Department of Energy:

Better Information Resources Management Needed to Accomplish Missions

IMTEC-92-53: Published: Sep 29, 1992. Publicly Released: Sep 29, 1992.

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Jack L. Brock, Jr
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GAO reviewed the Department of Energy's (DOE) information resources management (IRM) program in selected mission areas, focusing on whether: (1) information shortfalls interfere with fulfillment of managers' responsibilities; (2) DOE strategic IRM planning is linked to strategic mission planning; and (3) management control over acquisition and operation of information systems ensures compliance with applicable policies and requirements.

GAO found that: (1) DOE managers' abilities to fulfill their mission responsibilities are hampered by the inaccessibility of essential information, although DOE has many manual and automated information systems; (2) deficiencies include inadequate information systems, nonintegrated systems, lack of information timeliness, inaccurate, inconsistent, inaccessible, or insufficient data, limited analytical systems capabilities, and overlapping or duplicative systems, all of which waste resources; (3) DOE information resource investments are not focused on meeting strategic mission objectives because DOE has not linked its IRM planning to its strategic mission planning; (4) IRM planning is left to individual offices and contractors that have only parochial interests; (5) DOE does not clearly assign to the legislatively mandated designated senior official (DSO) the responsibility to prepare a strategic IRM plan that is linked to mission planning or authority over IRM planning activities; (6) headquarters program managers are unclear as to their responsibility and authority to control IRM planning activities, and do not consider strategic information resource needs in their mission planning; (7) senior DOE officials recognize the need to revise the IRM planning process to link it to mission planning and have included objectives to strengthen the IRM planning process in the DOE initiative to strengthen the IRM program; (8) internal controls are weak and are not always corrected when detected because control responsibilities are unclear and authority is limited; (9) DSO authority to require corrective action is not defined; (10) the Secretary has not identified IRM planning and control deficiencies as material internal control weaknesses, so they do not receive the emphasis that they need from top management; and (11) DOE recognizes the need to strengthen its IRM program and has implemented an initiative to do so.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE formally established an Executive Committee for Information Management on January 25, 1995. The Committee is comprised of the most senior DOE executives. The Committee's Charter states that it will "champion the efforts to improve information management and leverage the information resources of the Department of Energy in the interests of mission accomplishment and service to the public."

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should work with senior program managers and the DSO to develop a clear vision of how better information and improved IRM can contribute to accomplishing critical missions, and commit the Department to making the vision a reality by, for example, establishing an executive-level committee--consisting of top program managers and DSO--to oversee IRM improvements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE's Designated Senior Official for IRM has now issued a document entitled "Information Management Roles and Responsibilities." The purpose of this document is to clearly set out the roles and responsibilities of the members of DOE's information management community. The document categorizes DOE's information management community into four organizational groupings, and sets out the responsibilities for each group.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should clarify program manager and DSO responsibilities and authority to plan and control information resources throughout the Department, ensure that these managers are knowledgeable about their roles and responsibilities, and ensure that adequate staff with appropriate management and technical skills are available to implement improved IRM practices.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE has taken action in two areas to implement this recommendation. It has issued an information management implementation plan, which is intended to ensure that information created and collected by DOE is provided to its internal and external customers and stakeholders in a timely, cost-effective, and efficient manner. Further, this plan is intended to make IRM an integral part of strategic planning. DOE has also established the Executive Committee for Information Management, which is intended to strengthen control over headquarters, field offices, and management and operations contractors' IRM activities.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should hold DSO and program office managers accountable for: (1) linking the IRM planning process to the Department's strategic mission planning process and preparing strategic and tactical plans--including information system architectures--that support the Department's strategic mission objectives; and (2) revising IRM policies, procedures, and processes to strengthen management control over headquarters, field office, and management and operations contractor IRM activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In the 1992 FMFIA Report to the President, the Secretary of Energy identified significant weaknesses in the IRM program as one of the Department's 14 material management control weaknesses, citing the findings and conclusions in this report.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should identify IRM deficiencies as a material internal control weakness under the Federal Managers' Financial Integrity Act (31 U.S.C. 3512) and require DSO and program managers throughout the Department to identify specific internal control weaknesses that hinder their ability to manage information resources. IRM activities should continue to be reported as a material internal control weakness until the Secretary has reasonable assurance that information resources are being applied efficiently and in accordance with laws, regulations, and policies.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy


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