Wider Use of Better Computer Software Technology Can Improve Management Control and Reduce Costs

FGMSD-80-38: Published: Apr 29, 1980. Publicly Released: Apr 29, 1980.

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Computer software is the most important part of automatic data processing (ADP) systems today. It is expensive to develop and maintain, and errors and omissions in software can seriously disrupt automated systems. Because the Federal Government spends billions of dollars annually on computer programs, GAO undertook a review to assess current practices in using software tools and techniques to maintain computer programs.

In reviewing Federal agencies' use of software tools and techniques, GAO found that many opportunities exist for greater use of software tools and techniques. Many Federal installations have not exploited the benefits of modern software tools and techniques as well as they could have. Computer specialists at many agencies were unaware of the newer, better methods; others were reluctant to change to them. Additionally, GAO found that the Federal use of software tools and techniques can be improved by providing better guidance to agencies, more emphasis on software by management, and effective Government-wide coordination and sharing of tools. However, the agencies' adoption of the newer technology should be based on a careful study of all costs and benefits. Also, unless Federal ADP management makes more use of such technology, Federal computer software will continue to cost millions more than is necessary.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The Director of the Office of Management and Budget should: (1) require heads of Federal agencies to establish software quality assurance functions in their agencies; (2) more clearly define the responsibilities of agency heads and ADP managers for the acquisition, management, and use of software tools and techniques; and (3) direct the establishment of coordinated Government-wide research and development for software tools and techniques which will include provision for disseminating information to all potential Federal users. In addition, the Administrator of General Services Administration should: (1) modify Federal procurement management regulations to incorporate actions agencies should take to improve their applications software; (2) establish a set of standard tools for solving operational problems and promoting efficiency and economy; (3) require that certain standard inspections, using software tools, be done on contractor-developed software; and (4) establish a software tools category in the Federal Software Exchange Center and provide technical aid for the sharing of tools. Moreover, the National Bureau of Standards should develop or adopt standards or guidelines for using software tools.

    Agency Affected:


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