The Senate Should Explore Other Word Processing Alternatives To Improve Cost Effectiveness and Productivity

FGMSD-80-63: Published: Jul 17, 1980. Publicly Released: Aug 4, 1980.

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A survey was undertaken of the Senate's word processing needs and the methods currently employed to meet those needs. Each year, Senators receive more than 11 million letters from their constituents. Almost 40 percent of the Senate's personnel costs, $24 million, is for staff who handle constituent mail. An additional $4 million is spent on equipment, supplies, and support services. To keep up with the flood of mail, Senator's offices use automated word processing systems. The systems used include a Correspondence Management System (CMS), stand-alone word processors, and different types of paper-display word processors.

In its survey, GAO found that: (1) correspondence production on the stand-alone system cost 34 percent less than on CMS and 38 percent less than on the other types of paper-display processors; (2) the special features of CMS which include letter assembly, production capabilities, indexing, and filing of correspondence have become an essential part of most of the correspondence systems in the Senators' offices which use CMS; (3) there has been inadequate planning for the development of the Senate network even though funds were specifically allocated for this purpose; (4) commercial network services cost 20 percent less than the Senate's current network structure which ties the Senate's computer center into a data communications network; (5) distributed-logic systems offer the same letter assembly and production capability as CMS, but even greater text editing power and flexibility; and (6) the Senate could save over $1 million per year over the next 5 years if it were to replace CMS with a distributed-logic system.

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