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Highlights

What GAO Found

Most of the 15 agencies GAO reviewed did not have an inventory of mobile devices and associated services that can be used to assess device usage. The majority of agencies delegated responsibility of their inventories to their components. Only 5 of the 15 agencies had complete service and device inventories at either the enterprise-level or at the components GAO reviewed. The remaining agencies either did not have inventories or those inventories did not account for all devices and services.

Similarly, only 1 of the 15 agencies GAO reviewed had documented procedures for monitoring spending by reviewing devices and associated service plans for overuse, underuse, or zero use, which are key indicators of potential inefficient use. Eleven agencies had procedures that either addressed some of the potential aspects of inefficient use or were incompletely documented. Three agencies did not have any documented procedures for monitoring mobile device usage.

Number of Agencies That Followed Guidance on Managing Mobile Devices and Services

 

Fully satisfied

Met some but not all

Did not satisfy

Inventory (devices and services)

5

7

3

Procedures

1

11

3

Source: GAO analysis of agency data. | GAO-15-431

A key reason agencies did not have enterprise-wide inventories and adequate procedures for monitoring and controlling spending is that they took a decentralized approach to managing mobile device spending. Without an inventory that includes each device and associated service limits and rates, as well as documented procedures to assess device usage relative to service rate plans, agencies have a limited ability to monitor device usage and determine if a device should be canceled or moved to a more cost-effective service plan. Further, without a reliable inventory of mobile service contracts, agencies are less likely to identify opportunities for consolidation, and thus are less likely to achieve cost savings.

In addition, although the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) identified a goal for financial savings related to mobile devices and services, it has not measured progress toward that goal, as called for by leading practices in performance management. Instead, an OMB analyst said that OMB provides agencies with information on rates paid by other agencies because it believes such information is more effective at convincing agencies to achieve savings. However, without measuring progress toward its goal, OMB has little assurance that its approach is effective.

Regarding monthly mobile service costs, according to reports to OMB that GAO reviewed, agencies paid a range of rates per line for various service combinations, from $21 for 200 voice minutes, unlimited data, and 200 text messages, to $122 for unlimited voice, data, and text messages. Agencies also paid different rates for the same bundle of services. For example, for the unlimited voice, text, and data bundles, agencies paid between $69 and $122 per month.

Why GAO Did This Study

According to the most recent OMB estimate, the federal government spends about $1.2 billion annually on about 1.5 million mobile devices and associated services. OMB has identified the potential for achieving efficiencies and reducing spending on mobile technology.

GAO was asked to study management of federal mobile devices. This report's objectives were to (1) determine the extent to which federal agencies developed and maintained inventories of mobile devices and wireless services, (2) determine the extent to which agencies established procedures for monitoring and controlling spending on these devices and services, and (3) describe agencies' mobile service rates. For the 15 agencies having the highest reported annual telecommunications spending, GAO compared their inventories and procedures with federal guidance, and identified service rates reported to OMB. For each agency that delegated responsibilities to components, GAO assessed two components' inventories and procedures. GAO also interviewed agency and OMB officials.

