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Highlights

What GAO Found

The General Services Administration's (GSA's) transition guidance to agencies addressed roughly half of its previously identified lessons learned. GSA identified 35 lessons learned from previous telecommunications contract transitions that identify actions that agencies should take. In transition guidance released to agencies, GSA fully addressed 17 of the 35 lessons. Two lessons from previous transitions were not appropriate for the current transition. GSA partially addressed an additional nine lessons. Seven lessons were not addressed at all (see figure). For example, GSA's guidance did not address the previous lesson that agencies should not assume that a transition to a new contract with the same vendor will be easier than a change in vendors. By not including all lessons learned in its plans and guidance to agencies, GSA limits agencies' ability to plan for actions that will need to be taken later in the transition. As a result, agencies face an increased risk that they could repeat prior mistakes, including those that could result in schedule delays or unnecessary costs.

Number of Lessons-Learned Addressed in GSA's Plans and Guidance

Number of Lessons-Learned Addressed in GSA's Plans and Guidance

Selected agencies—the Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Labor (DOL), and Transportation (DOT); the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Social Security Administration (SSA)—have yet to fully apply most of the five planning practices previously identified by GAO as key to a successful telecommunications transition. The practices encompass: (1) developing inventories, incorporating strategic needs into transition planning, (2) incorporating strategic needs into transition planning, (3) developing a structured transition-management approach, (4) identifying resources necessary for the transition, and (5) establishing transition processes and measures of success. SEC fully implemented one practice, partially implemented three practices, and did not implement another. The other four agencies partially implemented each of the five practices. Agencies provided various reasons for not following planning practices, including uncertainty due to delays in GSA awarding the new contracts, plans to implement practices later as part of established agency procedures for managing IT projects, and a lack of direction and contractor assistance from GSA. If agencies do not fully implement the practices in the next transition, they will be more likely to experience the kinds of delays and increased costs that occurred in previous transitions.

Why GAO Did This Study

GSA is responsible for contracts providing telecommunications services for federal agencies. Transitions involving previous contracts faced significant delays resulting in increased costs. Because GSA's current telecommunications program, Networx, expires in May 2020, planning for the next transition has begun.

GAO was asked to review preparations for the transition. This report addresses the extent to which (1) GSA's plans and guidance to agencies incorporate lessons learned from prior transitions, and (2) agencies are following established planning practices in their transitions. In performing this work, GAO analyzed GSA lessons learned and transition guidance. GAO also selected five agencies—USDA, DOL, DOT, SEC, and SSA—based on size, structure, and Networx spending. GAO then reviewed the agencies' documentation to determine how they followed five planning practices identified in previous GAO reports.

