Information Technology:

Agencies Need to Involve Chief Information Officers in Reviewing Billions of Dollars in Acquisitions

GAO-18-42: Published: Jan 10, 2018. Publicly Released: Jan 10, 2018.

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What GAO Found

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 (see figure).The percentage of additional IT contract obligations GAO identified varied among the selected agencies. For example, the Department of State did not identify 1 percent of its IT contract obligations. Conversely, 8 agencies did not identify over 40 percent of their IT-related contract obligations.

Figure: Agency- and GAO-Identified Approximate Dollars Obligated to Fiscal Year 2016 Information Technology (IT) Contracts at the 22 Selected Agencies

Figure: Agency- and GAO-Identified Approximate Dollars Obligated to Fiscal Year 2016 Information Technology (IT) Contracts at the 22 Selected Agencies

Note: Due to rounding, the totals may not equal the sum of component obligation amounts.

Many of the selected agencies that did not identify these IT acquisitions did not follow Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) guidance. Specifically, 14 of the 22 agencies did not involve the acquisition office in their process to identify IT acquisitions for Chief Information Officer (CIO) review, as required by OMB. In addition, 7 agencies did not establish guidance to aid officials in recognizing IT. Until agencies involve the acquisitions office in their IT identification processes and establish supporting guidance, they cannot ensure that they will identify all IT acquisitions. Without proper identification of IT acquisitions, agencies and CIOs cannot effectively provide oversight of these acquisitions.

In addition to not identifying all IT contracts, 14 of the 22 selected agencies did not fully satisfy OMB's requirement that the CIO review and approve IT acquisition plans or strategies. Further, only 11 of 96 randomly selected IT contracts at 10 agencies that GAO evaluated were CIO-reviewed and approved as required by OMB's guidance. The 85 IT contracts not reviewed had a total possible value of approximately $23.8 billion. Until agencies ensure that CIOs review and approve IT acquisitions, CIOs will continue to have limited visibility and input into their agencies' planned IT expenditures and will not be able to use the increased authority that FITARA's contract approval provision is intended to provide. Further, agencies will likely miss an opportunity to strengthen CIOs' authority and the oversight of IT acquisitions. As a result, agencies may award IT contracts that are duplicative, wasteful, or poorly conceived.

Why GAO Did This Study

The federal government invested more than $90 billion on IT in fiscal year 2016. However, prior IT expenditures have produced failed projects. Recognizing the severity of issues, in December 2014 Congress enacted IT acquisition reform legislation (referred to as the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, or FITARA). Among other things, OMB's FITARA implementation guidance requires covered agencies' chief acquisition officers to identify IT contracts for the CIOs to review and approve.

GAO's objectives were to determine the extent to which (1) federal agencies identify IT contracts and how much is invested in them, and (2) federal agency CIOs are reviewing and approving IT acquisitions. To do so, GAO reviewed data on IT contracts from fiscal year 2016 at 22 agencies and compared agency actions to law and OMB guidance.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making 39 recommendations, including that agencies ensure that acquisition offices are involved in identifying IT and issue related guidance; and to ensure IT acquisitions are reviewed according to OMB guidance. OMB and 20 agencies generally agreed with or did not comment on the recommendations. One agency agreed with one recommendation, but disagreed with another. GAO believes this recommendation is warranted. One agency disagreed with two recommendations. GAO subsequently removed one of these, but believes the other recommendation is warranted, as discussed in the report.

For more information, contact David A. Powner at (202) 512-9286 or pownerd@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the office of the chief acquisition officer (CAO) is involved in the process to identify IT acquisitions. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the CAO and CIO to issue specific guidance to ensure IT-related acquisitions are properly identified. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that IT acquisition plans or strategies are reviewed and approved according to OMB's guidance. (Recommendation 3)

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should ensure that the office of the CAO is involved in the process to identify IT acquisitions. (Recommendation 4)

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should ensure that IT acquisition plans or strategies are reviewed and approved according to OMB's guidance. (Recommendation 5)

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  6. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should ensure that the office of the CAO is involved in the process to identify IT acquisitions. (Recommendation 6)

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

  7. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should ensure that IT acquisition plans or strategies are reviewed and approved according to OMB's guidance. (Recommendation 7)

