Review of a Computer Hardware Acquisition for NOAA in Boulder, Colorado

AFMD-81-92: Published: Sep 25, 1981. Publicly Released: Oct 26, 1981.

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GAO reviewed the computer hardware procurement history of the Environmental Research Laboratories (ERL) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The review addressed the following: (1) whether ERL was following a pattern of noncompetitive acquisitions; (2) the justification for the recent computer hardware acquisition for the Boulder computer center; (3) the management of the Boulder computer center; (4) a bid protest by a third party maintenance vendor; and (5) ERL planning for fiscal year 1982 competitive procurement.

GAO found that the Boulder computer center is not following a pattern of noncompetitive acquisitions. The recent sole-source procurement of computer hardware appears to be justified as an interim bridge to a fully competitive procurement in 1982. Although the interim computer hardware is currently underutilized, applicable procurement regulations were followed in justifying the interim procurement. The justification data do not appear to have been manipulated, nor does the Boulder computer center appear to be mismanaged. Since early 1980, the current computer center management has taken a number of positive steps to improve the center's operations including: better control of operational procedures through daily operational review meetings, acting to foster future competition by moving the computer center to standard off-the-shelf system software, and improving user utilization of the computer system by establishing user-oriented training courses. A bid protest was rejected by the Department of Commerce, and the company chose not to pursue the protest further with GAO. GAO has serious concerns about the adequacy of ERL planning for their future computer resource needs since ERL computer requirements have not been properly determined and ERL laboratories, which lack automatic data processing planning expertise, were given the task of determining their future computing requirements with only minimal guidance. Consequently, ERL developed its requirements with emphasis on workload and hardware rather than user requirements.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status:

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: The House Committee on Government Operations may wish to consider requesting the Department of Commerce to defer procurement actions until GAO has reviewed the adequacy of the Environmental Research Laboratories' computer resources management plan.


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