Information Technology Reform:

Progress Made; More Needs to Be Done to Complete Actions and Measure Results

GAO-12-461: Published: Apr 26, 2012. Publicly Released: May 24, 2012.

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What GAO Found

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and key federal agencies have made progress on action items in the Information Technology (IT) Reform Plan, but there are several areas where more remains to be done. Of the 10 key action items GAO reviewed, 3 were completed and 7 were partially completed by December 2011, in part because the initiatives are complex. OMB reported greater progress than GAO determined, stating that 7 of the 10 action items were completed and that 3 were partially completed. While OMB officials acknowledge that there is more to do in each of the topic areas, they consider the key action items to be completed because the IT Reform Plan has served its purpose as a catalyst for a set of broader initiatives. They explained that work will continue on all of the initiatives even after OMB declares that the related action items are completed under the IT Reform Plan. We disagree with this approach. In prematurely declaring the action items to be completed, OMB risks losing momentum on the progress it has made to date. Until OMB and the agencies complete the action items, the benefits of the reform initiatives—including increased operational efficiencies and more effective management of large-scale IT programs—will likely be delayed.

OMB and key agencies plan to continue efforts to address the seven items that GAO identified as behind schedule, but lack time frames for completing most of them. For example, OMB plans to work with congressional committees during the fiscal year 2013 budget process to assist in exploring legislative proposals to establish flexible budget models and to consolidate certain routine IT purchases under agency chief information officers (CIO). However, OMB has not established time frames for completing five of the seven IT Reform Plan action items that are behind schedule. Until OMB and the agencies establish time frames for completing these corrective actions, they increase the risk that key action items will not be completed or effectively managed to closure. Further, they diminish the likelihood of achieving the full benefits of IT reform.

OMB has not established performance measures for evaluating the results of most of the IT reform initiatives GAO reviewed. Specifically, OMB has established performance measures for 4 of the 10 action items, including data center consolidation and cloud computing. However, no performance measures exist for 6 other action items, including establishing the best practices collaboration platform and developing a cadre of IT acquisition professionals. Until outcome-oriented performance measures are in place for each of the action items, OMB will be limited in its ability to evaluate progress that has been made and to determine whether or not the initiative is achieving its intended results.

Why GAO Did This Study

While investments in IT have the potential to improve lives and organizations, federal IT projects too often experience cost overruns, schedule slippages, and performance shortfalls. To address acquisition challenges, improve operational efficiencies, and deliver more value to the American taxpayer, in December 2010, OMB’s Federal CIO issued a 25-point IT Reform Plan.

GAO was asked to (1) evaluate the progress OMB and key federal agencies have made on selected action items in the IT Reform Plan, (2) assess the plans for addressing action items that are behind schedule, and (3) assess the extent to which sound measures are in place to evaluate the success of the IT reform initiatives. To do so, GAO selected 10 of the 25 action items from the IT Reform Plan, focusing on the more important activities due to be completed by December 2011; analyzed agency documentation; and interviewed agency officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making recommendations to three agencies to complete key IT Reform action items; the agencies generally concurred. GAO is also making recommendations to OMB to complete key action items, accurately characterize the items’ status, and establish measures for IT reform initiatives. OMB agreed to complete key action items, but disagreed with the latter recommendations, noting that the agency believes it is characterizing the items’ status correctly and that measures are not warranted. GAO maintains that its recommendations are valid.

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

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: The agency agreed with the recommendation and in January 2014 stated that OMB completed all of the prescribed action items from the IT Reform Plan that were required to meet the June 2012 deadline. At the time of the report, we found that out of the 10 action items we reviewed, three were completed. The other seven were partially completed. Since then, some progress has been made, but 5 action items remain partially completed. We will continue to monitor the closure of this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help ensure the success of IT reform initiatives, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget should direct the Federal Chief Information Officer to ensure that the action items called for in the IT Reform Plan are completed by the responsible parties prior to the completion of the IT Reform Plan's 18 month deadline of June 2012, or if the June 2012 deadline cannot be met, by another clearly defined deadline.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: The agency agreed with the recommendation and stated that OMB provided revised plans, where applicable, to complete the action items by the June 2012 deadline. In January 2014, the agency stated that it considered the items closed. However, we have not received evidence to support the closure of these action items, nor a revised deadline. We will continue to monitor the closure of this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help ensure the success of IT reform initiatives, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget should direct the Federal Chief Information Officer to provide clear time frames for addressing the shortfalls associated with the IT Reform Plan action items.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: The agency disagreed with our recommendation and stated that it has accurately characterized the completeness of the action items. As stated in our report, we do not agree with OMB's characterization of four action items: data center consolidation, cloud-first policy, best practices portal, and redefining roles of agency CIOs and the CIO Council. OMB considers these action items to be completed. We do not.

