Information Technology:

Agencies Need to Improve Their Application Inventories to Achieve Additional Savings

GAO-16-511: Published: Sep 29, 2016. Publicly Released: Sep 29, 2016.

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What GAO Found

Most of the 24 Chief Financial Officers (CFO) Act of 1990 agencies in the review fully met at least three of the four practices GAO identified to determine if agencies had complete software application inventories. To be considered complete, an inventory should (1) include business and enterprise information technology (IT) systems as defined by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB); (2) include these systems from all organizational components; (3) specify application name, description, owner, and function supported; and (4) be regularly updated. Of the 24 agencies, 4 (the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Justice, and the General Services Administration) fully met all four practices, 9 fully met three practices, 6 fully met two practices, 2 fully met one practice, and 3 did not fully meet any practice (see figure).

Assessment of Whether Agencies Fully Met Practices for Establishing Complete Software Application Inventories

Assessment of Whether Agencies Fully Met Practices for Establishing Complete Software Application Inventories

A January 2016 OMB requirement to complete an IT asset inventory by the end of May 2016 contributed to most of the agencies fully meeting the first three practices. Agencies that did not fully address these practices stated, among other things, their focus on major and high risk investments as a reason for not having complete inventories. However, not accounting for all applications may result in missed opportunities to identify savings and efficiencies. It is also inconsistent with OMB guidance regarding implementation of IT acquisition reform law, referred to as the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, which requires that Chief Information Officers at covered agencies have increased visibility into all IT resources. Not accounting for all applications also presents a security risk since agencies can only secure assets if they are aware of them.

Each of the six selected agencies relied on their investment management processes and, in some cases, supplemental processes to rationalize their applications to varying degrees. However, five of the six agencies acknowledged that their processes did not always allow for collecting or reviewing the information needed to effectively rationalize all their applications. The sixth agency, the National Science Foundation (NSF), stated its processes allow it to effectively rationalize its applications, but agency documentation supporting this assertion was incomplete. Only one agency—the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)—had plans to address shortcomings. Taking action to address identified weaknesses with agencies' existing processes for rationalizing applications would assist with identifying additional opportunities to reduce duplication and achieve savings.

Why GAO Did This Study

The federal government is expected to spend more than $90 billion on IT in fiscal year 2017. This includes a variety of software applications supporting agencies' enterprise needs. Since 2013, OMB has advocated the use of application rationalization. This is a process by which an agency streamlines its portfolio of software applications with the goal of improving efficiency, reducing complexity and redundancy, and lowering the cost of ownership.

GAO's objectives were to determine (1) whether agencies have established complete application inventories and (2) to what extent selected agencies have developed and implemented processes for rationalizing their portfolio of applications. To do this, GAO assessed the inventories of the 24 CFO Act agencies against four key practices and selected six agencies—the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, the Interior, Labor, and NASA and NSF—due to their IT spending, among other factors, to determine whether they had processes addressing applications.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is recommending that 20 agencies improve their inventories and five of the selected agencies take actions to improve their processes to rationalize their applications more completely. The Department of Defense disagreed with both recommendations made to it. After reviewing additional evidence, GAO removed the recommendation associated with improving the inventory but maintained the other. The other agencies agreed to or had no comments on the draft report.

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

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: We plan to follow up on the agency's actions to implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve federal agencies' efforts to rationalize their portfolio of applications, the heads of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; and heads of the Environmental Protection Agency; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Science Foundation; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Office of Personnel Management; Small Business Administration; Social Security Administration; and U.S. Agency for International Development should direct their Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and other responsible officials to improve their inventories by taking steps to fully address the practices we identified as being partially met or not met.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: In its comments on a draft of our report, the department concurred with our recommendation. Subsequent to the department informing us that it has taken action to implement the recommendation, we will follow up.

    Recommendation: To improve federal agencies' efforts to rationalize their portfolio of applications, the heads of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; and heads of the Environmental Protection Agency; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Science Foundation; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Office of Personnel Management; Small Business Administration; Social Security Administration; and U.S. Agency for International Development should direct their Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and other responsible officials to improve their inventories by taking steps to fully address the practices we identified as being partially met or not met.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: In its comments on a draft of our report, the department concurred with our recommendation. Subsequent to the department informing us that it has taken action to implement the recommendation, we will follow up.

