Department of Energy Can Improve Management of the Acquisition of Major Projects

MASAD-81-33: Published: Jun 22, 1981. Publicly Released: Jul 9, 1981.

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The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-109 directs Federal agencies to develop guidance to manage their major system acquisitions. The Department of Energy (DOE) has spent more than 2 years developing directives in accordance with OMB Circular A-109 and recently issued the final directives for its major systems. These systems are very costly, complex projects. GAO reviewed the development and procurement of such projects to find out what problems remain.

GAO found that DOE had not adequately identified its mission areas. Major headquarters offices did not prepare mission analyses to identify and set priorities for the agency's requirements. DOE management lacked total commitment to support project management, thereby limiting the role and authority of the project manager. This was evidenced by the limited number of approved project manager charters, project plans, and project management plans. In addition, the project manager generally operates under two levels of authority; a field operations manager and the Washington headquarters manager. The review and evaluation of major system acquisitions by the DOE advisory board was limited because pertinent documentation, such as independent cost estimates, approved project plans, and project management plans, was missing.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status:

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: The Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, House Committee on Science and Technology, should closely monitor the progress of DOE in identifying priority systems and providing adequate resources to manage major system acquisitions. Further, to enhance its legislative oversight capacity, the subcommittee may want to require DOE to institute a selected acquisition reporting system similar to that now used by the Department of Defense and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status:

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should (1) identify and assign mission areas to the responsible major headquarters offices and require each to complete a mission analysis; (2) require each of its major headquarters offices to set forth continuing plans to conduct a mission analysis to identify and establish priorities for requirements; (3) require project managers to report directly to the responsible headquarters office to strengthen the role of the project manager and increase the level of visibility of major systems; and (4) require that major systems reviewed and evaluated by Energy System Acquisition Advisory Board be supported by pertinent documentation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy


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