Judiciary Automation Fund:

Reauthorization Should Be Linked to Better Planning and Reporting

T-GGD/AIMD-94-176: Published: Jun 30, 1994. Publicly Released: Jun 30, 1994.

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GAO discussed long-range planning issues involving the Judiciary Automation Fund. GAO noted that: (1) the Fund was established in 1989 to create a stable and flexible source of funding for federal court automation efforts; (2) the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AOUSC) administers and supports the Fund's operations; (3) between 1990 and 1993, the Fund's obligations totalled $351 billion for automation services, equipment, and support; (4) although the Fund has expanded a number of automated case management and administrative systems, many of the courts' national systems are difficult to use and are duplicative; (5) AOUSC is establishing life-cycle management standards to ensure quality systems design and implementation and increase user involvement in systems development; (6) although legislation requires that Fund expenditures be made in accordance with a long-range automation plan, the judiciary's automation plan is not linked to mission objectives or a strategic business plan and does not provide effective audit oversight of Fund expenditures; (7) the benefits of federal court automation warrant the Fund's reauthorization; and (8) the judiciary should report to Congress on its development of a strategic business plan, its implementation of a long-range information resources management plan, and AOUSC audit oversight efforts.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: P.L. 103-420 reauthorized the fund through September 30, 1997 (3 years).

    Matter: Congress should reauthorize the Fund for a period less than the 5 years previously authorized. During this period, the judiciary would have the opportunity to assess the effectiveness of its ongoing efforts and demonstrate progress in improving the additional areas outlined above.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: P.L. 103-420 requires the U.S. Courts to submit to Congress an annual report on the operation of the Fund, including: (1) information on the inventory, use, and acquisition of ADP equipment; (2) the amounts deposited into the Fund; (3) specific actions taken and the progress made to improve the strategic business and long-range automation plans; and (4) a comparison of planned versus actual expenditures and accomplishments and reasons for any delays in scheduled systems development or budget overruns. The act also requires that a final report be submitted to Congress no later than 9 months before the Fund's reauthorization date.

    Matter: During the period of the Fund's reauthorization, Congress should direct the judiciary to include in its annual report on the Judiciary Automation Fund the specific actions taken and progress made to improve the automation program, with a final report on its accomplishments delivered 9 months prior to the reauthorization's expiration date. These annual reports should include information on planned versus actual Fund expenditures and accomplishments, and the reasons for any delays in scheduled systems development or budget overruns.

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: P.L. 103-420 requires the U.S. Courts to: (1) develop an overall business plan; (2) develop a long-range automation plan based on the business plan and user needs; and (3) establish effective oversight of court automation efforts. U.S. Courts officials have indicated that they are seeking examples of good strategic business plans as a first step to developing such a plan for the judiciary and are updating the Long-Range Automation Plan to include clear objectives and explanations of progress made in meeting these objectives.

    Matter: Congress should direct the judiciary to: (1) develop an overall strategic business plan which would identify the judiciary's missions, goals, and objectives; (2) develop a long range automation plan based on the strategic business plan and user needs assessments; and (3) establish effective AOUSC oversight of court automation efforts to ensure the effective operation of existing systems and control over developments of future systems.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AOUSC has issued management structure standards that include the life-cycle management process. The Director has approved a strategic business plan. The Judiciary is gathering data on use of the Data Communication Network, but has not undertaken a formal analysis of future user requirements.

    Recommendation: The Administrative Office of the United States Courts should: (1) expedite its efforts to complete the development and implementation of its life cycle management standards; (2) utilize the standards in developing its next generation of case management and financial systems; and (3) assess the current utilization and future user requirements of the Data Communications Network.

    Agency Affected: Administrative Office of the United States Courts


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