Skip to main content

Information Technology: Key Federal Agencies Need to Address Potentially Duplicative Investments

GAO-13-718 Published: Sep 12, 2013. Publicly Released: Sep 12, 2013.
Jump To:
Skip to Highlights


What GAO Found

Of the 590 information technology (IT) investments reviewed, GAO identified 12 potentially duplicative investments at three key federal agencies--namely, the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS), Defense (DOD), and Health and Human Services (HHS). These investments accounted for about $321 million in reported IT spending for fiscal years 2008 through 2013. Of the 12 investments, GAO identified:

  • two potentially duplicative investments at DHS that support immigration enforcement booking management, which includes the processing of apprehended illegal aliens suspected of committing criminal violations of immigration law;
  • four such investments at DOD, which include two investments that track health care status of warfighters, with one since having been canceled, and two investments that manage dental care; and
  • six potentially duplicative investments at HHS, which include four investments that support enterprise information security and two for Medicare coverage determination.

DHS officials said having the two immigration booking investments were due in part to one component agency's unique requirements but were unable to provide analysis showing why one system could not satisfy the unique requirements. DOD officials recognized that the investments GAO identified were duplicative and have canceled one of the health care systems and intend to consolidate the dental systems by 2015 but had not developed a plan on how this was to be accomplished. HHS officials disagreed that its information security investments were duplicative but nonetheless plan to review them by September 2013 to identify opportunities for consolidation. Regarding the Medicare coverage determination investments, HHS officials noted that they have consolidated several functions but could not provide documented justification for why the other functions were not consolidated. By addressing these duplications, the agencies will be able to provide assurance they are avoiding investing in unnecessary systems and thus saving resources.

Why GAO Did This Study

The federal government budgets more than $82 billion annually for IT. Given the magnitude of this investment, it is important that federal agencies avoid investing in duplicative systems to ensure the most efficient use of resources. GAO's prior work has shown that agencies were funding IT investments that perform similar functions, thus raising concern that these agencies were investing in unnecessary systems. This work also raised questions about whether agencies have similar potentially duplicative investments in other areas.

GAO was asked to review duplicative IT investments. The objective of this report was to identify whether there are other potentially duplicative IT investments at key federal agencies. To do so, GAO selected for review the three agencies with the largest amount of planned IT spending--DHS, DOD, and HHS. GAO analyzed agency budgetary data (submitted to the Office of Management and Budget) that categorize investments by function to identify investments that performed similar functions. Such investments were further grouped by their specific mission purpose and discussed with agency officials, including whether they could be consolidated or eliminated.


GAO recommends that DOD develop a plan and DHS and HHS conduct analyses to address the potentially duplicative investments identified in this report. DOD and HHS agreed with GAO's recommendations but DHS disagreed. GAO believes that analysis by DHS on why one system would not support both agencies' requirements is needed.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Homeland Security To better ensure agencies avoid duplicative investments, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct appropriate officials to address the potentially duplicative investments identified in this report, including assessing the extent to which a single system could meet Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) immigration enforcement booking requirements.
Closed – Implemented
In response to our recommendation, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has taken steps to review these potentially duplicative investments, including whether there are opportunities to consolidate them. For example, the department's chief Information Technology (IT) enterprise architect reported to us that the department had determined that both the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) booking applications use the same immigration database while serving mission needs that are unique to each of these agencies. In addition, the department has continued to identify opportunities to share information between the two applications. For example, in August 2014, the chief enterprise architect reported that a memorandum of understanding was made between ICE and CBP to share detention-related data between the booking applications. In April 2017, the DHS Office of the Chief Information Officer/Enterprise Architecture provided an analysis of the CPB and ICE immigration enforcement booking systems. DHS reported analyzing and grouping requirements according to mission similarities and determined that the operational requirements for the systems do not justify a single solution. For example, DHS stated that while some of the requirements show similarity at a data level, they differ significantly in service level, availability, or require different user pathways to process the data. In addition, the department reported that the overall workflows required by two different business processes are divergent enough that one system would not meet the components' needs and would result in a highly complex and fragile system.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should direct appropriate officials to develop and document a plan on how the department intends to migrate its single dental system solution to all the services.
Closed – Implemented
In response, the Department of Defense developed and documented a plan of action and milestones for the single dental system solution. This plan includes, among other things, the key tasks to be completed and dates for when the department expects to transition the solution to all of its services. Specifically, the plan stated that the department started to deploy the solution to the Navy (the Army and Air Force currently use the solution) in October 2013, and plans to finish their deployment by September 2022. In October 2022, the Navy plans to retire their existing dental system, which we identified as potentially duplicative with the single dental system solution.
Department of Health and Human Services The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct appropriate officials to assess whether it would be cost effective to consolidate the remaining functions of the Medicare coverage determination systems.
Closed – Implemented
According to the Department of Health and Human Services' Centers Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) the Medicare coverage determination systems are part of the same system, known as the Medicare Coverage Database (MCD). However, they sometimes appear as separate systems because they utilize different funding sources.

Full Report

GAO Contacts

Office of Public Affairs


Classified defense informationDental servicesGovernment information disseminationHealth care servicesHealth services administrationHomeland securityImmigrationInformation resources managementInformation securityInformation technologyMedical information systemsMedicareReporting requirementsSystems analysis