    Recommendation: To improve federal agencies' efforts to rationalize their portfolio of applications, the heads of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; and heads of the Environmental Protection Agency; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Science Foundation; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Office of Personnel Management; Small Business Administration; Social Security Administration; and U.S. Agency for International Development should direct their Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and other responsible officials to improve their inventories by taking steps to fully address the practices we identified as being partially met or not met.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: In its comments on a draft of our report, the department concurred with our recommendation. Subsequent to the department informing us that it has taken action to implement the recommendation, we will follow up.

    Recommendation: To improve federal agencies' efforts to rationalize their portfolio of applications, the heads of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; and heads of the Environmental Protection Agency; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Science Foundation; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Office of Personnel Management; Small Business Administration; Social Security Administration; and U.S. Agency for International Development should direct their Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and other responsible officials to improve their inventories by taking steps to fully address the practices we identified as being partially met or not met.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: In its comments on a draft of our report, the department concurred with our recommendation. Subsequent to the department informing us that it has taken action to implement the recommendation, we will follow up.

    Recommendation: To improve federal agencies' efforts to rationalize their portfolio of applications, the heads of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; and heads of the Environmental Protection Agency; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Science Foundation; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Office of Personnel Management; Small Business Administration; Social Security Administration; and U.S. Agency for International Development should direct their Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and other responsible officials to improve their inventories by taking steps to fully address the practices we identified as being partially met or not met.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  6. Status: Open

    Comments: In its comments on a draft of our report, the department concurred with our recommendation. Subsequent to the department informing us that it has taken action to implement the recommendation, we will follow up.

    Recommendation: To improve federal agencies' efforts to rationalize their portfolio of applications, the heads of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; and heads of the Environmental Protection Agency; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Science Foundation; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Office of Personnel Management; Small Business Administration; Social Security Administration; and U.S. Agency for International Development should direct their Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and other responsible officials to improve their inventories by taking steps to fully address the practices we identified as being partially met or not met.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  7. Status: Open

    Comments: In its comments on a draft of our report, the department concurred with our recommendation. Subsequent to the department informing us that it has taken action to implement the recommendation, we will follow up.

    Recommendation: To improve federal agencies' efforts to rationalize their portfolio of applications, the heads of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; and heads of the Environmental Protection Agency; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Science Foundation; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Office of Personnel Management; Small Business Administration; Social Security Administration; and U.S. Agency for International Development should direct their Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and other responsible officials to improve their inventories by taking steps to fully address the practices we identified as being partially met or not met.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  8. Status: Open

    Comments: In its comments on a draft of our report, SSA agreed with our recommendation. Subsequent to SSA informing us that it has taken action to implement the recommendation, we will follow up.

    Recommendation: To improve federal agencies' efforts to rationalize their portfolio of applications, the heads of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; and heads of the Environmental Protection Agency; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Science Foundation; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Office of Personnel Management; Small Business Administration; Social Security Administration; and U.S. Agency for International Development should direct their Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and other responsible officials to improve their inventories by taking steps to fully address the practices we identified as being partially met or not met.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

  9. Status: Open

    Comments: We plan to follow up on the department's actions to implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve federal agencies' efforts to rationalize their portfolio of applications, the heads of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; and heads of the Environmental Protection Agency; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Science Foundation; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Office of Personnel Management; Small Business Administration; Social Security Administration; and U.S. Agency for International Development should direct their Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and other responsible officials to improve their inventories by taking steps to fully address the practices we identified as being partially met or not met.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  10. Status: Open

    Comments: In its comments on a draft of our report, the department concurred with our recommendation. Subsequent to the department informing us that it has taken action to implement the recommendation, we will follow up.

