IT Acquisitions and Operations - High Risk Issue
The federal government invests billions of dollars annually on information technology (IT)â€”and better management techniques and oversight can help these investments perform more effectively.
The federal government plans to invest more than $90 billion on IT in fiscal year 2019. But historically, these investments have frequently been delayed, gone over budget, or failed to contribute to their missions. In light of these challenges, GAO added improving the management of IT acquisitions and operations to its list of high risk areas for the federal government in 2015.
Purchasing New IT Systems
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and other federal agencies have several key initiatives under way to address the governmentâ€™s poor track record of implementing new IT systems. However, implementation of these initiatives has been inconsistent.
- The role of the CIO. Both IT acquisition reform law and OMBâ€™s guidance address how federal agencies should enhance the authority of agency chief information officers (CIOs). However, none of the 24 major federal agencies have IT management policies that fully address the role of their CIOs.
Extent to Which Agency Policies Address the Role of the Chief Information Officer
- Incremental development. Federal law requires that covered agency CIOs certify that their IT investments are implementing incremental development. Further, OMB has issued guidance on developing IT investments in increments to reduce risk and more quickly increase capabilities. But, while a majority of covered agencies have improved their ability to deliver IT incrementally, most still lack the required policies needed to ensure that their CIO completes this certification.
- IT contracting. The Presidentâ€™s Management Agenda identifies improving the transparency of IT spending as a priority. However, many federal agencies have not identified all of their obligations for IT contracts in their procurement systemsâ€”resulting in an excess of $4.5 billion in obligations for IT contracts beyond those reported by the agencies. Additionally, a majority of selected agency CIOs have not reviewed and approved IT acquisitions as required.
Agency IT-related Contract Obligations
Maintaining Existing IT Systems
Federal agencies have reported using some IT systems with components that are at least 50 years old, and few have concrete plans to modernize or replace these systems. This lack of specific plans could result in unplanned and wasteful spending.
Federal agencies have also faced issues managing their software licenses. While most agencies now have comprehensive software license policies or inventories, a lack of comprehensive oversight of software license spending may lead to agencies missing out on potential savings, such as through consolidating enterprise license agreements. Two initiatives can help agencies better manage their existing IT systems:
- Portfolio reviews. Pursuant to OMBâ€™s PortfolioStat initiative, federal agencies conduct an annual, agency-wide IT portfolio review to help reduce spending on common IT purchases (like e-mail systems or computers). This could save billions of dollarsâ€”if OMB and agencies can resolve some implementation challenges with this initiative.
- Consolidating and optimizing data centers. OMB launched a consolidation initiative in 2010 to help reduce the growing number of data centers, and to optimize the performance of the remaining centers. While federal agencies have reported closing almost 6,000 of the more than 12,000 federal data centers (and saving $4.7 billion in the process), the efficiency of the remaining data centers still needs to be improved.
GAO-19-49: Published: Nov 13, 2018. Publicly Released: Nov 13, 2018.
The departments GAO reviewedâ€”the Departments of Energy (DOE), Health and Human Services (HHS), Justice (DOJ), and the Treasury (Treasury)â€”took steps to establish policies and procedures that align with eight selected Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requirements intended to implement information technology (IT) acquisition reform legislation (commonly referred to as the Federal Informatio...
GAO-18-93: Published: Aug 2, 2018. Publicly Released: Aug 2, 2018.
None of the 24 agencies have policies that fully addressed the role of their Chief Information Officers (CIO) consistent with federal laws and guidance. In addition, the majority of the agencies did not fully address the role of their CIOs for any of the six key areas that GAO identified (see figure 1).Figure 1: Extent to Which 24 Agencies' Policies Addressed the Role of Their Chief Information Of...
GAO-18-264: Published: May 23, 2018. Publicly Released: May 23, 2018.
The 24 agencies participating in the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) reported mixed progress toward achieving OMB's goals for closing data centers by September 2018. Over half of the agencies reported that they had either already met, or planned to meet, all of their OMB-assigned goals by the deadline. This would result in the closure of 7,221 of...
GAO-18-42: Published: Jan 10, 2018. Publicly Released: Jan 10, 2018.
Most of the 22 selected agencies did not identify all of their information technology (IT) contracts. The selected agencies identified 78,249 IT-related contracts, to which they obligated $14.7 billion in fiscal year 2016. However, GAO identified 31,493 additional contracts with $4.5 billion obligated, raising the total amount obligated to IT contracts in fiscal year 2016 to at least $19.2 billion...
GAO-18-51: Published: Nov 21, 2017. Publicly Released: Nov 21, 2017.
The Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Office of E-Government and Information Technology (E-Gov) reported that it undertook a structured approach to identify the top 10 high priority IT programs in reports to Congress in June 2015 and June 2016. Specifically, OMB staff stated that they chose the top 10 programs from a longer list of agency programs requiring additional oversight (referred to...
GAO-18-148: Published: Nov 7, 2017. Publicly Released: Nov 7, 2017.
Agencies reported that 62 percent of major information technology (IT) software development investments were certified by the agency Chief Information Officer (CIO) for implementing adequate incremental development in fiscal year 2017, as required by the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) as of August 2016. However, a number of responses for the remaining investments were incorrectly repor...
GAO-17-251SP: Published: Apr 11, 2017. Publicly Released: Apr 11, 2017.
What the Participants SaidForum participants discussed the challenges and opportunities for Chief Information Officers (CIO) to improve information technology (IT) acquisitions and operations--with the goal of better informing policymakers and government leadership. They identified key actions related to the following topics: strengthening the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act...