Status of Farmers Home Administration Efforts To Install Office Automation

IMTEC-86-1BR: Published: Oct 4, 1985. Publicly Released: Oct 4, 1985.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the tests the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) conducted on a prototype of its field office automation system to evaluate: (1) the adequacy of the tests; (2) the appropriateness, conditions, and terms of its solicitation and resulting contract; and (3) the extent to which the Kansas City Computer Center (KCCC) can handle the work load expected from the thousands of field offices.

GAO found that FmHA is accomplishing two of its three objectives, obtaining experience on its training program and making refinements to the office automation software; however, its approach to measuring selected benefits will yield little useful information because of its use of subjective measurement data. The test does not appear useful for either providing information on the adequacy of the production training program and software or the extent that the production system will improve FmHA mission performance in the system's intended environment. Since the application software was not completely developed for the prototype test, it could not be evaluated for effectiveness, efficiency, on ease of use. FmHA does not have detailed plans to obtain information to validate the anticipated benefits of the planned system; however, GAO believes that FmHA could benefit from system tests to validate training, software, and mission performance as the various system components are phased in. GAO also found that the contract for the production system: (1) does not obligate the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to procure a specified number of computers on a set schedule; (2) does not restrict USDA from modifying the contract to meet its needs; and (3) provides no recourse for nonperformance. KCCC appears to have adequate capacity to handle the field office work load until it replaces its computers; however, it needs to begin monitoring key systems components to ensure that it has the capacity to handle the field office work load.

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