    Recommendation: To improve federal agencies' efforts to rationalize their portfolio of applications, the heads of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; and heads of the Environmental Protection Agency; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Science Foundation; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Office of Personnel Management; Small Business Administration; Social Security Administration; and U.S. Agency for International Development should direct their Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and other responsible officials to improve their inventories by taking steps to fully address the practices we identified as being partially met or not met.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  11. Status: Open

    Comments: In its comments on a draft of our report, the department concurred with our recommendation. Subsequent to the department informing us that it has taken action to implement the recommendation, we will follow up.

    Recommendation: To improve federal agencies' efforts to rationalize their portfolio of applications, the heads of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; and heads of the Environmental Protection Agency; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Science Foundation; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Office of Personnel Management; Small Business Administration; Social Security Administration; and U.S. Agency for International Development should direct their Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and other responsible officials to improve their inventories by taking steps to fully address the practices we identified as being partially met or not met.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  12. Status: Open

    Comments: The department said it had no comments on our draft report and recommendation. We plan to follow up.

    Recommendation: To improve federal agencies' efforts to rationalize their portfolio of applications, the heads of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; and heads of the Environmental Protection Agency; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Science Foundation; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Office of Personnel Management; Small Business Administration; Social Security Administration; and U.S. Agency for International Development should direct their Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and other responsible officials to improve their inventories by taking steps to fully address the practices we identified as being partially met or not met.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury

  13. Status: Open

    Comments: In its comments on a draft of our report, the department concurred with our recommendation. Subsequent to the department informing us that it has taken action to implement the recommendation, we will follow up.

    Recommendation: To improve federal agencies' efforts to rationalize their portfolio of applications, the heads of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; and heads of the Environmental Protection Agency; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Science Foundation; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Office of Personnel Management; Small Business Administration; Social Security Administration; and U.S. Agency for International Development should direct their Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and other responsible officials to improve their inventories by taking steps to fully address the practices we identified as being partially met or not met.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  14. Status: Open

    Comments: In its comments on a draft of our report, the department concurred with our recommendation. Subsequent to the department informing us that it has taken action to implement the recommendation, we will follow up.

    Recommendation: To improve federal agencies' efforts to rationalize their portfolio of applications, the heads of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; and heads of the Environmental Protection Agency; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Science Foundation; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Office of Personnel Management; Small Business Administration; Social Security Administration; and U.S. Agency for International Development should direct their Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and other responsible officials to improve their inventories by taking steps to fully address the practices we identified as being partially met or not met.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  15. Status: Open

    Comments: In its comments on a draft of our report, EPA generally agreed with our recommendation. Subsequent to EPA informing us that it has taken action to implement the recommendation, we will follow up.

    Recommendation: To improve federal agencies' efforts to rationalize their portfolio of applications, the heads of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; and heads of the Environmental Protection Agency; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Science Foundation; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Office of Personnel Management; Small Business Administration; Social Security Administration; and U.S. Agency for International Development should direct their Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and other responsible officials to improve their inventories by taking steps to fully address the practices we identified as being partially met or not met.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  16. Status: Open

    Comments: In its comments on a draft of our report, NASA concurred with our recommendation. Subsequent to NASA informing us that it has taken action to implement the recommendation, we will follow up.

    Recommendation: To improve federal agencies' efforts to rationalize their portfolio of applications, the heads of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; and heads of the Environmental Protection Agency; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Science Foundation; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Office of Personnel Management; Small Business Administration; Social Security Administration; and U.S. Agency for International Development should direct their Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and other responsible officials to improve their inventories by taking steps to fully address the practices we identified as being partially met or not met.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  17. Status: Open

    Comments: NSF stated that it had no comments on our draft report and recommendation. We will plan to follow up.

    Recommendation: To improve federal agencies' efforts to rationalize their portfolio of applications, the heads of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; and heads of the Environmental Protection Agency; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Science Foundation; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Office of Personnel Management; Small Business Administration; Social Security Administration; and U.S. Agency for International Development should direct their Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and other responsible officials to improve their inventories by taking steps to fully address the practices we identified as being partially met or not met.

    Agency Affected: National Science Foundation

  18. Status: Open

    Comments: In comments on a draft of our report, SBA said the report captures its current posture. We plan to follow up.

