Information Technology:

Departments of Defense and Energy Need to Address Potentially Duplicative Investments

GAO-12-241: Published: Feb 17, 2012. Publicly Released: Feb 17, 2012.

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What GAO Found

Although the Departments of Defense (DOD) and Energy (DOE) use various investment review processes to identify duplicative investments, GAO found that 37 of its sample of 810 investments were potentially duplicative. These investments account for about $1.2 billion in total information technology (IT) spending for fiscal years 2007 through 2012. For example, GAO identified four DOD Navy personnel assignment investments—one system for officers, one for enlisted personnel, one for reservists, and a general assignment system—each of which is responsible for managing similar functions. While GAO did not identify any potentially duplicative investments at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) within its sample, DHS officials have independently identified several duplicative investments and systems.

DOD and DOE officials offered a variety of reasons for the potential duplication, such as decentralized governance and a lack of control over certain facilities. Further complicating agencies’ ability to identify and eliminate duplicative investments is that investments are, in certain cases, misclassified by function. Until agencies correctly categorize their investments, they cannot be confident that their investments are not duplicative.

DHS has taken action to improve its processes for identifying and eliminating duplicative investments. For example, through reviewing portfolios of IT investments, DHS has identified much, and eliminated some, duplicative functionality in certain investments. Additionally, DOD and DOE have recently initiated plans to address potential duplication in many of the investments GAO identified, which include consolidating or eliminating systems. While these efforts may eventually yield results, they have not yet led to the elimination of duplication. For example, while DOD and DOE have specific plans to improve their IT investment review processes, officials did not provide examples of duplicative investments that had been consolidated or eliminated. Until DOD and DOE demonstrate progress on these efforts, the agencies will be unable to provide assurance that they are avoiding investment in unnecessary systems.

Why GAO Did This Study

The federal government spends billions of dollars on information technology (IT) each year, with such investments accounting for at least $79 billion in fiscal year 2011. Given the size of these investments, it is important that federal agencies avoid duplicative investments when possible to ensure the most efficient use of resources. GAO has previously reported on initiatives under way to address potentially duplicative IT investments—i.e., investments providing similar functions across the government. GAO was asked to review the extent to which potentially duplicative IT investments exist within three categories at selected agencies (the Departments of Defense (DOD), Energy (DOE), and Homeland Security (DHS)) and actions these agencies are taking to address them. To accomplish this, GAO analyzed budget data on agency IT investments, reviewed agency information related to efforts to address duplication, and interviewed agency officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that DOD and DOE report on the progress of efforts to identify and eliminate duplication, where appropriate. GAO is also recommending that DOD, DOE, and DHS correct misclassifications of investments. DOD and DHS agreed with the recommendations. DOE generally agreed with the first recommendation, but disagreed with parts of the second recommendation regarding the number of misclassified investments. However, GAO believes the number is accurate.

For more information, contact David A. Powner at (202) 512-9286 or pownerd@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response, the Department of Energy took steps to identify and eliminate potentially duplicative investments identified in our report. Specifically, in September 2012, staff from the Office of the Chief Information Officer worked with program officials from the department's Office of Science to consolidate three identity management investments. In addition, DOE reported the status of these efforts to the Office of Management and Budget, as part of the department?s 2014 budget submission.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should direct the CIO to utilize existing transparency mechanisms, such as the IT Dashboard, to report on the results of the department's efforts to identify and eliminate, where appropriate, each potentially duplicative investment we have identified, as well as any other duplicative investments.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response, the Department of Defense (DOD) held an October 2012 IT portfolio review in which it evaluated its fiscal year 2013 investments (totaling $37 billion) with the goal of reducing duplication and overlap. About this same time, DOD also began to implement a new investment review board process for business system investments (which were identified in our report) to among other things, reduce duplication and improve business effectiveness. With regard to reporting, DOD reported the results of its IT portfolio review to the Office of Management and Budget. Further, as part of the above efforts to identify and reduce duplication, DOD officials stated that they reviewed the potentially duplicative investment identified in our report, determined that they are not duplicative and reported these findings to the department's congressional committees.

    Recommendation: To better ensure agencies avoid investing in duplicative investments, the Secretary of Defense should direct the chief information officer (CIO) to utilize existing transparency mechanisms, such as the IT Dashboard, to report on the results of the department's efforts to identify and eliminate, where appropriate, each potentially duplicative investment we have identified, as well as any other duplicative investments.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to our recommendation, DHS corrected the miscategorizations and transferred responsibility for the categorization of investments from individual program managers to a centralized body, referred to as the Enterprise Architecture Program Management Office. As a result, DHS's ability to identify duplicative investments should increase.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the CIO to correct the miscategorizations for the DHS investments we identified and ensure that investments are correctly categorized in agency submissions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: In Process

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should direct the CIO to utilize existing transparency mechanisms, such as the IT Dashboard, to correct the miscategorizations for the DOE investments we identified and ensure that investments are correctly categorized in agency submissions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should direct the CIO to utilize existing transparency mechanisms, such as the IT Dashboard, to report on the results of the department’s efforts to identify and eliminate, where appropriate, each potentially duplicative investment we have identified, as well as any other duplicative investments.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  6. Status: Open

    Comments: In Process

    Recommendation: To better ensure agencies avoid investing in duplicative investments, the Secretary of Defense should direct the CIO to correct the miscategorizations for the DOD investments we identified and ensure that investments are correctly categorized in agency submissions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  7. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To better ensure agencies avoid investing in duplicative investments, the Secretary of Defense should direct the chief information officer (CIO) to utilize existing transparency mechanisms, such as the IT Dashboard, to report on the results of the department’s efforts to identify and eliminate, where appropriate, each potentially duplicative investment we have identified, as well as any other duplicative investments.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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