Telecommunications Management:

More Effort Needed by Interior and the Forest Service to Achieve Savings

AIMD-97-67: Published: May 8, 1997. Publicly Released: Jun 9, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed efforts by the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service to reduce costs by consolidating their telecommunications services, focusing on whether Interior: (1) has consolidated and optimized telecommunications services to eliminate unnecessary services and maximize savings; and (2) and the Forest Service are sharing telecommunications services where they can.

GAO noted that: (1) to its credit, Interior has undertaken a number of telecommunications cost-savings initiatives that have produced significant financial savings and helped reduce the Department's more than $62-million annual telecommunications investment; (2) however, Interior is not systematically identifying and acting on other opportunities to consolidate and optimize telecommunications resources within and among its bureaus or its 2,000-plus field locations; (3) the cost-savings initiatives that have been undertaken have generally been done on an isolated and ad hoc basis, and have not been replicated throughout the Department; (4) GAO did not review consolidation and sharing opportunities at all of Interior's field locations; (5) however, at the four sites GAO visited, GAO found that telecommunications resources were often not consolidated or shared, and bureaus and offices were paying thousands of dollars annually for unnecessary services; (6) Interior does not know to what extent similar telecommunications savings may exist at its other offices because it lacks the basic information necessary to make such determinations; (7) Interior and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) may also be missing opportunities to save millions of dollars by not sharing telecommunications resources; (8) even though the Departments have a 2-year old agreement to identify and act on sharing opportunities, little has been done to implement this agreement and, accordingly, only limited savings have been realized; and (9) moreover, while Interior and the Forest Service currently plan to collectively spend up to several hundred million dollars to acquire separate radio systems over the next 8 years, the Departments have not jointly determined the extent to which they can reduce these costs by sharing radio equipment and services.

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: In order to help bring about significant potential savings from consolidated and shared telecommunications resources, the Secretary of the Interior should direct, and hold accountable, the Department's acting CIO to immediately establish and fully implement among Interior's bureaus, a departmentwide program for systematically identifying and acting on all opportunities to consolidate and optimize telecommunications resources, including voice, data, video, and radio equipment and services, where it is cost-effective to do so. At a minimum, the acting CIO should direct and ensure that all Interior bureaus and offices establish and maintain up-to-date and complete inventories of their telecommunications resources and services at collocated sites.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Interior began work on a departmentwide inventory system and issued a departmental Information Resources Management (IRM) Bulletin on December 16, 1997, to provide interim telecommunications recordkeeping and sharing guidance. In 1999, Interior completed work on its Site Information System (ISIS), which maintains an inventory of all departmental locations, their telecommunications assets and capabilities.

    Recommendation: In order to help bring about significant potential savings from consolidated and shared telecommunications resources, the Secretary of the Interior should direct, and hold accountable, the Department's acting CIO to immediately establish and fully implement among Interior's bureaus, a departmentwide program for systematically identifying and acting on all opportunities to consolidate and optimize telecommunications resources, including voice, data, video, and radio equipment and services, where it is cost-effective to do so. At a minimum, the acting CIO should direct and ensure that all Interior bureaus and offices review and analyze telecommunications bills at regular intervals, using a cost-effective approach to ensure that all charges are appropriate and services needed.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Billing procedures and analysis techniques were reviewed departmentwide in September 1997. IRM Bulletin 1997-006, issued in December 1997, defined telecommunications manager billing and ordering responsibilities. These and other related actions led to $10.5 million in reductions in Interior's FY 1997 telecommunications costs. Interior also contracted for audits of commercial bills at its largest bureau-managed facilities and is analyzing and verifying Interior-assigned FTS 2000 telephone numbers on a nationwide basis.

    Recommendation: In order to help bring about significant potential savings from consolidated and shared telecommunications resources, the Secretary of the Interior should direct, and hold accountable, the Department's acting CIO to immediately establish and fully implement among Interior's bureaus, a departmentwide program for systematically identifying and acting on all opportunities to consolidate and optimize telecommunications resources, including voice, data, video, and radio equipment and services, where it is cost-effective to do so. At a minimum, the acting CIO should identify potential savings opportunities at these sites using inventories and telecommunications tools, such as USDA's network analysis model.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The agency agreed with the recommendation. A project team evaluated and selected USDA's network analysis tool for use at Interior. USDA also provided Interior an analysis that identified where potential savings may be achieved by consolidating and optimizing FTS 2000 services. However, due to the change of service under the pending transition to FTS 2001, these Interior telecommunications savings opportunities may no longer be cost-beneficial to implement. Instead, Interior is providing this information to MCI-Worldcom-the contractor handling Interior's FTS 2001 transition-to ensure that its transition plan provides for optimized service aggregation and access sharing where appropriate.