    Recommendation: To help ensure the success of IT reform initiatives, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget should direct the Federal Chief Information Officer to accurately characterize the status of the IT Reform Plan action items in the upcoming progress report in order to keep momentum going on action items that are not yet completed.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: The agency disagreed with our recommendation and stated that it believed that its current practice of measuring the performance of the initiatives supported by the IT Reform Plan meets the objective of the recommendation. However, we have not seen evidence to support the existence of performance measures beyond those mentioned in the report.

    Recommendation: To help ensure the success of IT reform initiatives, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget should direct the Federal Chief Information Officer to establish outcome-oriented measures for each applicable action item in the IT Reform Plan.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The agency agreed with the recommendation. DHS has identified three services to move to the cloud (IDP, Private Cloud, and Website Hosting). DHS also provided evidence of the existence of elements missing from its plans for moving services to the cloud. Specifically, DHS has provided us with information on needed resources for the migration and a plan for retiring legacy systems. Completing action items from the IT reform plan such as this one, will better position the Department of Homeland Security to experience the planned benefits of IT reform, including increased operational efficiencies and more effective management of large-scale programs.

    Recommendation: To address action items in the IT Reform Plan where the agencies have fallen behind, the Secretaries of Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs and the Attorney General of the Department of Justice should direct their respective agency CIOs to complete elements missing from the agencies' plans for migrating services to a cloud computing environment, as applicable.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The agency agreed with our recommendation. VA identified the commodity services proposed for migration to shared services in its PortfolioStat report. Specifically, the agency proposed moving fax servers and mobile devices to shared services.

    Recommendation: To address action items in the IT Reform Plan where the agencies have fallen behind, the Secretaries of Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs and the Attorney General of the Department of Justice should direct their respective agency CIOs to identify and report on the commodity services proposed for migration to shared services.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  7. Status: Open

    Comments: The agency agreed with our recommendation. At the time of our review, the agency's plan for moving CPIC to the cloud was missing a plan for retiring legacy systems. In addition, the agency replaced one of its "must move" cloud services with USMS WebTA--we have not yet seen the plan for moving this service to the cloud. We will continue to assess the agency's progress in implementing the recommendation.

    Recommendation: To address action items in the IT Reform Plan where the agencies have fallen behind, the Secretaries of Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs and the Attorney General of the Department of Justice should direct their respective agency CIOs to complete elements missing from the agencies' plans for migrating services to a cloud computing environment, as applicable.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The agency agreed with this recommendation. As part of its May 2013 submission to OMB, the agency identified four commodity domains were it plans to optimize using cloud computing, shared services, strategic sourcing, leveraging available federal services, and better evaluating mission needs. These commodity domains are email, desktop, network, and data center services. Completing action items from the IT reform plan such as this one, will better position the Department of Homeland Security to experience the planned benefits of IT reform, including increased operational efficiencies and more effective management of large-scale programs.

    Recommendation: To address action items in the IT Reform Plan where the agencies have fallen behind, the Secretaries of Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs and the Attorney General of the Department of Justice should direct their respective agency CIOs to identify and report on the commodity services proposed for migration to shared services.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The agency agreed with the recommendation. In July 2012, the Department of Veterans Affairs stated that it updated its plans for moving services to the cloud to include the missing elements. In addition, the department provided evidence that it included needed elements such as resources and a schedule for moving the system to the cloud.

    Recommendation: To address action items in the IT Reform Plan where the agencies have fallen behind, the Secretaries of Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs and the Attorney General of the Department of Justice should direct their respective agency CIOs to complete elements missing from the agencies' plans for migrating services to a cloud computing environment, as applicable.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The agency agreed with the recommendation. In August 2012, the agency identified and reported on the commodity services to be moved to shared services. Completing this important action item will allow the agency to fully realize the benefits of IT Reform, including increased operational efficiency and more effective management of large-scale IT investments.

    Recommendation: To address action items in the IT Reform Plan where the agencies have fallen behind, the Secretaries of Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs and the Attorney General of the Department of Justice should direct their respective agency CIOs to identify and report on the commodity services proposed for migration to shared services.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

 

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