Responses to Subcommittee Post-Hearing Questions Regarding the FBI's Management Practices and Acquisition of a New Investigative Case Management System
GAO-06-302R: Published: Dec 21, 2005. Publicly Released: Dec 21, 2005.
This letter responds to follow-up questions about our September 14, 2005, testimony before Congress. In that testimony, we discussed the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) progress in building management capabilities essential to successfully modernizing its information technology (IT) systems. Systems modernization is a vital part of the FBI's ongoing efforts to transform itself in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Notwithstanding the fact that any agency faces considerable risk if it does not have a complete and enforceable enterprise architecture (EA) to guide and constrain system investments, this does not mean an agency should categorically decide not to invest in a given system until such an architecture exists. Rather, our position has consistently been that such risks, such as lack of interoperability with or duplication of other systems, need to be (1) fully disclosed and considered in deciding whether to invest in the system and (2) managed when a decision is made to proceed with an investment without an architecture because of other compelling reasons, such as an urgent mission need. The absence of performance-based contracting and effective contractor tracking and oversight has constrained the FBI's ability to effectively manage and oversee its EA contractor. More specifically, it has inhibited the bureau's ability to adequately define product quality expectations, which in turn increases the chances that delivered products will require rework. Such rework puts the bureau at risk of spending more time and money than necessary to produce an architecture. Consistent and stable management leadership is a human capital best practice and as such, should be an ongoing and sustained focus of the Director within all FBI organizational components, including IT. According to federal guidance, an agency should have the resources (funding and human capital) to establish and effectively manage its EA program. Our report did not identify issues or take exception with the sufficiency of the architecture program's funding level being applied to the architecture program or the bureau's IT management budgeting methodology. However, it did state that key human capital resources were not in place. In particular, four of five key architect positions were vacant. According to bureau officials, the absence of these key staff was hampering their architecture development efforts. Bureau officials told us that job announcements had been issued for the four key architect positions, but it had been difficult finding the right candidates. According to a recent National Academy of Public Administration report on the bureau's management of human capital, the FBI requested and was provided these personnel pay flexibilities in December 2004 to better retain employees with unique qualifications and to encourage personnel to relocate to high cost areas. The Academy also reported that the bureau had not yet used these authorities, in part because it had only recently developed a policy for doing so. Our research of leading organizations, in addition to our experience in evaluating federal agencies, shows that successful organizations attract IT professionals by taking a strategic approach to human capital management. This includes developing strategies tailored to addressing gaps between the current workforce and future needs, including investing in training and professional development, retention allowances, skill-based pay to attract and retain the critical skills needed for mission accomplishment, and pay and nonpay incentives for high-performing employees.