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

  8. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should direct the CAO and CIO to issue specific guidance to ensure IT-related acquisitions are properly identified. (Recommendation 8)

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  9. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should ensure that IT acquisition plans or strategies are reviewed and approved according to OMB's guidance. (Recommendation 9)

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  10. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of HHS should ensure that IT acquisition plans or strategies are reviewed and approved according to OMB's guidance. (Recommendation 10)

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  11. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should ensure that the office of the CAO is involved in the process to identify IT acquisitions. (Recommendation 11)

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  12. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should ensure that IT acquisition plans or strategies are reviewed and approved according to OMB's guidance. (Recommendation 12)

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  13. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should ensure that the office of the CAO is involved in the process to identify IT acquisitions. (Recommendation 13)

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  14. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Interior should direct the CAO and CIO to finalize and issue guidance on identifying IT acquisitions in order to ensure the CIO review and approval of those acquisitions. (Recommendation 14)

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  15. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should ensure that IT acquisition plans or strategies are reviewed and approved according to OMB's guidance. (Recommendation 15)

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  16. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the senior procurement executive and CIO to issue specific guidance to ensure IT-related acquisitions are properly identified. (Recommendation 16)

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  17. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should ensure that IT acquisition plans or strategies are reviewed and approved according to OMB's guidance. (Recommendation 17)

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  18. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should ensure that the office of the CAO is involved in the process to identify IT acquisitions. (Recommendation 18)

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  19. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should direct the CAO and CIO to issue specific guidance to ensure IT-related acquisitions are properly identified. (Recommendation 19)

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  20. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should ensure that IT acquisition plans or strategies are reviewed and approved according to OMB's guidance. (Recommendation 20)

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  21. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should ensure that the office of the CAO is involved in the process to identify IT acquisitions. (Recommendation 21)

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  22. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should ensure that IT acquisition plans or strategies are reviewed and approved according to OMB's guidance. (Recommendation 22)

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  23. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Treasury should ensure that IT acquisition plans or strategies are reviewed and approved according to OMB's guidance. (Recommendation 23)

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury

  24. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should ensure that the office of the CAO is involved in the process to identify IT acquisitions. (Recommendation 24)

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  25. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the CAO and CIO to issue specific guidance to ensure IT-related acquisitions are properly identified. (Recommendation 25)

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  26. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should ensure that IT acquisition plans or strategies are reviewed and approved according to OMB's guidance. (Recommendation 26)

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  27. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) should ensure that the office of the CAO is involved in the process to identify IT acquisitions. (Recommendation 27)

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  28. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of VA should ensure that IT acquisition plans or strategies are reviewed and approved according to OMB's guidance. (Recommendation 28)

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  29. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency should ensure that the office of the CAO is involved in the process to identify IT acquisitions. (Recommendation 29)

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  30. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) should ensure that the office of the CAO is involved in the process to identify IT acquisitions. (Recommendation 30)

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  31. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of NASA should direct the CAO and CIO to issue specific guidance to ensure IT-related acquisitions are properly identified. (Recommendation 31)

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  32. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of NASA should ensure that IT acquisition plans or strategies are reviewed and approved according to OMB's guidance. (Recommendation 32)

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  33. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should ensure that the office of the senior procurement executive is involved in the process to identify IT acquisitions. (Recommendation 33)

    Agency Affected: Nuclear Regulatory Commission

  34. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Office of Personnel Management should ensure that IT acquisition plans or strategies are reviewed and approved according to OMB's guidance. (Recommendation 34)

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  35. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of the Small Business Administration should ensure that the office of the senior procurement executive is involved in the process to identify IT acquisitions. (Recommendation 35)

    Agency Affected: Small Business Administration

  36. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) should ensure that the office of the senior procurement executive is involved in the process to identify IT acquisitions. (Recommendation 36)

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

  37. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of SSA should direct the senior procurement executive and CIO to issue specific guidance to ensure IT-related acquisitions are properly identified. (Recommendation 37)

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

  38. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of SSA should ensure that IT acquisition plans or strategies are reviewed and approved according to OMB's guidance. (Recommendation 38)

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

  39. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development should ensure that IT acquisition plans or strategies are reviewed and approved according to OMB's guidance. (Recommendation 39)

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

 

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