High-Risk Series:

Information Management and Technology

HR-97-9: Published: Feb 1, 1997. Publicly Released: Feb 1, 1997.

Additional Materials:


Jack L. Brock, Jr
(202) 512-4841


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

GAO reviewed the information system development and modernization efforts at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the National Weather Service (NWS), focusing on the agencies' problems meeting cost, schedule, and performance goals.

GAO found that: (1) information systems are now integral to nearly every aspect of over $1.5 trillion in annual federal government operations and spending, yet, despite years of experience in developing systems, agencies across government continue to have chronic problems harnessing the full potential of information technology to improve performance, cut costs, and enhance responsiveness to the public; (2) during the past 6 years, agencies have obligated over $145 billion building up and maintaining their information technology infrastructure, but the benefits from this vast expenditure have frequently been disappointing; (3) this poor return on information technology investments has also left the Congress and executive branch severely handicapped by the lack of reliable data for measuring the costs and results of agency operations and making well-informed decisions; (4) recognizing the urgent need for improvement, the 104th Congress passed the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 and the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996; (5) together, these acts direct agencies to implement a framework of modern technology management based on practices followed by leading public-sector and private-sector organizations that have successfully used technology to dramatically improve performance and meet strategic goals; (6) these management practices provide proven, practical methods for addressing the federal government's information management problems, maximizing benefits from technology spending, and controlling the risks of system acquisition and development efforts; (7) the challenge now is for agencies to apply this framework to their own technology efforts; (8) the importance of quickly implementing these reforms is emphasized by the fact that all four multibillion-dollar information technology efforts listed in GAO's 1995 High-Risk Series remain at high risk of being late, running over cost, and/or falling short of promised benefits; (9) they are the Internal Revenue Service's Tax Systems Modernization, the Federal Aviation Administration's Air Traffic Control modernization, the Department of Defense's Corporate Information Management initiative, and the National Weather Service's modernization; (10) each of these continues to suffer from one or more problems, such as unsound investment control, poor project management, and ongoing technical weaknesses--areas specifically addressed by the new legislation; and (11) two new high-risk areas that touch virtually every major aspect of government operations are information security, and the need for computer systems to be changed to accommodate dates beyond the year 1999.

Below are the reports in this series:

High-Risk Series: An Overview HR-97-1, Feb 1, 1997

High-Risk Series: Quick Reference Guide HR-97-2, Feb 1, 1997

High-Risk Series: Defense Financial Management HR-97-3, Feb 1, 1997

High-Risk Series: Defense Contract Management HR-97-4, Feb 1, 1997

High-Risk Series: Defense Inventory Management HR-97-5, Feb 1, 1997

High-Risk Series: Defense Weapon Systems Acquisition HR-97-6, Feb 1, 1997

High-Risk Series: Defense Infrastructure HR-97-7, Feb 1, 1997

High-Risk Series: IRS Management HR-97-8, Feb 1, 1997

High-Risk Series: Information Management and Technology HR-97-9, Feb 1, 1997

High-Risk Series: Medicare HR-97-10, Feb 1, 1997

High-Risk Series: Student Financial Aid HR-97-11, Feb 1, 1997

High-Risk Series: Department of Housing and Urban Development HR-97-12, Feb 1, 1997

High-Risk Series: Department of Energy Contract Management HR-97-13, Feb 1, 1997

High-Risk Series: Superfund Program Management HR-97-14, Feb 1, 1997

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