Department of Energy:

Opportunities Exist to Improve Los Alamos' Equipment Purchasing Practices

GAO-01-426: Published: May 23, 2001. Publicly Released: Jun 4, 2001.

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The Department of Energy (DOE) received $13.2 million in supplemental funding to replace equipment lost at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the May 2000 Cerro Grande fire. GAO reviewed the practices used by the contractor that runs the laboratory--the University of California (UC)--to determine whether it can benefit from modified purchasing practices. GAO found that UC can save money by (1) expanding its supply sources to include suppliers such as the General Services Administration and the Internet; (2) establishing mandatory maximum performance standards for computer purchases to avoid unjustified, costly, and unnecessary capabilities; and (3) increasing its use of a standard brand of computer and computer-related equipment to maximize volume discounts with selected suppliers.

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 improve the economy of equipment purchases at the Los Alomos National Laboratory, the Secretary, Department of Energy should direct the contractor at Los Alomos to develop policies and procedures that encourage greater consideration of additional supply sources including the General Services Administration and suppliers that advertise over the Internet.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2002, LANL's management directed its newly established Office of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) to control its information technology (IT) expenses better by developing an approach for reducing computer and telecommunications acquisition and service costs. LANL's Acting CIO has centralized LANL's IT equipment acquisitions to obtain more favorable prices, and directed that scientists, engineers, and other laboratory employees could no longer use their laboratory credit cards for IT purchases. In accordance with LANL's commitment to the State of New Mexico to use small businesses in northern New Mexico, LANL has contracted with local business suppliers of Dell, Apple, and Hewlett-Packard computers and IT equipment. In January 2005, LANL's Executive Board approved the implementation plan for LANL's Institutional Information Technology (IT) Strategy.

    Recommendation: To improve the economy of equipment purchases at the Los Alomos National Laboratory, the Secretary, DOE should direct the contractor at Los Alomos to establish, to the extent practicable, mandatory performance standards for computer and computer-related equipment.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2002, the Los Alamos National Laboratory's (LANL) management directed its newly established Office of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) to control its information technology (IT) expenses better by developing an approach for reducing computer and telecommunications acquisition and service costs. In January 2005, LANL's Executive Board approved the report of the Institutional IT Strategy Project and directed the CIO's team to develop an implementation plan. The implementation plan will reduce IT purchasing and service costs by, for example, establishing an IT performance management program and providing reliable, flexible and adaptive IT services.

    Recommendation: To improve the economy of equipment purchases at the Los Alomos National Laboratory, the Secretary, DOE should direct the contractor at Los Alomos to in light of reported savings at two Los Alomos divisions, evaluate the feasibility of having more of its organizations use a standard brand of computer-related equipment.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 2002, the Los Alamos National Laboratory's (LANL) management directed its newly established Office of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) to control its information technology (IT) expenses better by developing an approach for reducing computer and telecommunications acquisition and service costs. In January 2005, LANL's Executive Board approved the report of the Institutional IT Strategy Project and directed the CIO's team to develop an implementation plan. The implementation plan will reduce IT purchasing and service costs by limiting purchases to five standard types of computers that meet the laboratory's minimum performance standards for groups of employees, such as office workers, engineers and scientists, and those scientists and engineers who conduct research and development in computer science. Management approval would be required to exceed the standard configurations.

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