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Recommendations

To better control mobile device spending, GAO recommends that the 15 agencies take actions to improve their inventories and control processes and that OMB measure and report progress in achieving mobile cost savings. OMB and 14 agencies generally agreed with the recommendations or had no comment. One agency, the Department of Defense, partially agreed, but GAO maintains actions are still needed.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Agriculture To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of Agriculture should ensure an inventory of mobile devices and services is established department-wide (i.e., all components' devices and associated services are accounted for).
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Agriculture has addressed the recommendation. The department implemented a consolidated inventory management module, which is integrated with its telecommunication expense management system, and has demonstrated that all components' devices and associated services are accounted for in the system.
Department of Agriculture To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of Agriculture should ensure procedures to monitor and control spending are established department-wide. Specifically, ensure that (1) procedures include assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage; (2) personnel with authority and responsibility for performing the procedures are identified; and (3) the specific steps to be taken to perform the process are documented.
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Agriculture has implemented the recommendation. In August 2017, the department established a department-wide process for assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage, and assigned responsibility for conducting the process to component Telecommunications Mission Area Control Officers. According to the process, the component is to run a quarterly wireless zero usage report from the department's Telecommunications Expense Management System, and if the report shows no usage for a device for an extended period of time, the component is to take appropriate action, such as disconnect the service. In addition, according to the process, the component is to review usage data to assess whether savings could be achieved by rightsizing service plans. For example, if a line of service consistently does not use its allotted minutes or data, it should be moved to a plan with a lower allotment or to a pool to share allotment with higher-volume users. Conversely, if a line of service consistently exceeds its allotted minutes or data, it should be moved to a plan with a higher allotment or a pool to share allotment with lower-volume users.
Department of Commerce To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of Commerce should ensure an inventory of mobile devices and services is established department-wide (i.e., all components' devices and associated services are accounted for).
Closed - Implemented
As of August 2019, the Department of Commerce has demonstrated that it has implemented this recommendation. Specifically, the department has accounted for the mobile devices and associated services for all of its components.
Department of Commerce To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of Commerce should ensure a reliable department-wide inventory of mobile service contracts is developed and maintained.
Open
As of May 2021, the Department of Commerce had not implemented this recommendation. In July 2018, the department provided an inventory that shows, by service provider and department component, the number of devices per rate plan and monthly rate; however, the inventory did not include the number of voice minutes, gigabytes of data, and text messages allowed per line per month. Furthermore, the department had not demonstrated that it had accounted for all of its mobile service contracts. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to implement the recommendation.
Department of Commerce To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of Commerce should ensure procedures to monitor and control spending are established department-wide. Specifically, ensure that (1) procedures include assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage; (2) personnel with authority and responsibility for performing the procedures are identified; and (3) the specific steps to be taken to perform the process are documented.
Open
As of May 2021, the department had not addressed the recommendation. In July 2018, the department described steps it was taking to identify lines that were inactive for a period of three or more continuous months (zero usage). However, as of May 2021, the department had not demonstrated that it has established documented procedures that address the elements of our recommendation. We will continue to monitor the department's progress.
Department of Defense To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of Defense should ensure an inventory of mobile devices and services is established department-wide (i.e., all components' devices and associated services are accounted for).
Open
The Department of Defense established a policy, in September 2018, which requires all DOD components in the United States to purchase mobile devices and services using a single department-wide contract vehicle. The department also developed an inventory that shows quantities of devices by contract vehicle and service provider, as of January 2021. In addition, the department developed an inventory that shows quantities of devices, by country outside the U.S. However, in April 2021, the Mobility Lead in the department's Office of the Chief Information Officer stated that the department does not intend to develop and maintain an inventory that shows, by device, associated service information because doing so is not an effective use of taxpayer dollars. GAO continues to maintain that the department should implement the recommendation.
Department of Defense To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of Defense should ensure a reliable department-wide inventory of mobile service contracts is developed and maintained.
Open
In March 2021, the department provided an inventory that shows by contract vehicle and service provider, the quantity of devices and monthly carrier invoice cost (as of January 2021) and an inventory of international contracts that shows by procurement instrument identifier, country, vendor name, and total contract value. However, they do not demonstrate that the department has an inventory of mobile service contracts that includes mobile service contract information required by the Office of Management and Budget, as discussed in our report.
Department of Health and Human Services To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should ensure a current department-wide inventory of mobile service contracts is developed and maintained.
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Health and Human Services has implemented this recommendation. The department updated its mobile service contracts inventory in September 2015 and continued to maintain it with updates in November 2015 and February and May 2016.
