.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior: Bureau of Land Management

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: BLM implemented this recommendation. During the fiscal year 2000 appropriations hearings before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies, the Director of BLM reported that the ALMRS initial operating capability--the major software component--was not deployable and was being cancelled because the system did not meet BLM's business needs. The BLM testing contractor also summarized the results of the operational assessment test and evaluation it conducted and discussed why the ALMRS initial operating capability was not deployable.

    Recommendation: To reduce the risks and strengthen the management of the ALMRS/Modernization, the Director, BLM, should fully update the ALMRS/Modernization schedule, including analyzing human resources usage and task relationships to establish reliable milestones and a critical path to complete the project.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior: Bureau of Land Management

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Although BLM agreed with this recommendation and improved and updated the schedule, it did not establish a credible project schedule. The ALMRS/Modernization was therefore driven by self-imposed deadlines that were continually missed. This recommendation is being closed because BLM cancelled the ALMRS/Modernization project. This decision followed an October 1998 operational assessment test and evaluation, which showed the ALMRS initial operating capability--the major software component--was not deployable because it did not meet BLM's business needs.

    Recommendation: To reduce the risks and strengthen the management of the ALMRS/Modernization, the Director, BLM, should develop operations and maintenance plans addressing the acquisition, management, and maintenance of managerial and technical support for the ALMRS/Modernization system to help ensure successful operations.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior: Bureau of Land Management

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: BLM agreed with this recommendation and developed an operations and maintenance manual in response to the recommendation. GAO expected to review field office implementation of the operations and maintenance manual after completion of the ALMRS initial operating capability--the major software component; however, GAO has not done so because the system will not be completed or deployed. Despite this, the improved operations and maintenance manual is still needed and used by field staff to operate and maintain the installed modernization platform and software on a day-to-day basis. According to the Director of BLM's National Information Resources Management Center, the operations and maintenance manual is being used to help ensure continuous support from BLM's systems.

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