Information Technology:

OMB and Department of Homeland Security Investment Reviews

GAO-04-323: Published: Feb 10, 2004. Publicly Released: Mar 11, 2004.

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In July 2002, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued two memorandums directing agencies expected to be part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to temporarily cease funding for new information technology (IT) infrastructure and business systems investments and submit information to OMB on current or planned investments in these areas. GAO was asked to (1) explain OMB's implementation of these memorandums, (2) identify any resulting changes to applicable IT investments, and (3) ascertain if DHS has initiated its own investment management reviews and, if so, what the results of these reviews have been.

The July 2002 memorandums established an investment review group cochaired by OMB and the Office of Homeland Security to review submitted investments and estimated that millions of dollars potentially could be saved as a result of consolidating and integrating component agency investments. The investment review group relied on an informal, undocumented process to fulfill its responsibilities. Nevertheless, according to OMB and DHS IT officials, the review group both reviewed five component agency investments that were submitted and addressed long-term IT strategic issues related to the transition to the new department. OMB and DHS IT officials cited some changes to agency IT infrastructure and business systems investments because of the July memorandums. In addition, DHS IT officials cited other benefits that resulted from the memorandums. However, it is not known whether, or the extent to which, savings have resulted from the memorandums. In particular, OMB did not track savings associated with the July memorandums because, according to OMB IT staff, anticipated budgetary savings had not occurred at the time the review group was in place. DHS's chief information officer stated that the department plans to track savings related to the consolidation and integration of systems and has established a mechanism for doing so. However, until such savings are identified, tracked, and reported it will remain unknown whether the July memorandums and the subsequent establishment of DHS have achieved the potential economies identified by OMB. Once DHS became operational and the investment review group no longer existed, the department established its own IT investment management process, which is still evolving. As part of this process, between May 2003 and late January 2004, the DHS's highest level investment management board performed reviews of nine investments that had reached key decision points. Even with this progress, the department has identified about 100 IT programs that are eligible for review by its two top department-level boards. However, DHS has not established a process to ensure that key reviews of such IT investments are performed in a timely manner.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Consistent with our recommendation, the department's Chief Information Officer submitted a report in 2006 to Senate and House Appropriation Committees that provided, among other things, the budgetary savings resulting from the department's IT consolidation and integration efforts, including details on the amount of the savings, the cause of the savings, and the time period in which the savings have been, or will be, generated.

    Recommendation: To demonstrate its progress in consolidating and integrating its systems and services, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Chief Information Officer to periodically report to appropriate congressional committees, the budgetary savings that have resulted from the department's IT consolidation and integration efforts, including a breakout of the savings, the cause of the savings, and the time period in which the savings have been, or will be, generated.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management: Chief Information Officer

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DHS has largely implemented this recommendation. As part of DHS's investment review process, IT investments that are subject to departmental oversight are to be reviewed by the department's Enterprise Architecture Board (EAB). This board, which is headed by DHS's CIO and was established to review whether IT programs are properly aligned with DHS's transformation blueprint as they proceed through their system development life cycle, has developed a schedule of those IT investments to be reviewed each fiscal year. According to DHS's IT investment guidance, the reviews are to be conducted when investments reach five different milestone decision points (MDPs) in their system development life cycle. These points are called MDP-1: Project Authorization; MDP-2: Alternative Selection; MDP-3: Project Decision; MDP-4: Pre-Deployment and MDP-5: Executive Review. The guidance also specifies exit criteria for each MDP that the EAB is to consider prior to an investment receiving approval to move forward. Our reviews of key DHS IT investments, such as Immigration and Custom Enforcement's Atlas program, Custom and Border Protection's Automated Commercial Environment, and the National Protection and Programs Directorate's US-VISIT program, showed that EAB reviews have taken place.

    Recommendation: To ensure that IT investments subject to departmental review undergo timely control reviews, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Chief Information Officer to develop a control review schedule for IT investments subject to departmental oversight (i.e., level 1, 2, and 3 investments).

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management: Chief Information Officer

 

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