Information Management:

Leadership Needed in Managing Federal Telecommunications

IMTEC-87-9: Published: May 6, 1987. Publicly Released: May 26, 1987.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Jack L. Brock, Jr
(202) 512-4841
contact@gao.gov

 

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

In response to a congressional request, GAO examined whether the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the General Services Administration (GSA) are providing the necessary leadership and making sound decisions for managing the federal government's telecommunications.

GAO noted that OMB is required to develop, in consultation with GSA, a 5-year plan for meeting the federal government's telecommunications needs, but the agencies have not: (1) collected adequate information on agency requirements for various telecommunications services; (2) derived appropriate methodologies for evaluating governmentwide costs; (3) made decisions as to which services should be provided centrally; and (4) identified the need for specific technical standards. GAO found that the absence of meaningful governmentwide planning has: (1) left the government open to the risk of serious problems in developing and replacing telecommunications systems; and (2) made it impossible to determine whether the government is meeting overall telecommunications objectives. In addition, GAO found that: (1) GSA did not support important procurement decisions with meaningful analyses; (2) a GSA analysis of alternatives to replacing the existing Federal Telecommunications System (FTS) lacked credibility; (3) GSA awarded a contract for a more extensive analysis of FTS replacement alternatives, including a cost-benefit analysis of principal alternatives; (4) GSA did not consider the sharing of telecommunications systems when it reviewed agencies' requests for authority to acquire their own systems; and (5) the government would have saved an estimated $16 million over a 10-year period if GSA had approved shared, rather than individual, systems in three locations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Since the report was issued, GSA awarded the FTS 2000 contract and Congress has made its use mandatory for all federal activities subject to the Brooks Act. In addition, Congress directed GSA to form an FTS 2000 Inter-Agency Management Council and required this Council to perform a study of government network requirements through the year 2000.

    Recommendation: In order to provide a framework for decisionmaking, to define agency telecommunications needs, to decide which services should be provided centrally by GSA and which services should be provided by the agencies, and to establish responsibilities between the central managers and the individual agencies, OMB and GSA should jointly develop, document, and implement a comprehensive plan for meeting governmentwide telecommunications needs. This plan should: (1) be developed using the guidance OMB and GSA prescribed for the agencies in the 5-year automatic data processing/telecommunications plan, but should be applied to the central management level; (2) be based on appropriate analyses that are necessary for making decisions on how agencies' needs will be met; and (3) include established economic and noneconomic criteria. OMB and GSA should establish a process to gather critical information so that they, as central managers, can make informed decisions on these issues.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On December 7, 1988, GSA awarded the FTS 2000 contract to two vendors. Since that time, GSA has developed criteria for determining which agency inter-city telecommunications needs can be met by FTS 2000 and which should be met through alternate means. GSA is using this criteria to review agency requests to procure telecommunications systems.

    Recommendation: Until OMB and GSA complete the framework document regarding which services should be provided centrally by GSA and which services should be provided by the agencies themselves, the Administrator of General Services should: (1) not approve agency purchases of individual systems when the agencies were originally intended to be served by the Washington Interagency Telecommunications System (WITS); (2) recall approvals already issued to agencies originally intended to be served by WITS when their requests for proposals for individual telecommunications systems have not yet been issued; and (3) not award a contract for FTS 2000.

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

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On December 28, 1990, GSA issued new regulations covering the life cycle of federal information processing resources, including requirements for the analysis of alternatives. Also, GSA published a Handbook for Life-Cycle Management of Telecommunications Systems in February 1987, and a guide on alternatives analysis in January 1990.

    Recommendation: To enhance agency decisionmaking on telecommunications that would best satisfy needs and objectives, OMB and GSA should establish an explicit, uniform methodology for comparing alternatives. The methodology should describe the essential cost elements and the procedures for conducting analyses, and should be enforced by OMB in its budget process, and GSA in its review process.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OMB believes that the general guidance contained in OMB Circular A-11 is sufficient. It does not believe that it would be useful to prescribe one detailed, uniformed methodology. In addition, according to OMB, other federal agencies have already developed such guidance. However, OMB does recognize the need for additional guidance on certain aspects of cost/benefit analyses.

