Data Processing:

USDA Needs To Better Manage Field-Office Computer Purchases

IMTEC-87-12: Published: Feb 20, 1987. Publicly Released: Feb 20, 1987.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Howard G. Rhile, Jr
(202) 512-6418
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

In response to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the acquisition and use of field-office computer systems by the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Soil Conservation Service (SCS) and Farmers Home Administration (FmHA), focusing on: (1) whether USDA, SCS, and FmHA are pursuing the feasibility of sharing computer resources for collocated field offices; (2) whether SCS and FmHA are pursuing the feasibility of using smaller, less expensive computers than originally planned for their field offices; (3) whether SCS is employing a cost-effective approach to acquiring applications software for its field-office computers; (4) what SCS has done to show whether field-office automation will improve service to farmers and other land users; and (5) the FmHA assessment of interfacing its field-office computers with states' automated lien systems.

GAO found that: (1) SCS and FmHA are considering conducting a sharing test, but will independently acquire computers for collocated offices; (2) SCS and FmHA are considering the use of smaller, less expensive computers for field offices not located in the same city; (3) SCS could save an estimated $13.7 million by acquiring smaller computers available under the current contract; (4) FmHA determined that the smaller computers available under the current contract would not meet its needs; (5) SCS is not cost-effectively acquiring applications software for its field-office computers, since it is allowing its state offices and other units to independently develop some software that could duplicate efforts; (6) SCS plans to evaluate the impact of field-office automation on service to farmers and other land users in the spring of 1987; and (7) FmHA has not determined whether its computer systems can interface with states' automated systems to determine whether the same equipment or crops are being used as collateral for more than one loan, but will evaluate this possibility after it installs all of its field-office systems.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The acquisition of computer resources was delayed and a sharing study was conducted, which showed that sharing of computer resources was feasible for collocated SCS/FmHA offices. SCS officials estimate $8 to $10 million in procurement savings from fiscal year (FY) 1987 through FY 1990 as a result of shared equipment at collocated SCS/FmHA offices.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct that SCS and FmHA delay acquisition of additional computer systems for offices located in the same building, city, or town until the sharing study is completed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As GAO recommended, SCS deferred ordering computer systems for its noncollocated field offices requiring one-workstation. SCS pursued lower cost microcomputers and found one that would meet its needs. The one-workstation offices were equipped with smaller, less expensive microcomputers. SCS officials estimate cost savings of approximately $15 million.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct that SCS defer ordering computer systems for its field offices requiring a one-workstation system until it determines whether these offices can use smaller, less expensive microcomputers available under the contract.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: SCS issued National Instruction No. 270-301 on March 30, 1987, to reactivate the use of the Software Development Inventory System. The instruction requires all SCS offices to report all software under development, developed, or planned for inclusion in the inventory.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct that SCS review software-development efforts of its field offices and maintain a current inventory of planned and existing software applications to help ensure that duplication of software development is avoided.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: SCS developed and implemented a plan to evaluate the benefits attributable to field office automation, and conducted a pilot test in Arizona. The test indicated that automating SCS field offices reduced the time required for soil conservationists to complete their job by 30 percent. The Inspector General recommended that the test be implemented in eight additional states, and SCS agreed.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct that SCS prepare and implement a plan to evaluate the benefits attributable to field-office automation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Sep 20, 2016

Sep 6, 2016

Aug 19, 2016

Aug 12, 2016

Jul 29, 2016

Jul 28, 2016

Jul 13, 2016

Jul 11, 2016

Jun 13, 2016

Looking for more? Browse all our products here