Coast Guard:

Strategic Focus Needed to Improve Information Resources Management

IMTEC-90-32: Published: Apr 24, 1990. Publicly Released: Apr 24, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Coast Guard's: (1) management of major automated systems; and (2) development of information resource management (IRM) policies and procedures.

GAO found that: (1) the Coast Guard had difficulty getting basic information that it needed to carry out its mission, since information was not readily available or easily transferable among Coast Guard units; (2) the Coast Guard spent over $500 million on the development, purchase, operation, and maintenance of its information systems, but automated systems continued to impede program operations and management; (3) the lack of top-level leadership and a strategic IRM plan made it difficult to ensure that current and proposed system development would support Coast Guard missions and goals; (4) inadequate policies, standards, and procedures jeopardized the development, evaluation, implementation, and review of information systems; and (5) the Coast Guard focused its system modernization efforts on correcting technology problems without reassessing the basic purposes and uses of its information systems.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to the report, the Coast Guard has issued directives that: (1) prescribe specific responsibilities for the senior IRM official; and (2) specify IRM policies and procedures, including oversight of all automated systems projects by the IRM office prior to submission for budget consideration. A multi-year strategic IRM planning process has begun.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Commandant of the Coast Guard to clarify the role and authority of the senior IRM official and restructure the way in which the Coast Guard is managing the modernization of its information systems. The restructuring should include a clear statement of the Coast Guard's needs and the ways in which information technology can serve those needs, a strategic IRM plan that supports this view, and comprehensive policies, standards, and procedures to guide implementation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Coast Guard did not agree that top level management was absent from IRM planning, guidance, and direction. However, it has taken steps in line with this recommendation that will ensure an orderly process for managing the Coast Guard's modernization efforts, including IRM training and education for all senior level managers and regularly scheduled information management conferences.

    Recommendation: The Commandant of the Coast Guard should consider creating a centralized IRM steering committee comprised of the Coast Guard's top management to provide direction for IRM strategic planning, policy, and procedures. This committee could be supported by an IRM advisory committee made up of program and project managers, technical staff, and system end-users to make policy recommendations and develop procedures and recommendations on operational standards.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation: United States Coast Guard


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