The Federal Information Processing Standards Program:

Many Potential Benefits, Little Progress, and Many Problems

FGMSD-78-23: Published: Apr 19, 1978. Publicly Released: Apr 19, 1978.

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The Brooks Act called for a Federal automatic data processing (ADP) standards program that would permit the interchange of computer equipment, software, and data. It was also intended to stimulate competition by permitting Federal agencies to procure their ADP requirements from numerous vendors offering low-cost compatible products.

Some standards have been developed, but agencies are not fully using them; and some standards do not yet exist. As a result, many Federal agencies have become locked into suppliers of computers and related services. Government has depended too much on the commercial sector to develop standards, and manufacturers sometimes delay the development of commercial standards. The Department of Commerce's budget requests do not provide meaningful information on the scope and direction of the program. Standards development has suffered from a lack of funds allocated for this purpose, inadequate resource management, and the lack of an effective staff devoted to the program. Weaknesses in the program also result from vague enforcement policies and the lack of procedures to verify compliance.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The President should give one agency the central authority for insuring compliance with ADP standards. The Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) should issue policy guidance to this and other agencies citing the importance and relative priority of standards, requiring establishment of policies and procedures for implementing standards, insuring Federal participation in developing standards, and citing circumstances in which the agency should develop standards independently. Guidance to the single agency should give direction on approving requests to waive compliance, providing information on compliance, determining if Federal standards are met by vendors, and insuring that agencies acquire products which comply with standards. Using OMB guidance, the Secretary of Commerce should establish procedures for justifying, setting priorities, and monitoring the development of standards; commit more resources to their development; coordinate agency participation; and unilaterally develop and issue standards when the commercial process is not timely. He should also establish a budget and cost-reporting system that gives information on its efforts in the program and submit to GAO for approval an updated design of an accounting system which identifies funds spent on these efforts.

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