Defense Infrastructure:

Savings From Cataloging Consolidation Are Uncertain

NSIAD-98-71: Published: Mar 6, 1998. Publicly Released: Mar 6, 1998.

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David R. Warren
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) decision to centralize and consolidate DOD cataloging operations in Battle Creek, Michigan, focusing on: (1) the likelihood that DOD's decision will result in the estimated personnel reductions and savings; (2) challenges DOD may face when implementing the consolidation effort; and (3) proposals made by two employee groups that state that DOD could achieve even greater personnel reductions and savings by centralizing and consolidating cataloging operations in other locations.

GAO noted that: (1) it is uncertain that the estimated personnel reductions and savings will occur; (2) DOD's estimates are based on several assumptions that either will not necessarily occur or have changed since DOD made the estimates; (3) DOD based the estimates, for example, on an assumption of what a standardized cataloging process may look like but has not settled on an actual design of the centralized and consolidated system; (4) detailed studies to document existing cataloging processes are still ongoing and will be important for determining how cataloging processes can be separated from other materiel management functions; (5) DOD also assumed that an ongoing system development project to develop a standardized cataloging system would be successful and thus did not consider any system development costs in estimating savings; (6) however, DOD has since halted work on that system, and costs to develop a new one are uncertain; (7) DOD faces significant challenges in implementing the consolidation; (8) prior DOD cataloging consolidation efforts incurred problems that will need to be taken into consideration in developing detailed implementation plans for consolidation; (9) separating cataloging from other service provisioning and materiel management functions may be difficult and could negatively affect cataloging operations during the transition; (10) DOD may lose much of its cataloging experience because of the reluctance of experienced catalogers to relocate; (11) a Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) official stated that DLA has begun developing plans that address these risks and that no cataloging functions will be transferred to Battle Creek until these plans are complete; (12) planning for the new standardized cataloging process and the necessary standardized cataloging system will not be completed until after catalogers are moved to Battle Creek; (13) DOD also plans, in conjunction with the move, to reduce the number of catalogers to levels envisioned only after process reengineering and consolidation of cataloging have occurred; (14) DOD officials believe the move will increase the likelihood of catalogers adapting to the as yet unplanned new processes and systems; (15) however, senior officials responsible for service cataloging operations have expressed concerns about the risks inherent in proceeding without detailed plans to guide the consolidation; and (16) until a standardized cataloging process is developed, it is not possible to determine the reasonableness of the employee groups' proposals concerning further staff reductions.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DLIS opted to begin moving cataloging personnel before having a clearly defined standardization plan in place. DOD is working on establishing this clearly defined plan for standardizing all cataloging processes. However, DOD has already completed phase I of its consolidation to Battle Creek with the move of Army, Air Force and DSC Columbus cataloging personnel. As an alternative to GAO's recommendation, DOD developed a business plan for each service prior to its move.

    Recommendation: Before cataloging personnel are transferred to Battle Creek, Michigan, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Director of DLA to develop a clearly defined plan for standardizing the cataloging processes.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD stated that it has already conducted a Business Case Analysis (BCA) with contractor assistance. DOD further stated that although the BCA was done 2 years ago and granted that some of the assumptions might have changed, conducting another BCA and developing another implementation plan would needlessly delay any effort to consolidate and centralize.

    Recommendation: DOD should develop a full assessment of the costs and savings of the consolidation and determine the time required for savings to offset the implementation costs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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