Electronic Records Archive:

Status Update on the National Archives and Records Administration's Fiscal Year 2010 Expenditure Plan

GAO-10-657: Published: Jun 11, 2010. Publicly Released: Jun 11, 2010.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

David A. Powner
(202) 512-3000
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

Since 2001, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has been working to develop an electronic records archive (ERA) to preserve and provide access to massive volumes and all types of electronic records. NARA certified initial operating capability of the first two phases of ERA in June 2008 and December 2008 and plans to achieve full operating capability for the system by 2012. As required by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, NARA submitted an expenditure plan to Congress to support its request for fiscal year 2010 ERA funding. The act also requires that this plan meet six conditions, including a review by GAO. GAO's objectives in reviewing the fiscal year 2010 plan were to (1) determine whether the plan satisfies the legislative conditions, (2) determine the extent to which NARA has implemented prior GAO recommendations, and (3) provide any other observations on the plan or the ERA acquisition. To do this, GAO reviewed the expenditure plan and other agency documents and interviewed NARA officials.

NARA's fiscal year 2010 expenditure plan satisfies five of the six legislative conditions and partially satisfies one. Specifically, it partially satisfies the condition that NARA develop a process for reviewing the progress of capital investments. Best practices call for such a process to include an oversight entity to review a project's progress, take corrective actions in response to cost or schedule problems, and ensure the corrective actions are implemented. However, while NARA has conducted regular meetings with senior-level agency management to review ERA progress, there is little evidence that officials identified corrective actions or ensured the actions were implemented. As a result, it is uncertain whether ERA is receiving the necessary level of executive oversight. NARA has fully implemented three of GAO's five prior recommendations and partially implemented two. The agency implemented recommendations to provide additional information on its plans for the remainder of fiscal year 2009, add an analysis of costs and benefits associated with the ERA component dedicated to presidential records, and develop a contingency plan for ERA in case of system failure. NARA partially implemented a recommendation to provide additional information in the fiscal year 2010 expenditure plan by adding information on ERA's cost, schedule, and performance. However, the plan lacks key information, including the total cost of one of the increments to be funded. NARA has also developed but not yet implemented a plan to implement best practices in its process for measuring program progress, as GAO recommended. GAO has three observations on the expenditure plan and ERA acquisition: (1) The estimated life-cycle cost of the ERA system has increased, and the development is behind schedule. Over the last 3 fiscal years, the estimated cost has increased by about 7 percent, from about $531 million to about $567 million. In addition, the planned completion dates for the two increments currently under development are about 1 year later than dates established in program planning documents. (2) NARA has not detailed what system capabilities will be delivered in the final two ERA increments. While the expenditure plan identifies some high-level functions, it does not identify specific capabilities to be delivered or dates for completion. (3)NARA has not effectively defined or managed ERA's requirements to ensure that the functionality delivered satisfies the objectives of the system. Although NARA established an initial set of high-level requirements, it lacks firm plans to implement about 43 percent of them. In addition, NARA has not updated its requirements document to reflect reinterpreted requirements and did not provide evidence that it always conducted reviews required by its internal policies. Without ensuring adequate oversight and establishing specific plans to complete ERA, it is increasingly unlikely that NARA will deliver the completed ERA system by 2012 with the originally envisioned capabilities.

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 enhance NARA's ability to complete the development of ERA within reasonable funding and time constraints, the Archivist of the United States should ensure that NARA's investment review process has adequate executive-level oversight by maintaining documentation of the results of reviews, including changes to the program's cost and schedule baseline and any other corrective actions taken as a result of changes in ERA cost, schedule, and performance.

    Agency Affected: National Archives and Records Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Between 2001 and 2011, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) was developing an electronic records archive (ERA) to preserve and provide access to massive volumes and all types of electronic records. NARA originally planned to achieve full operating capability for the system by 2012, but stopped development in 2011 per OMB direction. Prior to the OMB directive, our review of NARA's fiscal year 2010 ERA expenditure plan showed that the agency had developed a process for reviewing the progress of capital investments but that it lacked certain best practice elements. For example, NARA conducted regular meetings with senior-level agency management to review ERA program and regularly assessed risks but there was little evidence that officials identified corrective actions or ensured that the actions were implemented. As a result, it was uncertain whether ERA was receiving the necessary level of executive oversight. Therefore, we recommended that NARA ensure its investment review process had adequate executive-level oversight. The agency agreed and implemented our recommendation by documenting the meetings that NARA senior management attended where the ERA program was discussed and documenting corrective actions that senior management proposed in response to issues related to the ERA program. In addition, NARA conducted and documented briefings to senior management on the status of the ERA program from cost, schedule and performance points of view and the status of corrective actions. By implementing our recommendation, NARA enhanced its ability to complete the final phases of the system's development within reasonable funding and time constraints.

    Recommendation: To enhance NARA's ability to complete the development of ERA within reasonable funding and time constraints, the Archivist of the United States should ensure that ERA's requirements are managed using a disciplined process that results in requirements that are traceable throughout the project's life cycle and are kept current.

    Agency Affected: National Archives and Records Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Starting in 2001, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) had been working to develop an electronic records archive (ERA) to preserve and provide access to massive volumes of all types of electronic records. NARA originally planned to complete the development of the ERA system and achieve full operating capability in March 2012. However, in acquiring this system, NARA repeatedly revised project completion dates and estimated costs. As a result, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) directed NARA to halt ERA development by the end of FY 2011, one year earlier than NARA had originally planned. Accordingly, NARA revised its plans and deployed an ERA system with reduced functionality by the end of FY 2011. Prior to the OMB directive, our review of NARA's 2010 ERA expenditure plan indicated that NARA had not effectively defined or managed ERA's requirements to ensure that the functionality delivered satisfied the objectives of the system. Although NARA established an initial set of high-level requirements, it lacked firm plans to implement about 43 percent of them. In addition, NARA had not updated its requirements document to reflect reinterpreted requirements and did not provide evidence that it consistently conducted reviews required by its internal policies. Therefore, we recommended that NARA ensure that ERA's requirements were managed using a disciplined process. NARA implemented our recommendation by updating its ERA requirements document and developing a process that ensured the ERA requirements were kept current following significant changes to the ERA program. By implementing our recommendation, NARA was better able to assure that the final ERA development work contributed to its mission needs and that its contractor provided work that met the needs of the agency and, ultimately, the system's users.

    Aug 1, 2014

    Jul 23, 2014

    Jul 8, 2014

    Dec 5, 2013

    Sep 10, 2013

    Aug 22, 2013

    Jun 20, 2013

    May 9, 2013

    Apr 4, 2013

    Looking for more? Browse all our products here