Federal Catalog System:

Continuing Item Identification Problems

NSIAD-88-121: Published: May 5, 1988. Publicly Released: Jun 1, 1988.

Additional Materials:


Donna M. Heivilin
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In response to a congressional request, GAO assessed the nature and extent of deficiencies in the Department of Defense's (DOD) Federal Catalog System.

GAO found that: (1) the system fell short of its mandate of ensuring unique identifiers for federal supply items; (2) 30 percent of all cataloged items did not have approved names, while another 29 percent lacked descriptive data; (3) numerous items were misclassified or assigned duplicate numbers; (4) improper identification of supply sources in the cataloging systems could inhibit competitive procurement; and (5) using a Defense Logistics Services Center (DLSC) cost estimate, it would cost about $14.1 million to maintain inventory records of 3,800 duplicate items, not including the price of the duplicates.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD implemented a non-approved item name challenge system on November 1, 1988. Other actions are long-term.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and the Director, Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), to improve item identifications by: (1) expanding the list of approved item names and closely monitoring their use; (2) developing additional Federal Item Identification Guides and updating existing guides; (3) giving more attention to the Item Identification Improvement Program; (4) providing greater emphasis on working with contractors to have them more timely submit technical data; and (5) establishing more effective mechanisms for challenging contractor proprietary data claims and obtaining and entering technical data in the Federal Catalog System for items already cataloged, but inadequately described.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DLA has implemented the Digital Storage and Retrieval Engineering Data System to prevent item duplication.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and the Director, DLA, to significantly reduce the number of duplicate items in the Federal Catalog System through such programs as the special DLSC study that identified duplication in the catalog, and exploring alternative ways to search out items that do not belong in the system.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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