Land Management Systems: Major Software Development Does Not Meet BLM's Business Needs

AIMD-99-135 Published: Apr 30, 1999. Publicly Released: Apr 30, 1999.
Jump To:
Skip to Highlights

GAO recommended actions it believes the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) should take to improve its efforts to develop and deploy its Automated Land and Mineral Record System (ALMRS).

Skip to Recommendations


Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of the Interior The Secretary of the Interior should ensure that BLM thoroughly analyzes the ALMRS Initial Operating Capability (IOC) software, reported to cost more than $67 million, to determine whether it can be cost-beneficially modified to meet the bureau's needs. This analysis should be part of an overall effort to identify and assess all viable alternatives, including: (1) modifying ALMRS IOC software; (2) modifying existing land and recordation systems; (3) acquiring commercial, off-the-shelf software; or (4) developing new systems. The alternatives analysis should clearly identify the risks, costs, and benefits of each alternative, and should be performed only after BLM is assured that it has fully verified its business requirements.
Closed – Implemented
In fiscal year 2003, BLM reported that it completed its analysis of ALMRS IOC software. BLM found that it could salvage and use (1) portions of the ALMRS specifications including entity relationship diagrams (land), process specifications, design constraints, data element reports, data element domain values, data structure report, data entity report, relationship report, land portfolio, spatial rules, land hierarchies and associations matrix, (2) ALMRS Release 2 spatial specifications, (3) the documentation change request/requirement change proposal database and supporting documentation, (4) geographic coordinate data base requirements and portions of the GCDB software built for ALMRS, and (5) ALMRS data conversion specifications for land.
Department of the Interior The Secretary of the Interior should ensure that BLM assesses and strengthens its investment management practices to help avoid future problems. The Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 seeks to maximize the return on investments in information systems by requiring agencies to institute sound capital investment decision making. Under the act, agencies must design and implement a process for maximizing the value and assessing and managing the risks of information technology acquisitions. The act also requires agencies to: (1) assess the knowledge and skills of their executive and management staff to meet agencies' information resources management requirements, and take steps to rectify any deficiencies; and (2) develop, maintain, and facilitate the implementation of a sound and integrated information technology architecture. Effectively enforcing a sound information technology architecture to guide and constrain a modernization program can preclude inconsistent systems design and development decisions, suboptimal performance, and excessive cost.
Closed – Implemented
BLM has taken significant action to strengthen its IT investment management practices. It approved an IT capital asset plan outlining capital planning procedures for major IT acquisitions and chartered an IT Investment Board composed of senior-level program, IRM, and financial managers. BLM has continued to work on developing and strengthening its IT investment management program. In 2001, we reported (GAO-01-282) that BLM continued to address our recommendations to strengthen its investment management processes and practices. In our ongoing assessment, we found that BLM is performing 82% of the key practices for Stage 2 critical IT investment management processes. Repeatable investment control techniques are in place, and the key foundation capabilities have been implemented. With regard to assessing staff, BLM has completed its assessment of IT staffing and skills needs and restructured its national IRM organization based on that assessment. BLM's national IRM organization consists of its IRM headquarters in Washington, D.C., and National IRM Center (NIRMC) in Denver. In October 1999, BLM's CIO tasked a team of field managers and technical, program, and personnel specialists with assessing NIRMC, including its staffing and skill levels, mission and functions, and organizational structure. The team issued its final report in January 2000. In April 2000, a team of field managers and IRM specialists completed an assessment of BLM's headquarters IRM organization. Based on the assessment teams' recommendations, validated by a BLM management team, BLM made significant changes to its IRM organization. Implementation resulted in a new role for NIRMC, a reduction in force, and reassignment of key IT functions to the headquarters IRM office. The new organization took effect on July 2, 2000. With regard to developing an enterprise architecture, we reported that work to develop BLM's enterprise architecture was continuing. BLM had developed an initial enterprise architecture, containing guiding principles and descriptions of some of BLM processes, data, and applications, and six strategic initiatives to improve the architecture and support its future development. BLM also developed the first volume of a technical reference model containing principles and recommended best practices for selecting and deploying system and network hardware and software. BLM has also developed a plan to broaden and further develop the enterprise architecture and established an IT Investment Board, composed of senior-level program, IRM, and financial managers, with a charter defining the board's roles, responsibilities, and functions. BLM has continued to develop an enterprise architecture and has shown a continuing commitment to complete its enterprise architecture.
Department of the Interior The Secretary of the Interior should ensure that BLM obtains an independent assessment of its systems acquisition capabilities, and ensure that it uses sound systems acquisition processes.
Closed – Implemented
The department agreed with this recommendation. BLM obtained an independent, high-level assessment of its systems acquisition capabilities, based on the Software Engineering Institute's (SEI) Software and Software Acquisition Capability Maturity Models (CMM) SM criteria. BLM's software acquisition processes were found to be immature--level 1. According to SEI, the characteristics of a level 1 organization include (1) lack of a stable environment for developing and maintaining software, (2) over commitment of staff and resources, and (3) abandonment of planned procedures when executing projects. The critical management process areas that SEI deems necessary for an organization to reach CMM level 2 include (1) software acquisition planning, (2) solicitation, (3) requirements development and management, (4) project management, (5) contract tracking and oversight, (6) evaluation, and (7) transition to support. BLM took action to address weaknesses in its systems acquisition processes. For example, it drafted a process improvement plan that included improvement activities for all of the 13 key process areas included in both software and software acquisition CMMs--including the critical management processes required to reach CMM level 2. In addition, the bureau issued an interim policy for IT acquisitions and an acquisition users guide.
Department of the Interior Until such assessments are completed and corrective actions taken, BLM should not undertake any sizable systems acquisition or development efforts.
Closed – Implemented
BLM's CIO said the bureau agreed with this recommendation and made software investments of modest size and for nearly 2 years. BLM has made significant progress in IT management areas, including establishing investment management processes, an enterprise architecture, and capital planning.

Full Report