Department of Health and Human Services To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should ensure procedures to monitor and control spending are established department-wide. Specifically, ensure that (1) procedures include assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage; (2) personnel with authority and responsibility for performing the procedures are identified; and (3) the specific steps to be taken to perform the process are documented.
Open
As of May 2021, the Department of Health and Human Services had not implemented this recommendation. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts.
Department of Homeland Security To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of Homeland Security should ensure an inventory of mobile devices and services is established department-wide (i.e., all components' devices and associated services are accounted for).
Closed - Implemented
In February 2020, the Department of Homeland Security demonstrated that it has established a department-wide inventory of mobile devices and services.
Department of Homeland Security To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of Homeland Security should ensure a reliable department-wide inventory of mobile service contracts is developed and maintained.
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Homeland Security has addressed the recommendation. Specifically, in our May 2015 report, we found that the department had developed an inventory of mobile service contracts; however, it did not include all components' service contracts. In addition, the department had not demonstrated that it had updated the inventory reports quarterly. In April 2018, the department demonstrated that it had established a mobile service contract inventory and maintained it for three quarters.
Department of Homeland Security To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of Homeland Security should ensure procedures to monitor and control spending are established department-wide. Specifically, ensure that (1) procedures include assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage; (2) personnel with authority and responsibility for performing the procedures are identified; and (3) the specific steps to be taken to perform the process are documented.
Closed - Implemented
In November 2020, the Department of Homeland Security demonstrated that it had implemented the recommendation. Specifically, the department demonstrated that its components have procedures for assessing device usage, in accordance with our recommendation.
Department of the Interior To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of the Interior should ensure an inventory of mobile devices and services is established department-wide (i.e., all components' devices and associated services are accounted for).
Open
The Department of the Interior has not demonstrated that it has fully implemented this recommendation. As of May 2021, the department demonstrated that only one of its components, the Bureau of Reclamation, had an inventory of mobile devices and associated services. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to implement the recommendation.
Department of the Interior To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of the Interior should ensure a reliable department-wide inventory of mobile service contracts is developed and maintained.
Open
As of May 2021, the Department of the Interior had not demonstrated that it had fully addressed this recommendation. In August 2019, the department developed an inventory of mobile service contracts. However, the department did not demonstrate that it had accounted for all of its mobile service contracts. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to implement the recommendation.
Department of the Interior To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of the Interior should ensure procedures to monitor and control spending are established department-wide. Specifically, ensure that (1) procedures include assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage; (2) personnel with authority and responsibility for performing the procedures are identified; and (3) the specific steps to be taken to perform the process are documented.
Closed - Implemented
The Department of the Interior has addressed the recommendation. Specifically, in May 2017, it issued a Mobile Services and Devices Management Guide, which includes procedures for monitoring and controlling spending on mobile devices department-wide. The guide incudes procedures for assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage, states that the Associate Chief Information Officer of each component is responsible for assessing device usage, and documents the steps to be followed to perform the process. For example, the guide says that a component with a pooled plan that under-utilizes its available limits by 25 percent or more for three consecutive months is required to review its requirements and change to a more appropriate plan (if available).
Department of Justice To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Attorney General should ensure a department-wide inventory of mobile service contracts is maintained.
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Justice demonstrated that it has implemented this recommendation. Specifically, it delivered quarterly mobile service contract reports to OMB from November 2015 through May 2016.
Department of Justice To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Attorney General should ensure procedures to monitor and control spending are established department-wide. Specifically, ensure that (1) procedures include assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage; (2) personnel with authority and responsibility for performing the procedures are identified; and (3) the specific steps to be taken to perform the process are documented.
Open
As of May 2021, the Department of Justice had made progress implementing this recommendation; however, more remains to be done. Specifically, in response to our findings, in April 2015, the department's Chief Information Officer issued a memo that required components to establish procedures for regular reviews of invoices for wireless services to identify unused and underused devices or services, as well as any over-usage charges to service plans. One of the components we reviewed, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, established procedures in July 2016 to monitor mobile device usage. In addition, the Justice Management Division (JMD) established procedures in March 2020 that apply to JMD as well as most but not all other components. The other component we reviewed in our report, the Drug Enforcement Agency, had not established procedures that address our recommendation. We will continue to monitor the department's progress.
Department of State To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of State should ensure an inventory of mobile devices and services is established department-wide (i.e., all components' devices and associated services are accounted for).