    Recommendation: In order to help bring about significant potential savings from consolidated and shared telecommunications resources, the Secretary of the Interior should direct, and hold accountable, the Department's acting CIO to immediately establish and fully implement among Interior's bureaus, a departmentwide program for systematically identifying and acting on all opportunities to consolidate and optimize telecommunications resources, including voice, data, video, and radio equipment and services, where it is cost-effective to do so. At a minimum, the acting CIO should monitor these activities and follow up as needed to ensure that all identified savings opportunities are acted upon.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's recommendations, Interior's CIO office regularly monitors the status of all improvement projects and follows up to ensure that improvements and associated savings opportunities are being acted on. In addition, the CIO's office provides the CIO with ongoing briefings on the results.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct, and hold accountable, each of the Department's assistant secretaries to cooperate with the acting CIO and immediately establish and fully implement bureauwide programs for similarly identifying and acting on all opportunities to consolidate and optimize telecommunications resources within each bureau, using the steps discussed.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior: Office of Information Resources Management: Chief Information Officer

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Interior's Information Technology Steering Committee, which is composed of the Assistant Secretaries, Bureau Directors, and other key departmental officials, was given responsibility for overseeing and monitoring the department's telecommunications management improvement program. As a result, Interior achieved significant cost reductions in FTS 2000 and other services totaling more than $10 million annually.

    Recommendation: Interior's acting CIO should report to the Secretary of the Interior every 6 months on the progress of these efforts and savings achieved.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Interior's CIO began providing reports to the Secretary on December 1, 1997 on the results of the department's work implementing GAO's recommendations. In the CIO's May 28, 1998 report, the CIO stated that additional reports will be provided semiannually until all action on the recommendations is completed.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that their respective acting CIOs are responsible and accountable for implementing the 1995 joint sharing agreement. At a minimum, the acting CIOs should determine where Interior and USDA field sites are collocated and the extent to which services are shared.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to the recommendations, a new memorandum of understanding on shared telecommunications services was executed in January 1998 by Interior's bureaus and the CIO with the CIOs of the USDA and the Forest Service. It provided for the joint optimization and consolidation of telephone services and data networks. Under this agreement, Interior and USDA determined where they had collocated field offices and started assessing the extent to which these offices shared FTS 2000 services. While initial results of these assessments showed some potential savings opportunities, progress was delayed by the Year 2000 computing problem. Currently, Interior and USDA are working with MCI-Worldcom-the contractor handling the FTS 2001 transition for both departments-to ensure that their transition plans provide for optimized service aggregation and access sharing.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that their respective acting CIOs are responsible and accountable for implementing the 1995 joint sharing agreement. At a minimum, the acting CIOs should determine where Interior and USDA field sites are collocated and the extent to which services are shared.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A new memorandum of understanding on shared telecommunications services was executed in January 1998 by Interior's bureaus and the CIO with the CIOs of the USDA and the Forest Service. It provided for the joint optimization and consolidation of telephone services and data networks. Under this agreement, Interior and USDA determined where they had collocated field offices and started assessing the extent to which these offices shared FTS 2000 services. While initial results of these assessments showed some potential savings opportunities, progress was delayed by the Year 2000 computing problem. Currently, Interior and USDA are working with MCI-Worldcom-the contractor handling the FTS 2001 transition for both departments-to ensure that their transition plans provide for optimized service aggregation and access sharing.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that their respective acting CIOs are responsible and accountable for implementing the 1995 joint sharing agreement. At a minimum, the acting CIOs should identify potential savings opportunities for all telecommunications equipment and services at these sites using the information specified above and telecommunications tools such as USDA's network analysis model.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to the recommendations, a new memorandum of understanding on shared telecommunications services was executed in January 1998 by Interior's bureaus and the CIO with the CIOs of the USDA and the Forest Service. Under this agreement, Interior and USDA determined where they had collocated field offices and started assessing the extent to which these offices shared FTS 2000 services. While initial results of these assessments showed some potential savings opportunities, progress was delayed by the Year 2000 computing problem. Currently, Interior and USDA are working with MCI-Worldcom-the contractor handling the FTS 2001 transition for both departments-to ensure that their transition plans provide for optimized service aggregation and access sharing.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that their respective acting CIOs are responsible and accountable for implementing the 1995 joint sharing agreement. At a minimum, the acting CIOs should identify potential savings opportunities for all telecommunications equipment and services at these sites using the information specified above and telecommunications tools such as USDA's network analysis model.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A new memorandum of understanding on shared telecommunications services was executed in January 1998 by Interior's bureaus and the CIO with the CIOs of the USDA and the Forest Service. Under this agreement, Interior and USDA determined where they had collocated field offices and started assessing the extent to which these offices shared FTS 2000 services. While initial results of these assessments showed some potential savings opportunities, progress was delayed by the Year 2000 computing problem. Currently, Interior and USDA are working with MCI-Worldcom-the contractor handling the FTS 2001 transition for both departments-to ensure that their transition plans provide for optimized service aggregation and access sharing.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that their respective acting CIOs are responsible and accountable for implementing the 1995 joint sharing agreement. At a minimum, the acting CIOs should stop further radio system purchases, except those necessary for meeting immediate technology needs that are critical to ongoing operations, until both departments jointly determine and document where radio equipment and services can be cost-effectively shared and savings achieved.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's recommendations, USDA placed a moratorium on the purchase of Forest Service radio systems on July 21, 1997. Likewise, following GAO's report, Interior issued a policy (IRM bulletin 1998-02) requiring that radio sharing analyses are performed to ensure that all radio sharing opportunities are considered prior to the acquisition of new radio systems. With respect to opportunities for sharing existing radio systems, Interior reported that it identified 134 potential sharing opportunities. This information has been forwarded to USDA's Forest Service for its review and will be the subject of a joint Interior/USDA radio communications workshop.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that their respective acting CIOs are responsible and accountable for implementing the 1995 joint sharing agreement. At a minimum, the acting CIOs should stop further radio system purchases, except those necessary for meeting immediate technology needs that are critical to ongoing operations, until both departments jointly determine and document where radio equipment and services can be cost-effectively shared and savings achieved.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: USDA placed a moratorium on the purchase of Forest Service radio systems on July 21, 1997. Likewise, following GAO's report, Interior issued a policy (IRM bulletin 1998-02) requiring that radio sharing analyses are performed to ensure that all radio sharing opportunities are considered prior to the acquisition of new radio systems. With respect to opportunities for sharing existing radio systems, Interior reported that it identified 134 potential sharing opportunities. This information has been forwarded to USDA's Forest Service for its review and will be the subject of a joint Interior/USDA radio communications workshop.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that their respective acting CIOs are responsible and accountable for implementing the 1995 joint sharing agreement. At a minimum, the acting CIOs should monitor these activities and followup where needed to ensure that all identified savings opportunities are acted upon.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A new memorandum of understanding on shared telecommunications services was executed in January 1998 by Interior's bureaus and the CIO with the CIOs of the USDA and the Forest Service. Under this agreement, Interior's and USDA's CIOs determined collocated field offices and identified potential savings opportunities at these sites. However, progress was delayed by the Year 2000 computing problem. Currently, Interior and USDA are working with MCI-Worldcom-the contractor handling the FTS 2001 transition for both departments-to ensure that their transition plans provide for optimized service aggregation and access sharing.

