Geographic Information System:

Forest Service Not Ready to Acquire Nationwide System

IMTEC-90-31: Published: Jun 21, 1990. Publicly Released: Jun 21, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO assessed the Forest Service's plans to acquire a $1.2-billion computer-based geographic information system (GIS) for its field sites nationwide.

GAO found that the Service: (1) was not ready to procure GIS nationwide; (2) did not analyze a full range of alternatives or adequately analyze alternatives for integrating GIS into its operations; (3) made assumptions that limited the alternatives it considered, and did not analyze the organizational impact of the alternatives; (4) did not estimate the dollar value of specific benefits it expected to achieve from GIS; and (5) did not adequately define its information and system performance needs. GAO believes that there is an increased and unnecessary risk that GIS will not result in a cost-effective system.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Forest Service revised its feasibility and benefit/cost analyses with the assistance of MITRE Corp. and has satisfactorily addressed GAO concerns in these areas. In particular, the Service has: (1) assessed the feasibility of selective placement of GIS technology; and (2) shown that the cost of the acquisition is less than the cost it would incur to meet congressional and judicial mandates.

    Recommendation: In order to reduce the risk that GIS may not satisfy mission needs, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief, Forest Service, to evaluate the feasibility, costs, benefits, and organizational impact of alternatives, including selective placement of GIS capabilities and associated analytical resources, to achieve mission-based objectives. The Service should demonstrate that the benefits of the selected alternative exceed projected costs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Forest Service has satisfactorily revised its functional requirements analysis to address GAO concerns about the lack of data and performance requirements. The Service also revised this analysis and its draft request for proposals to avoid specifying an unnecessarily restrictive technical solution to its needs.

    Recommendation: In order to reduce the risk that GIS may not satisfy mission needs, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief, Forest Service, to develop a more comprehensive functional requirements analysis that includes sources, flow, timing, accuracy levels, validation, and performance requirements for processing a complete range of data that include planned as well as existing data sources.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

 

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