Telecommunications:

Agencies Need Better Controls to Achieve Significant Savings on Mobile Devices and Services

GAO-15-431: Published: May 21, 2015. Publicly Released: May 21, 2015.

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Contact:

Carol R. Cha
(202) 512-4456
chac@gao.gov

 

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What GAO Found

Most of the 15 agencies GAO reviewed did not have an inventory of mobile devices and associated services that can be used to assess device usage. The majority of agencies delegated responsibility of their inventories to their components. Only 5 of the 15 agencies had complete service and device inventories at either the enterprise-level or at the components GAO reviewed. The remaining agencies either did not have inventories or those inventories did not account for all devices and services.

Similarly, only 1 of the 15 agencies GAO reviewed had documented procedures for monitoring spending by reviewing devices and associated service plans for overuse, underuse, or zero use, which are key indicators of potential inefficient use. Eleven agencies had procedures that either addressed some of the potential aspects of inefficient use or were incompletely documented. Three agencies did not have any documented procedures for monitoring mobile device usage.

Number of Agencies That Followed Guidance on Managing Mobile Devices and Services

 

Fully satisfied

Met some but not all

Did not satisfy

Inventory (devices and services)

5

7

3

Procedures

1

11

3

Source: GAO analysis of agency data. | GAO-15-431

A key reason agencies did not have enterprise-wide inventories and adequate procedures for monitoring and controlling spending is that they took a decentralized approach to managing mobile device spending. Without an inventory that includes each device and associated service limits and rates, as well as documented procedures to assess device usage relative to service rate plans, agencies have a limited ability to monitor device usage and determine if a device should be canceled or moved to a more cost-effective service plan. Further, without a reliable inventory of mobile service contracts, agencies are less likely to identify opportunities for consolidation, and thus are less likely to achieve cost savings.

In addition, although the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) identified a goal for financial savings related to mobile devices and services, it has not measured progress toward that goal, as called for by leading practices in performance management. Instead, an OMB analyst said that OMB provides agencies with information on rates paid by other agencies because it believes such information is more effective at convincing agencies to achieve savings. However, without measuring progress toward its goal, OMB has little assurance that its approach is effective.

Regarding monthly mobile service costs, according to reports to OMB that GAO reviewed, agencies paid a range of rates per line for various service combinations, from $21 for 200 voice minutes, unlimited data, and 200 text messages, to $122 for unlimited voice, data, and text messages. Agencies also paid different rates for the same bundle of services. For example, for the unlimited voice, text, and data bundles, agencies paid between $69 and $122 per month.

Why GAO Did This Study

According to the most recent OMB estimate, the federal government spends about $1.2 billion annually on about 1.5 million mobile devices and associated services. OMB has identified the potential for achieving efficiencies and reducing spending on mobile technology.

GAO was asked to study management of federal mobile devices. This report's objectives were to (1) determine the extent to which federal agencies developed and maintained inventories of mobile devices and wireless services, (2) determine the extent to which agencies established procedures for monitoring and controlling spending on these devices and services, and (3) describe agencies' mobile service rates. For the 15 agencies having the highest reported annual telecommunications spending, GAO compared their inventories and procedures with federal guidance, and identified service rates reported to OMB. For each agency that delegated responsibilities to components, GAO assessed two components' inventories and procedures. GAO also interviewed agency and OMB officials.

What GAO Recommends

To better control mobile device spending, GAO recommends that the 15 agencies take actions to improve their inventories and control processes and that OMB measure and report progress in achieving mobile cost savings. OMB and 14 agencies generally agreed with the recommendations or had no comment. One agency, the Department of Defense, partially agreed, but GAO maintains actions are still needed.

For more information, contact Carol R. Cha at (202) 512-4456 or chac@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of Agriculture should ensure an inventory of mobile devices and services is established department-wide (i.e., all components' devices and associated services are accounted for).

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of Agriculture should ensure procedures to monitor and control spending are established department-wide. Specifically, ensure that (1) procedures include assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage; (2) personnel with authority and responsibility for performing the procedures are identified; and (3) the specific steps to be taken to perform the process are documented.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of Commerce should ensure an inventory of mobile devices and services is established department-wide (i.e., all components' devices and associated services are accounted for).

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of Commerce should ensure a reliable department-wide inventory of mobile service contracts is developed and maintained.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of Commerce should ensure procedures to monitor and control spending are established department-wide. Specifically, ensure that (1) procedures include assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage; (2) personnel with authority and responsibility for performing the procedures are identified; and (3) the specific steps to be taken to perform the process are documented.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  6. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of Defense ensure an inventory of mobile devices and services is established department-wide (i.e., all components' devices and associated services are accounted for).