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Recommendations

GAO recommends that GSA disseminate guidance that includes all agency-directed lessons learned. In addition, GAO recommends that USDA, DOL, DOT, SEC, and SSA complete adoption of the planning practices to avoid schedule delays and unnecessary costs. Five agencies agreed with all of our recommendations. SSA agreed with two recommendations, partially disagreed with one, disagreed with two, and provided updated information. GAO stands by the recommendations, as discussed in the report, and revised the report based on SSA's new information.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
General Services Administration The Administrator of General Services should disseminate the 16 agency-focused lessons learned that have not been fully incorporated in GSA guidance to the agencies involved in the current transition. (Recommendation 1)
Closed - Implemented
In November 2017, GSA updated its EIS Transition Handbook to include all 16 agency-focused lessons learned. GSA then disseminated these lessons to all agencies involved in the transition by posting this document on its EIS Interact website.
Department of Agriculture The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer verifies the completeness of its inventory of current telecommunications assets and services and establishes a process for ongoing maintenance of the inventory. (Recommendation 2)
Closed - Implemented
In November 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provided documentation demonstrating that it had verified the completeness of its telecommunications inventory. The department also provided documentation demonstrating that it had established a process for ongoing maintenance of this inventory. By developing a complete telecommunications inventory and verifying the completeness of it, USDA is better positioned to determine areas for optimization and the sharing of telecommunications resources across the department. In addition, by establishing an ongoing maintenance process for the inventory, USDA is better able to ensure that it consistently and accurately incorporates into its telecommunications inventory any changes that it makes during and after its transition to new telecommunications contracts.
Department of Agriculture The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer completes efforts to identify future telecommunications needs and areas for optimization, identifies the costs and benefits of new technology, and aligns USDA's approach with its long-term plans. (Recommendation 3)
Closed - Implemented
In response to our recommendation, in April 2020, USDA completed its identification of its future telecommunications needs and areas for optimization. As part of this identification effort, the department developed a business case for its transition to its new telecommunications contracts that identified, among other things, the costs of new technology. Further, in September 2020, USDA provided documentation demonstrating that its transition approach is aligned with its long-term plans. By taking these actions, USDA is better positioned to take full advantage of the transition as an opportunity to optimize its telecommunications services. The department is also better able to ensure that its transition decisions are aligned with its long-term goals.
Department of Agriculture The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer identifies transition-related roles and responsibilities related to the management of assets, human capital, and information security, and legal expertise; develops a transition communications plan; and uses configuration and change-management processes in USDA's transition. (Recommendation 4)
Closed - Implemented
As we recommended, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) identified transition roles and responsibilities related to the management of assets, human capital, and information security, and legal expertise. USDA also developed communications and change management plans for the transition. Further, in June 2021, the department demonstrated that its EIS vendor will be required to use configuration management during the transition. By taking these actions, USDA is better able to ensure that transition staff have the necessary information for comprehensive understanding, accountability, and shared expectations for the transition. The department is also better positioned to implement the transition using a rigorous management approach.
Department of Agriculture The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer documents the costs and benefits of transition investments, identifies staff resources needed for the remainder of the transition, and analyzes training needs for staff assisting with the transition. (Recommendation 5)
Open
In July 2019, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials documented the costs of their transition investments in an Independent Government Cost Estimate. However, USDA has not yet identified all staff resources needed for the remainder of the transition nor analyzed training needs for staff assisting with the transition. USDA officials attributed this to multiple delays that they experienced in the award of USDA's EIS task order, which had not yet been awarded, as of June 2021. The officials explained that their staff resource and training needs will depend on the EIS vendor selected. The officials expect to complete these activities and address this recommendation by the end of January 2022. We will continue to follow-up with USDA on its efforts to implement this recommendation.
Department of Agriculture The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer demonstrates that the Department's transition goals and measures align with its mission, identifies transition risks related to critical systems and continuity of operations, and identifies mission-critical priorities in USDA's transition timeline. (Recommendation 6)
Open
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) stated that it plans to (1) incorporate mission-critical priorities into USDA's requests for quotes; (2) ensure that critical systems are inventoried and that their respective transition plans ensure continuity of operations; and (3) prioritize mission-critical functions within its transition timeline, as we recommended. However, the department has not yet taken action to implement these activities. In June 2021, USDA officials attributed this to multiple delays that they experienced in the award of USDA's EIS task order, which had not yet been awarded. The officials expect to complete these activities and address this recommendation by the end of January 2022.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer verifies the completeness of DOL's inventory of current telecommunications assets and services and establishes a process for ongoing maintenance of the inventory. (Recommendation 7)
Open