Open
As of May 2021, the Department of State had not demonstrated that it has implemented this recommendation. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to implement the recommendation.
Department of State To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of State should ensure a reliable department-wide inventory of mobile service contracts is maintained.
Open
As of May 2021, the Department of State had not implemented this recommendation. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to implement the recommendation.
Department of State To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of State should ensure procedures to monitor and control spending are established department-wide. Specifically, ensure that (1) procedures include assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage; (2) personnel with authority and responsibility for performing the procedures are identified; and (3) the specific steps to be taken to perform the process are documented.
Closed - Implemented
As of June 2019, the department's Mobile and Remote Access (MRA) division had implemented a Telecom Expense Management System (TEMS) pilot and was in the process of expanding the pilot to make it available to all cost center managers by the end of fiscal year 2019. The TEMS provides reports to identify where managers may realize cost savings. According to MRA guidance, the TEMS automatically produces reports that identify mobile device lines that are unused for 90 or more days. These lines are automatically suspended, then cancelled if not used for an additional 30 days. In addition, the TEMS generates reports of high usage by line, which bureau cost managers can view. The TEMS also generates optimization reports on zero and high usage lines, which managers can review and take action to reduce unnecessary costs.
Department of Transportation To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of Transportation should ensure procedures to monitor and control spending are established department-wide. Specifically, ensure that (1) procedures include assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage; (2) personnel with authority and responsibility for performing the procedures are identified; and (3) the specific steps to be taken to perform the process are documented.
Open
As of May 2021, the Department of Transportation had not addressed the recommendation. In December 2019, an official from the department's Audit Relations and Program Improvement office stated that all the department's telecommunication devices are managed through two programs and that these programs have mechanisms in place to ensure that telecommunications are managed in an effective and efficient manner. However, as of May 2021, the department had not provided evidence to demonstrate that it had implemented the recommendation. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts.
Department of the Treasury To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of the Treasury should ensure an inventory of mobile devices and services is established department-wide (i.e., all components' devices and associated services are accounted for).
Open
As of May 2021, the Department of the Treasury had not implemented the recommendation. In August 2019, the department stated that it had established enterprise-wide procurement vehicles for mobile devices. However, as of May 2021, the department had not demonstrated that it has an inventory of mobile devices and associated service information. We will continue to monitor the department's progress in implementing this recommendation.
Department of Veterans Affairs To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should ensure procedures to monitor and control spending are established department-wide. Specifically, ensure that (1) procedures include assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage; (2) personnel with authority and responsibility for performing the procedures are identified; and (3) the specific steps to be taken to perform the process are documented.
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Veterans Affairs has implemented this recommendation. In July 2019, the department developed a standard operating procedure (SOP) for cellular device usage, which includes procedures for assessing devices for zero and under usage. Specifically, the SOP states that cellular devices which accrue zero voice usage or less than 250 kilobytes of data usage during a 90-day period are to be placed on a 90-day suspension. Any device not reclaimed and reused within that suspension period are to be disconnected. Area Managers, who are the Office of Information Technology Field Operations officials in charge of IT operations and maintenance in a service area, are responsible for evaluating cellular devices with low-use or no-use patterns. Regarding procedures for assessing devices for over usage, a department official said that usage on the department's task orders for voice, text, and data is unlimited, and therefore does not need to be assessed.
Environmental Protection Agency To help the agency effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency should ensure a complete inventory of mobile devices and associated services is established.
Closed - Implemented
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has implemented this recommendation. In February 2016, the agency established a policy requiring that mobile services be purchased through one of the contract vehicles established in its mobile service blanket agreement, unless an exception applies or a waiver is granted. In July 2018, the agency demonstrated that it had established an inventory of all of its mobile devices and their associated services under the new contracts.
Environmental Protection Agency To help the agency effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency should ensure a reliable inventory of mobile service contracts is maintained.
Closed - Implemented
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has addressed our recommendation. Specifically, in May 2015, we reported that the agency had developed an inventory of mobile service contracts; however, it included only the service contracts procured through its working capital fund. Since then, the agency established mobile service blanket purchase agreements and consolidated its non-working capital fund contracts into the blanket purchase agreements. In addition, in February 2016, EPA established a policy requiring that mobile services be purchased through one of these contract vehicles. EPA has demonstrated that it has a complete inventory of its mobile service contracts.
Environmental Protection Agency To help the agency effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency should ensure procedures to monitor and control spending are established agency-wide. Specifically, ensure that (1) procedures include assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage; (2) personnel with authority and responsibility for performing the procedures are identified; and (3) the specific steps to be taken to perform the process are documented.
