Information Technology: Potentially Duplicative Investments Exist at the Departments of Defense and Energy

GAO-12-462T Published: Feb 17, 2012. Publicly Released: Feb 17, 2012.
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What GAO Found

Although the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Homeland Security utilize various processes to prevent and reduce investment in duplicative programs and systems, potentially duplicative IT investments exist. Further complicating agencies’ ability to identify and address duplicative investments is miscategorization of investments within agencies. Each of the agencies has recently initiated plans to address many of these investments. DHS’s efforts have resulted in the identification and elimination of duplication, but DOD’s and DOE’s initiatives have not yet led to the elimination or consolidation of duplicative investments or functionality. Until DOD and DOE demonstrate progress on their efforts to identify and eliminate duplicative investments, and correctly categorize investments, it will remain unclear whether they are avoiding investment in unnecessary systems. Each of the agencies we reviewed has IT investment management processes in place that are, in part, intended to prevent, identify, and eliminate unnecessary duplicative investments. Even with such investment review processes, of the 810 investments we reviewed,we identified 37 potentially duplicative investments at DOD and DOE within three FEA categories (Human Resource Management, Information and Technology Management, and Supply Chain Management).

  • 31 potentially duplicative investments totaling approximately $1.2 billion at DOD, and
  • 6 potentially duplicative investments totaling approximately $8 million at DOE.

We did not identify any potentially duplicative investments at DHS within our sample; however, DHS has independently identified several duplicative investments and systems. Specifically, DHS officials have identified and, more importantly, reduced duplicative functionality in four investments by consolidating or eliminating certain systems within each of these investments, including a personnel security investment, time and attendance investment, human resources investment, and an information network investment. DHS officials have also identified 38 additional systems that they have determined to be duplicative.

Why GAO Did This Study

This testimony discusses the potentially duplicative information technology (IT) investments at selected agencies and actions these agencies are taking to address them. With at least $79 billion spent in fiscal year 2011 by the United States government on IT investments, it is important that federal agencies avoid investing in duplicative investments, whenever possible, to ensure the most efficient use of resources.

Last year, we issued a comprehensive report that identified federal programs or functional areas where unnecessary duplication, overlap, or fragmentation exists; the actions needed to address such conditions; and the potential financial and other benefits of doing so. More recently, we reported on the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) and federal agencies’ oversight of IT investments and the initiatives under way to address potentially duplicative IT investments. Specifically, we recently reported that there are hundreds of IT investments providing similar functions across the federal government. For example, agencies reported about 1,500 investments that perform general information and technology functions, about 775 supply chain management investments, and about 620 human resource management investments.

Congress asked us to testify on our report being released today that describes the extent to which potentially duplicative IT investments exist within these three categories, including the actions agencies are taking to address them. In this regard, this testimony specifically covers potentially duplicative investments we identified at three of the largest agencies with respect to number of investments–the Departments of Defense (DOD), Energy (DOE), and Homeland Security (DHS).

For more information, contact David Powner at (202) 512-9286 or

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