Department of Labor (DOL) officials stated that the agency is in the process of developing an inventory of its telecommunications assets and services that are associated with GSA's expiring contracts (e.g., Networx). The officials noted that, as part of the department's transition to EIS, DOL plans to include only limited non-GSA/commercial telecommunications assets and services in its initial transition efforts and inventory. In April 2021, DOL officials stated that the department's Office of the Chief Information Officer will conduct a full inventory of the non-GSA/commercial telecommunications assets and services in use at the department during fiscal year 2022 and 2023. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to implement this recommendation.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer identifies the agency's future telecommunications needs, completes a strategic analysis of the agency's telecommunications requirements, and incorporates the requirements into transition planning. (Recommendation 8)
Open
The Department of Labor (DOL) provided documentation demonstrating that it has identified certain future telecommunications needs for the department, but DOL did not identify these needs using a complete inventory of its current telecommunications assets and services. In addition, the department demonstrated that it had completed a draft strategic analysis of its telecommunications requirements, but this analysis was not yet finalized and approved. Further, the department has not yet demonstrated that it has aligned its identified telecommunications needs with its long-term plans and enterprise architecture. In April 2021, DOL officials stated that the department will use GSA's Transition Engineering Assistance Consulting Support to assess and develop a strategic analysis on how DOL's EIS awards align to the department's future telecommunications needs. The officials expect this strategic review to begin in June or July 2021. We will continue to monitor DOL's efforts to implement this recommendation.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer identifies transition-related roles and responsibilities related to the management of assets, human capital, and information security, and legal expertise; develops a transition communications plan; and uses project, configuration, and change-management processes in DOL's transition (Recommendation 9)
Open
In April 2021, Department of Labor (DOL) officials stated that, in November 2020, the department created transition planning artifacts to address GAO's recommendation, including an EIS project plan. However, DOL has not yet provided evidence of these documents. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to implement this recommendation.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer identifies the resources needed for the full transition, develops justifications for the costs of changes to hardware and software, identifies staff resources needed for the remainder of the transition, and analyzes training needs for staff assisting with the transition. (Recommendation 10)
Open
In April 2021, Department of Labor (DOL) officials stated that, in November 2020, the department created transition planning artifacts to address GAO's recommendation, including an EIS project plan. However, DOL has not yet provided evidence of these documents. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to implement this recommendation.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer identifies transition risks related to information security, critical systems, and continuity of operations, and identifies mission-critical priorities in DOL's transition timeline. (Recommendation 11)
Open
In April 2021, Department of Labor (DOL) officials stated that, in November 2020, the department created transition planning artifacts to address GAO's recommendation, including an EIS project plan. However, DOL has not yet provided evidence of these documents. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to implement this recommendation.
United States Securities and Exchange Commission The Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission should ensure that the Commission's Chief Information Officer identifies the agency's future telecommunications needs, areas for optimization, and the costs and benefits of new technology; completes a strategic analysis of the commission's telecommunications requirements; and incorporates the identified requirements into transition planning. (Recommendation 12)
Closed - Implemented
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) identified the agency's future telecommunications needs and incorporated those needs into its transition planning. Specifically, as part of its transition approach, the department decided that it will implement a like-for-like transition, during which the agency will replace expiring services with similar or functionally equivalent services. As a result of this approach, the agency will not be implementing new technology during the transition and, as such, did not identify the costs and benefits of new technology. Nevertheless, by identifying the agency's future telecommunications needs and incorporating those needs into its transition plans, the agency is better positioned to effectively plan for the transition and avoid unnecessary transition delays.
United States Securities and Exchange Commission The Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission should ensure that the Commission's Chief Information Officer identifies roles and responsibilities related to the management of assets and human capital and legal expertise for the transition; includes key local and regional officials in SEC's transition communications plan; and completes efforts to use configuration and change management processes in the transition. (Recommendation 13)
Closed - Implemented
In response to our recommendation, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) included key local and regional officials in the agency's July 2019 transition communications plan. In addition, in April 2020, the agency demonstrated that it is using configuration and change management processes for the transition, as we recommended. Further, in January 2021, SEC identified a legal management role and responsibilities for the transition, and identified transition roles for human capital and asset management. By taking these actions, the agency is better able to ensure that staff with transition responsibilities have a comprehensive understanding, accountability, and shared expectations for the transition. Further, the agency's use of configuration and change management processes for the transition should help to minimize the possibility of disruptions to the continuity of the agency's telecommunications systems.
United States Securities and Exchange Commission The Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission should ensure that the Commission's Chief Information Officer identifies the resources needed for the full transition, justifies requests for transition resources, identifies staff resources needed for the full transition, and completes efforts to analyze training needs for staff assisting with the transition. (Recommendation 14)
Closed - Implemented