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  7. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of Defense ensure a reliable department-wide inventory of mobile service contracts is developed and maintained.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  8. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should ensure a current department-wide inventory of mobile service contracts is developed and maintained.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  9. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should ensure procedures to monitor and control spending are established department-wide. Specifically, ensure that (1) procedures include assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage; (2) personnel with authority and responsibility for performing the procedures are identified; and (3) the specific steps to be taken to perform the process are documented.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  10. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of Homeland Security should ensure an inventory of mobile devices and services is established department-wide (i.e., all components' devices and associated services are accounted for).

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  11. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of Homeland Security should ensure a reliable department-wide inventory of mobile service contracts is developed and maintained.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  12. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of Homeland Security should ensure procedures to monitor and control spending are established department-wide. Specifically, ensure that (1) procedures include assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage; (2) personnel with authority and responsibility for performing the procedures are identified; and (3) the specific steps to be taken to perform the process are documented.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  13. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of the Interior should ensure an inventory of mobile devices and services is established department-wide (i.e., all components' devices and associated services are accounted for).

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  14. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of the Interior should ensure a reliable department-wide inventory of mobile service contracts is developed and maintained.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  15. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of the Interior should ensure procedures to monitor and control spending are established department-wide. Specifically, ensure that (1) procedures include assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage; (2) personnel with authority and responsibility for performing the procedures are identified; and (3) the specific steps to be taken to perform the process are documented.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  16. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Attorney General should ensure a department-wide inventory of mobile service contracts is maintained.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  17. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Attorney General should ensure procedures to monitor and control spending are established department-wide. Specifically, ensure that (1) procedures include assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage; (2) personnel with authority and responsibility for performing the procedures are identified; and (3) the specific steps to be taken to perform the process are documented.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  18. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of State should ensure an inventory of mobile devices and services is established department-wide (i.e., all components' devices and associated services are accounted for).

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  19. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of State should ensure a reliable department-wide inventory of mobile service contracts is maintained.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  20. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of State should ensure procedures to monitor and control spending are established department-wide. Specifically, ensure that (1) procedures include assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage; (2) personnel with authority and responsibility for performing the procedures are identified; and (3) the specific steps to be taken to perform the process are documented.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  21. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of Transportation should ensure procedures to monitor and control spending are established department-wide. Specifically, ensure that (1) procedures include assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage; (2) personnel with authority and responsibility for performing the procedures are identified; and (3) the specific steps to be taken to perform the process are documented.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  22. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of the Treasury should ensure an inventory of mobile devices and services is established department-wide (i.e., all components' devices and associated services are accounted for).

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury

  23. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should ensure procedures to monitor and control spending are established department-wide. Specifically, ensure that (1) procedures include assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage; (2) personnel with authority and responsibility for performing the procedures are identified; and (3) the specific steps to be taken to perform the process are documented.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  24. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the agency effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency should ensure a complete inventory of mobile devices and associated services is established.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  25. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the agency effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency should ensure a reliable inventory of mobile service contracts is maintained.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  26. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the agency effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency should ensure procedures to monitor and control spending are established agency-wide. Specifically, ensure that (1) procedures include assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage; (2) personnel with authority and responsibility for performing the procedures are identified; and (3) the specific steps to be taken to perform the process are documented.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  27. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As of July 2015, GSA has implemented our recommendation. Specifically, we reported in May 2015, that the agency had established procedures to assess devices for zero usage; however, they did not include assessing devices for under or over usage. In July 2015, GSA documented steps to take to assess devices for under or over usage

    Recommendation: To help the agency effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Acting Administrator of General Services should ensure procedures to monitor and control spending are established. Specifically, ensure that (1) procedures include assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage; (2) personnel with authority and responsibility for performing the procedures are identified; and (3) the specific steps to be taken to perform the process are documented.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  28. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the agency effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration should ensure a complete inventory of mobile devices and associated services is established.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  29. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the agency effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration should ensure a reliable inventory of mobile service contracts is developed and maintained.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  30. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the agency effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration should ensure procedures to monitor and control spending are established agency-wide. Specifically, ensure that (1) procedures include assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage; (2) personnel with authority and responsibility for performing the procedures are identified; and (3) the specific steps to be taken to perform the process are documented.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  31. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the agency effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should ensure a complete inventory of mobile devices and associated services is established.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

  32. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the agency effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should ensure procedures to monitor and control spending are established agency-wide. Specifically, ensure that (1) procedures include assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage; (2) personnel with authority and responsibility for performing the procedures are identified; and (3) the specific steps to be taken to perform the process are documented.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

  33. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of the Treasury should ensure procedures to monitor and control spending are established department-wide. Specifically, ensure that (1) procedures include assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage; (2) personnel with authority and responsibility for performing the procedures are identified; and (3) the specific steps to be taken to perform the process are documented.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury

  34. Status: Open

    Comments: We have not yet validated agency actions on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To better enable OMB to oversee agency efforts to consolidate mobile telecommunications contracts, the Director should measure and report progress in achieving its goal of cost savings through consolidation, as described in the 2012 Digital Government Strategy.

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

 

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