    Recommendation: In order to help bring about significant potential savings from consolidated and shared telecommunications resources, the Secretary of the Interior should direct, and hold accountable, the Department's acting Chief Information Officer (CIO) to immediately establish and fully implement among Interior's bureaus, a departmentwide program for systematically identifying and acting on all opportunities to consolidate and optimize telecommunications resources, including voice, data, video, and radio equipment and services, where it is cost-effective to do so. At a minimum, the acting CIO should determine and maintain a current list of department field locations that are collocated and the extent to which telecommunications resources and services can be shared.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Interior completed work on the Interior Site Information System (ISIS) in 1999. The system, which maintains an inventory of all departmental locations and telecommunications assets and capabilities, assists bureaus and offices with identifying telecommunications resources sharing opportunities. In addition, ISIS is being used by Interior's FTS 2001 contractor to plan the department's transition from FTS 2000 to FTS 2001 and to identify where new services can be shared at Interior sites and at sites where Interior bureaus are collocated with other federal agencies.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that their respective acting CIOs are responsible and accountable for implementing the 1995 joint sharing agreement. At a minimum, the acting CIOs should monitor these activities and followup where needed to ensure that all identified savings opportunities are acted upon.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to the recommendations, a new memorandum of understanding on shared telecommunications services was executed in January 1998 by Interior's bureaus and the CIO with the CIOs of the USDA and the Forest Service. Under this agreement, Interior's and USDA's CIOs determined collocated field offices and identified potential savings opportunities at these sites. However, progress was delayed by the Year 2000 computing problem. Currently, Interior and USDA are working with MCI-Worldcom-the contractor handling the FTS 2001 transition for both departments-to ensure that their transition plans provide for optimized service aggregation and access sharing.

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