Telecommunications:

Agencies Are Generally Following Sound Transition Planning Practices, and GSA Is Taking Action to Resolve Challenges

GAO-08-759: Published: Jun 27, 2008. Publicly Released: Jul 28, 2008.

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The General Services Administration (GSA) is responsible for ensuring that federal agencies have access to the telecommunications needed to meet mission requirements. GSA's current telecommunications program, called FTS2001, has contracts in place that will expire by June 2010. Thus, agencies face the difficult task of transitioning their services to a successor program, known as Networx. GAO was asked to determine (1) the extent to which agencies are following sound transition planning practices and (2) the actions GSA is taking to identify and resolve common transition challenges affecting agencies. In performing this work, GAO selected six agencies based on, among other things, their FTS2001 charges; reviewed transition planning at these agencies and GSA; and analyzed GSA documentation of actions to address transition challenges.

Selected agencies--the Departments of Homeland Security, Commerce, and Agriculture and the Small Business Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission--are generally following sound transition planning practices previously identified by GAO. For example, all have established telecommunications inventories, and most have established transition plans that include transition preparation tasks and time lines. However, other key practices are not being fully implemented at three agencies. For example, Commerce does not plan to clearly define all key transition roles and responsibilities, Homeland Security does not plan to identify local and regional points of contact, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission does not plan to establish measures of success based on its transition objectives. With limited time available to finalize planning and begin transitions, agencies that do not address gaps in their planning or follow through on plans risk delaying their transitions and increase the likelihood of incurring unnecessary costs. As facilitator for all transition management activities, GSA has identified numerous common challenges that agencies face in making the transition to Networx, and it is taking action to resolve them. GSA uses various forums to identify these challenges, which include ensuring cooperation from incumbent contractors, defining agencies' responsibilities for information security during the transition, and the use of a transition inventory application developed by GSA. To resolve these challenges, GSA has, among other things, modified FTS2001 contracts to help ensure contractor cooperation, developed guidance to clarify information security responsibilities, and established support teams to assist agencies in using the inventory application developed by GSA. GSA's actions should reduce the likelihood that these challenges will hinder transition efforts.

Status Legend:

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  • 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: The Secretary of Commerce should direct the department's Chief Information Officer to define the roles of asset and human capital management for the department's transition.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's recommendation, Commerce updated the charter for its Network Transition Team (NTT) to define the roles of human capital and asset management. Specifically, this charter indicates that each bureau within Commerce has identified a point of contact who is responsible for human capital management including coordination of all resources required for bureau specific transition efforts. In addition, the charter states that the role of asset management for the transition belongs to each bureau within Commerce. Specifically, Commerce's Designated Agency Representative (DAR) policy indicates that each bureau DAR is responsible for telecommunications assets. By defining the roles of human capital and asset management for the Networx transition, Commerce should reduce the risk of extending their transition to the new contracts.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission should direct the commission's Chief Information Officer to establish measures of success based on the transition objectives that the agency plans to develop.

    Agency Affected: Nuclear Regulatory Commission

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's recommendation, the NRC chairman stated that the CIO met this recommendation by identifying six transition objectives with corresponding measures of success. For example, the objective of transitioning prior to the end of current Bridge contracts had the success measure of completion by May 1, 2010. The objective of minimizing application and system impact had the success measure of a 3 hour or less transition time. Because the CIO identified success measures for six transition objectives, this recommendation was met.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission should direct the commission's Chief Information Officer to evaluate the costs and benefits of new technology or alternatives to meeting its telecommunications needs.

    Agency Affected: Nuclear Regulatory Commission

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The NRC chairman stated, in September 2008, that the NRC reviewed its business needs and concluded that the current (FTS 2001) technologies met those needs. He stated that NRC did not evaluate the costs and benefits of new Networx technology because NRC did not have a business need for these new technologies. In a 2012 GAO follow up telephone call to determine if NRC took any further action, the NRC point of contact stated that NRC planned no further action on this recommendation. Because NRC did not evaluate the costs and benefits of new Networx technology this recommendation was not met.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the department's Chief Information Officer to address the gaps in its transition planning. Specifically, the Chief Information Officer should document the department's processes for maintaining telecommunications inventories.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: According to agency officials, DHS did not take any action to update its inventories other than those DHS or GSA inventory processes discussed in GAO's report and does not intend to take further action on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the department's Chief Information Officer to address the gaps in its transition planning. Specifically, the Chief Information Officer should evaluate the costs and benefits of new technology or alternatives to meeting its telecommunications needs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: While DHS calculated costs savings resulting from its chosen transition apptroach, it did not evaluate the costs or benefits of other potential approaches. Further, according to an agency official, it does not intend to do so. Therefore this recommendation is closed as not implemented.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the department's Chief Information Officer to address the gaps in its transition planning. Specifically, the Chief Information Officer should clearly define the roles of asset management, legal expertise, human capital management, and information security expertise for the department's transition.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: According to a DHS official, the Department did not take any specific actions to define the roles of asset management, legal expertise, human capital management, or information security related to the Networx transition and does not intend to do so.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the department's Chief Information Officer to address the gaps in its transition planning. Specifically, the Chief Information Officer should identify local and regional points of contact.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: According to a DHS official, the Department did not take any specific actions to identify local or regional points of contact related to the Networx transition and does not intend to do so.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the department's Chief Information Officer to address the gaps in its transition planning. Specifically, the Chief Information Officer should include in the department's planning efforts the identification of human capital resources needed to conduct an effective transition.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: According to a DHS official, the Department did not take any specific actions to identify human capital assets needed for the Networx transition and does not intend to do so.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the department's Chief Information Officer to address the gaps in its transition planning. Specifically, the Chief Information Officer should establish goals and measures of success for the department's transition efforts to help managers assess progress.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In April 2012, the DHS CIO stated that goals and measures of success for transition efforts were identified in a Networx Transition Update. That update, provided in 2010, cited progress, in percentages, for services disconnected against a GSA target, and for orders placed by DHS component against a target of order totals. For example, for the month of June, 2010, the GSA disconnect percentage target was compared to the percentage disconnected by DHS; and actual component orders were compared to the target of 100%. By measuring and reporting progress on these two goals, DHS improved the ability of managers to assess progress, meeting this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the department's Chief Information Officer to address the gaps in its transition planning. Specifically, the Chief Information Officer should perform a transition risk assessment that addresses risks to mission-critical systems, continuity of operations plans, and risks to information security.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: According to a DHS official, the Department did not take any specific actions to perform a risk assessment related to the Networx transition and does not intend to do so.

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