Closed - Implemented
The Environmental Protection Agency has significantly addressed our recommendation by demonstrating that it regularly assesses devices for zero, under, and over usage using established parameters. Specifically, since we issued our report, it has produced quarterly reports showing devices with no use, minute usage of 30 percent or less, and usage over the allotted pooled plan minutes or five gigabytes of data.
General Services Administration To help the agency effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Acting Administrator of General Services should ensure procedures to monitor and control spending are established. Specifically, ensure that (1) procedures include assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage; (2) personnel with authority and responsibility for performing the procedures are identified; and (3) the specific steps to be taken to perform the process are documented.
Closed - Implemented
As of July 2015, GSA had implemented our recommendation. Specifically, we reported in May 2015 that the agency had established procedures to assess devices for zero usage; however, they did not include assessing devices for under or over usage. In July 2015, GSA documented steps to take to assess devices for under or over usage
National Aeronautics and Space Administration To help the agency effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration should ensure a complete inventory of mobile devices and associated services is established.
Open
In November 2019, NASA's Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) stated that the agency was in the process of enrolling devices in a new mobile device management tool, and that when the approximately 15 percent of devices that were not on NASA's new End-User Services Technology contract were brought on the contract, NASA would have a monthly deliverable depicting the services of all mobile devices. As of May 2021, NASA had not demonstrated that it has implemented the recommendation.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration To help the agency effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration should ensure a reliable inventory of mobile service contracts is developed and maintained.
Open
NASA's Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) stated that NASA had established, on September 1, 2019, the NASA End-User Services and Technology contract to procure mobile services, but as of November 2019, had not yet included 15 percent of its devices on the new contract. As of May 2021, the NASA had not demonstrated that it has implemented the recommendation.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration To help the agency effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration should ensure procedures to monitor and control spending are established agency-wide. Specifically, ensure that (1) procedures include assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage; (2) personnel with authority and responsibility for performing the procedures are identified; and (3) the specific steps to be taken to perform the process are documented.
Open
In November 2019, NASA's Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) stated that as part of enterprise mobility service contract deliverables, NASA required monthly reports to monitor and optimize usage (zero, under, and over). NASA's OCIO also stated that the agency established role-based privileges to monitor and report on this activity agency-wide. However, as of May 2021, the agency had not demonstrated that it has established procedures to assess device usage, in accordance with our recommendation.
Social Security Administration To help the agency effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should ensure a complete inventory of mobile devices and associated services is established.
Closed - Implemented
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has addressed our recommendation. Specifically, in January 2019, SSA demonstrated that it had a complete inventory of its mobile devices and associated services. In 2015, we reported that the agency had an inventory of mobile devices and associated services that included about 69 percent of the agency's reported quantity of devices. Since then, in January 2019, the agency demonstrated that it had sufficiently accounted for all of its devices.
Social Security Administration To help the agency effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should ensure procedures to monitor and control spending are established agency-wide. Specifically, ensure that (1) procedures include assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage; (2) personnel with authority and responsibility for performing the procedures are identified; and (3) the specific steps to be taken to perform the process are documented.
Closed - Implemented
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has implemented the recommendation. In October 2017, the agency established procedures that address the elements of our recommendation.
Department of the Treasury To help the department effectively manage spending on mobile devices and services, the Secretary of the Treasury should ensure procedures to monitor and control spending are established department-wide. Specifically, ensure that (1) procedures include assessing devices for zero, under, and over usage; (2) personnel with authority and responsibility for performing the procedures are identified; and (3) the specific steps to be taken to perform the process are documented.
Open
As of May 2021, the Department of the Treasury had not demonstrated that it has implemented the recommendation. In August 2019, an official from the department's Office of the Chief Information Officer stated that the department was collecting and analyzing information on voice and data utilization. However, as of May 2021, the department had not demonstrated that it had established procedures in accordance with our recommendation. We will continue to monitor the department's progress in implementing this recommendation.
Office of Management and Budget To better enable OMB to oversee agency efforts to consolidate mobile telecommunications contracts, the Director should measure and report progress in achieving its goal of cost savings through consolidation, as described in the 2012 Digital Government Strategy.
Closed - Implemented
In April 2018, the Category Management Leadership Council, which is chaired by the Office of Management and Budget, issued government-wide category management strategic plans. According to the plans, the federal government planned to achieve cost savings through use of the government-wide Federal Strategic Sources Initiative-Wireless (FSSI-W) blanket purchase agreements. In September 2018, OMB said that the General Services Administration, as the administrator of FSSI-W, computes savings related to the initiative. Since then, in June 2019, the General Services Administration demonstrated that through use of FSSI-W the federal government had reduced its mobile service costs by at least $199 million in fiscal years 2017 through 2021.

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