    Recommendation: To improve federal agencies' efforts to rationalize their portfolio of applications, the heads of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; and heads of the Environmental Protection Agency; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Science Foundation; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Office of Personnel Management; Small Business Administration; Social Security Administration; and U.S. Agency for International Development should direct their Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and other responsible officials to improve their inventories by taking steps to fully address the practices we identified as being partially met or not met.

    Agency Affected: Small Business Administration

  19. Status: Open

    Comments: In comments on a draft of our report, NRC stated that it generally agreed with the report. We plan to follow up.

    Recommendation: To improve federal agencies' efforts to rationalize their portfolio of applications, the heads of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; and heads of the Environmental Protection Agency; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Science Foundation; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Office of Personnel Management; Small Business Administration; Social Security Administration; and U.S. Agency for International Development should direct their Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and other responsible officials to improve their inventories by taking steps to fully address the practices we identified as being partially met or not met.

    Agency Affected: Nuclear Regulatory Commission

  20. Status: Open

    Comments: In its comments on a draft of our report, OPM concurred with our recommendation. Subsequent to OPM informing us that it has taken action to implement the recommendation, we will follow up.

    Recommendation: To improve federal agencies' efforts to rationalize their portfolio of applications, the heads of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, the Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, the Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; and heads of the Environmental Protection Agency; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Science Foundation; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Office of Personnel Management; Small Business Administration; Social Security Administration; and U.S. Agency for International Development should direct their Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and other responsible officials to improve their inventories by taking steps to fully address the practices we identified as being partially met or not met.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  21. Status: Open

    Comments: In comments on a draft of our report, the department disagreed with our recommendation. We plan to follow up.

    Recommendation: To improve federal agencies' efforts to rationalize their portfolio of applications, the Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, the Interior, and Labor; and the Director of the National Science Foundation should direct the CIOs and other responsible officials to modify existing investment management processes to address applications more completely. Specifically, the Secretary of Defense should direct the responsible official to modify the department's existing processes to collect and review cost, technical, and business information for the enterprise and business IT systems within the Enterprise Information Environment Mission Area applications which are currently not reviewed as part of the department's process for business systems.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  22. Status: Open

    Comments: In its comments on a draft of our report, the department concurred with our recommendation. Subsequent to the department informing us that it has taken action to implement the recommendation, we will follow up.

    Recommendation: To improve federal agencies' efforts to rationalize their portfolio of applications, the Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, the Interior, and Labor; and the Director of the National Science Foundation should direct the CIOs and other responsible officials to modify existing investment management processes to address applications more completely. Specifically, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the department's CIO to identify one high-cost function it could collect detailed cost, technical, and business information for and modify existing processes to collect and review this information.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security

  23. Status: Open

    Comments: We plan to follow up on the department's actions to implement this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To improve federal agencies' efforts to rationalize their portfolio of applications, the Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, the Interior, and Labor; and the Director of the National Science Foundation should direct the CIOs and other responsible officials to modify existing investment management processes to address applications more completely. Specifically, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the department's CIO to document and implement a plan for establishing policy that would define a standard analytical technique for rationalizing the investment portfolio.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  24. Status: Open

    Comments: In its comments on a draft of our report, the department concurred with our recommendation. Subsequent to the department informing us that it has taken action to implement the recommendation, we will follow up.

    Recommendation: To improve federal agencies' efforts to rationalize their portfolio of applications, the Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, the Interior, and Labor; and the Director of the National Science Foundation should direct the CIOs and other responsible officials to modify existing investment management processes to address applications more completely. Specifically, the Secretary of Labor should direct the department's CIO to consider a segmented approach to further rationalize and identify a function for which it would modify existing processes to collect and review application-specific cost, technical, and business value information.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  25. Status: Open

    Comments: NSF stated that it had no comments on our draft report and recommendation. We will plan to follow up.

    Recommendation: To improve federal agencies' efforts to rationalize their portfolio of applications, the Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, the Interior, and Labor; and the Director of the National Science Foundation should direct the CIOs and other responsible officials to modify existing investment management processes to address applications more completely. Specifically, the Director of the National Science Foundation should direct the CIO to consistently document evaluations for all applications and report cost information for them in the roadmap or other documentation.

    Agency Affected: National Science Foundation

 

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