Information Technology:

Department of Commerce Could Save $24.6 Million by Modifying Computer Procurement Actions

CED-82-81: Published: Apr 28, 1982. Publicly Released: May 28, 1982.

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GAO was asked to review the computer requirements of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) and the Environmental Research Laboratories (ERL), both independent agencies within the Department of Commerce, to determine: (1) the feasibility of consolidating the requirements of NBS and ERL and establishing a single data processing center for both organizations; (2) the best location for a single data processing center; (3) the expected cost savings from establishing this center; and (4) the feasibility of a single telecommunications network. Also, GAO was asked to provide information on the workload justification for two requests for proposals (RFP's) for acquiring computer hardware and support services for NBS and ERL.

GAO found that it is feasible to consolidate the NBS and ERL computer requirements and establish a single data processing center for both organizations. However, the cost of a single general-purpose facility to meet the requirements of both agencies exceeds the cost of maintaining two separate general-purpose facilities by several million dollars. Further, the quality of service provided by a single facility may not be as high as that provided by two. However, savings could result if certain needs of both agencies for a large-scale, scientifically oriented computer were met through sharing. To permit effective sharing of a computer for large scale scientific work, the NBS or the ERL computer center may be designated as the location for a Commerce scientific data processing center. Either the NBS general-purpose computer, as specified in its RFP, or the ERL current general-purpose computer could provide the technical support for such a departmentwide data processing center. GAO believes that Commerce should decide where such a center could be located after completing a cost-benefit study. Further, the justifications offered by NBS and ERL for their computer requirements contain no significant problems. However, the procurements being planned by these agencies exceed what is needed to meet these requirements. By modifying the NBS and the ERL RFP's, a savings of $25 million could be achieved. NBS and ERL officials concurred with the GAO proposals and plan to modify their RFP's accordingly.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should establish a departmentwide scientific computer center to provide for a large-scale, scientifically oriented computer capability for departmentwide use.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should proceed with the NBS computer procurement after deleting the requirement for the NBS Boulder computer.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should cancel the current ERL procurement and develop a new proposal to acquire minicomputers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

 

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