OMB Needs To More Fully Consider Government-Wide Implications in Its Telecommunications Initiatives

IMTEC-84-21: Published: Sep 7, 1984. Publicly Released: Oct 12, 1984.

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Thomas P. Giammo
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO determined whether the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has: (1) developed an overall telecommunications plan and policy; and (2) conducted studies, including cost/benefit analyses, on the impact of the American Telephone and Telegraph divestiture on government telecommunications operations. OMB is planning to permit agencies to acquire long-distance telecommunications service independently instead of using the centralized Federal Telecommunications System (FTS). GAO also ascertained the effect that the OMB initiative would have on H.R. 2718 and S. 2433, proposals to create an Information Technology (IT) Fund.

GAO found that, although OMB has made progress in carrying out its telecommunications responsibilities under the Paperwork Reduction Act, it is not placing enough emphasis on the governmentwide implications of its actions and the governmentwide issues arising from the new telecommunications environment. Regarding the proposed FTS initiative, GAO believes that OMB may not be sufficiently considering: (1) the costs and benefits of the current FTS compared to a decentralized system; (2) the initiative's effect on the proposed IT Fund; and (3) the national security and staffing implications of a decentralized system. GAO also noted that the initiative's effect on the proposed legislation would make additional funds available to cover the cost of equipment and services for FTS by increasing the General Services Administration's flexibility in raising capital. GAO concluded that the FTS initiative could result in reduced funding for the proposed IT fund.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: OMB officials told GAO that procurement of the FTS 2000 system overtook the development of criteria to leave the existing FTS. The OMB-led task force had not done so, but instead developed a list of issues for OMB to consider. A recommendation to develop methodologies for comparing telecommunication alternatives similar to this one is contained in IMTEC-87-9, to be issued February, 1987.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, should direct the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to delay implementation of the FTS initiative until guidance and methodologies are developed to examine such issues as the cost benefits of a centralized versus a decentralized system, various strategies for maximizing federal response to national emergencies, and staffing implications of agency-by-agency telecommunications management versus a consolidated management system.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: OMB agreed that: (1) planning is important, both at the OMB level and governmentwide; (2) information should be collected if it helps to make a better decision; and (3) the value of the information to decisionmaking exceeds the costs of obtaining it. However, OMB disagreed with this recommendation in the absence of a delineation of GAO concerns.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, should direct OIRA to design the OMB telecommunications initiatives so that uniform information needed for identifying governmentwide telecommunications issues is collected and analyzed and used as the basis for governmentwide policies.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget


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