    Recommendation: To enhance agency decisionmaking on telecommunications that would best satisfy needs and objectives, OMB and GSA should establish an explicit, uniform methodology for comparing alternatives. The methodology should describe the essential cost elements and the procedures for conducting analyses, and should be enforced by OMB in its budget process, and GSA in its review process.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On December 28, 1990, GSA issued its revised Federal Information Resources Management Regulations. These regulations require agencies to consider using telecommunications resources on a shared basis to satisfy requirements. GSA issued a guide on alternatives analysis and plans to monitor sharing through its reviews of agency delegation requests.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, should work with the Administrator of General Services, to establish and systematically implement a policy requiring agencies to share their proposed telecommunications systems when GSA determines, through a cost and technical analysis, that sharing best achieves service requirements, efficiency, and the least overall cost to the government. This policy should be incorporated in the GSA Federal Information Resources Management Regulations and in internal procedures.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  6. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: OMB Circular A-130 already contains a policy statement that agencies should: (1) share information technology facilities with users from other agencies to the maximum extent possible; and (2) not unnecessarily duplicate systems available in the government or private sector. OMB believes that this is sufficient and plans no further action.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, should work with the Administrator of General Services, to establish and systematically implement a policy requiring agencies to share their proposed telecommunications systems when GSA determines, through a cost and technical analysis, that sharing best achieves service requirements, efficiency, and the least overall cost to the government. This policy should be incorporated in the GSA Federal Information Resources Management Regulations and in internal procedures.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  7. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: GSA proposed changes to its regulations requiring agencies to consider sharing other agencies' existing facilities before requesting an authorization for exclusive-use service or facilities. The regulations have yet to be issued in final form as of June 1990. GSA issued a guide on alternatives analysis and plans to monitor sharing through its reviews of agency delegation requests.

    Recommendation: To implement the policy concerning shared telecommunications systems, the Administrator of General Services should direct the Information Resources Management Service to ensure that information identifying which agencies might share systems is acquired and used.

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

  8. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: GSA proposed changes to its regulations requiring agencies to consider sharing other agencies' existing facilities before requesting an authorization for exclusive-use service or facilities. The regulations have yet to be issued in final form as of June 1990. GSA issued a guide on alternatives analysis and plans to monitor sharing through its reviews of agency delegation requests.

    Recommendation: To implement the policy concerning shared telecommunications systems, the Administrator of General Services should direct the Information Resources Management Service to obtain additional information where the potential for sharing exists between the requesting agency and other agencies. This information should include: (1) which telecommunications requirements of these agencies can be met by a new, shared system; (2) the costs of existing services for all agencies involved and estimated costs for the requesting agency's proposed system; (3) physical requirements for the private branch exchange; and (4) how long the agencies will occupy their current locations.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA officials believed that the redirection of FTS 2000 by the congressional committees negates the need for developing a comprehensive telecommunications plan. The study of information network requirements required under P.L. 100-202 was completed in July 1989. Meanwhile, GSA is proceeding with the implementation of its local (WITS) and long-distance (FTS 2000) telecommunications programs.

    Recommendation: In order to provide a framework for decisionmaking, to define agency telecommunications needs, to decide which services should be provided centrally by GSA and which services should be provided by the agencies, and to establish responsibilities between the central managers and the individual agencies, OMB and GSA should jointly develop, document, and implement a comprehensive plan for meeting governmentwide telecommunications needs. This plan should: (1) be developed using the guidance OMB and GSA prescribed for the agencies in the 5-year automatic data processing/telecommunications plan, but should be applied to the central management level; (2) be based on appropriate analyses that are necessary for making decisions on how agencies' needs will be met; and (3) include established economic and noneconomic criteria. OMB and GSA should establish a process to gather critical information so that they, as central managers, can make informed decisions on these issues.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  10. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: GSA proposed changes to its regulations requiring agencies to consider sharing other agencies' existing facilities before requesting an authorization for exclusive-use service or facilities. The regulations have yet to be issued in final form as of June 1990. GSA issued a guide on alternatives analysis and plans to monitor sharing through its reviews of agency delegation requests.

    Recommendation: To implement the policy concerning shared telecommunications systems, the Administrator of General Services should direct the Information Resources Management Service to mandate an evaluation and cost comparison when GSA determines that a shared system is feasible. In this evaluation, GSA should clarify the alternatives to the government, including agencies' claims of adverse impacts from sharing, and the most sensible alternative from a governmentwide viewpoint.

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

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Nov 19, 2014

Aug 1, 2014

Jul 23, 2014

Jul 8, 2014

Dec 5, 2013

Sep 10, 2013

Aug 22, 2013

Jun 20, 2013

Looking for more? Browse all our products here