Coast Guard:

Progress in the Marine Safety Network, but Many Uncertainties Remain

RCED-92-206: Published: Aug 28, 1992. Publicly Released: Sep 30, 1992.

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Kenneth M. Mead
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Coast Guard's efforts to develop a new information system, the Marine Safety Network (MSN), focusing on factors which may affect the system's cost and implementation schedule and steps taken to meet system users' information needs and improve program management.

GAO found that: (1) although the Coast Guard has made progress in planning and designing a new, more effective information system, there have been delays in meeting project deadlines and uncertainties that could substantially affect the system's cost and implementation schedule; (2) one significant uncertainty concerns the type of computer language to use in developing software for MSN and other large Coast Guard information systems; (3) further delays could result from future contracts for system development and hardware, a planned reorganization of responsibilities for developing MSN, and a change in the type of language used to develop MSN software; (4) to help ensure that users' information needs are met, the Coast Guard has drawn on outside expertise in developing federal government information systems; (5) the Coast Guard has taken or plans to ensure that MSN meets users' needs primarily by developing a comprehensive understanding of information needs, developing strategies for resolving past problems, providing users' testing of prototype applications, and by allowing for future change and growth; (6) MSN has the potential to improve information system support for the Coast Guard's management of marine safety programs by enhancing its current capability to request and analyze data and provide relevant management reports; and (7) although the Coast Guard has not yet sufficiently developed MSN to reasonably determine whether it will perform as intended, the Coast Guard and its outside experts are optimistic that the new system will meet the agency's needs.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Coast Guard has taken and promised actions that satisfy the recommendation. According to the Coast Guard, it has fully briefed congressional staff members on the status of the Marine Safety Network. Also, it is committed to keeping Congress fully informed on the project's status throughout the acquisition process through periodic reports and briefings.

    Recommendation: To help provide Congress with adequate information for effectively overseeing MSN, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Commandant of the Coast Guard to provide Congress with specific information on the MSN development and implementation. This information should include the extent to which MSN is overcoming past Marine Safety Information System problems and meeting users' information needs as well as the extent of known and potential cost increases and schedule delays. To the extent that this information is not fully presented in future quarterly reports on major acquisitions, the Coast Guard should provide the information by other means.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation


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