In response to our recommendation, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) identified the total costs and staff resources needed for each year of the transition. In addition, the agency provided documentation justifying its resource requests, including an Executive Approval briefing that justified the project's expected annual costs and was signed by the Chief Technology Officer, Chief Information Officer, and Chief Operating Officer. Further, in January 2021, SEC identified the staff needed for the transition effort. SEC also determined that no additional training was needed for these staff because the agency is implementing a "like-for-like" transition and, as such, there is no new technology that will be implemented. By identifying its complete transition funding requirements and staffing needs, SEC should be better able to ensure that sufficient resources are available when needed during the transition.
United States Securities and Exchange Commission The Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission should ensure that the Commission's Chief Information Officer completes efforts to demonstrate that the commission's transition goals and measures align with its mission, identifies transition risks related to critical systems and continuity of operations, and identifies mission-critical priorities in SEC's transition timeline. (Recommendation 15)
Closed - Implemented
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has demonstrated that its transition goals and measures align with its mission. In addition, the commission identified transition risks related to its critical systems and continuity of operations. Further, in November 2019, SEC identified mission-critical priorities in its transition timeline. By taking these actions, SEC should be better prepared to mitigate risks related to its mission-critical priorities, which should help to minimize any delays or problems that may result if such risks occur.
Social Security Administration The Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should ensure that the Administration's Chief Information Officer verifies the completeness of SSA's inventory of current telecommunications assets and services and establishes a process for ongoing maintenance of the inventory regarding services other than local and long-distance telecommunications. (Recommendation 16)
Open
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has not yet demonstrated that it has verified the completeness of its inventory of telecommunications assets and services. SSA officials stated that their inventory is based on internal reporting that had been conducted in accordance with agency guidance issued in 2008. However, the officials did not demonstrate that they had verified the accuracy and completeness of these internal reports. In addition, while the administration demonstrated it had maintenance procedures for its inventory of local and long-distance telecommunications, it did not demonstrate that it had established a process for ongoing maintenance of the inventory of services other than local and long-distance telecommunications (e.g., wireless/cellular, satellite, fixed data, and collaboration services). SSA officials stated that those services are handled by contracts outside of GSA contracts and, as such, considers them out-of-scope for the transition. However, GAO maintains that SSA should have a complete inventory of all telecommunications services, as well as associated maintenance procedures for that complete inventory, in order to be able to strategically plan for the transition. In June 2021, SSA officials stated that they had begun to implement a system that is intended to consolidate the administration's disparate telecommunications inventories into a unified asset management solution. The officials expect to complete implementation of this system in fiscal year 2022.
Social Security Administration The Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should ensure that the Administration's Chief Information Officer completes identification of the agency's future telecommunications needs and aligns its approach with the agency's enterprise architecture. (Recommendation 17)
Open
Social Security Administration (SSA) officials stated that the agency's priority is to transition its telecommunications services on a like-for-like basis, in order to complete the transition before its existing contracts expire, as well as to receive immediate cost savings. In June 2021, officials also stated that they aligned their future telecommunications needs with the agency's enterprise architecture. However, SSA has not yet provided documentation of that alignment. We will continue to monitor SSA's progress on these efforts.
Social Security Administration The Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should ensure that the Administration's Chief Information Officer uses configuration and change-management processes in its transition. (Recommendation 18)
Closed - Implemented
The Social Security Administration (SSA) provided documentation demonstrating that it is using a change management process for its transition, including establishing a change control board that is scheduled to meet on a weekly basis and tracking change requests in its IT Service Management tool. In addition, in June 2021, SSA provided documentation of the configuration management process that it plans to use during the implementation of its telecommunications asset management solution. By using configuration and change management processes during its transition, SSA should have a decreased risk of experiencing issues associated with technical and operational changes that it makes during the transition.
Social Security Administration The Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should ensure that the Administration's Chief Information Officer identifies the resources needed for the full transition, documents the costs and benefits of transition investments, identifies staff resources needed for the remainder of the transition, and analyzes training needs for all staff working on the transition. (Recommendation 19)
Closed - Implemented
in June 2021, the Social Security Administration (SSA) provided documentation demonstrating that it identified the funding resources needed for the full transition by developing Independent Government Cost Estimates for its two telecommunications transition projects. SSA also provided documentation demonstrating that it has identified the staff resources needed for the transition and the required training for staff working on the transition. As a result, SSA is better able to ensure that sufficient resources--including both funding and staff--will be available when needed during the transition.
Social Security Administration The Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should ensure that the Administration's Chief Information Officer completes efforts to identify measures of success for the transition, identifies transition risks related to critical systems and continuity of operations, and identifies mission-critical priorities in SSA's transition timeline. (Recommendation 20)
Closed - Implemented
The Social Security Administration (SSA) completed its efforts to identify measures of success for the transition and documented these measures in its August 2018 EIS transition plan. In addition, SSA identified transition risks related to critical systems and continuity of operations, and developed a high-level transition timeline that takes into account priorities related to the administration's critical systems. As a result, SSA should be better positioned to track progress toward transition objectives and better prepared to mitigate transition risks.
Department of Transportation The Secretary of Transportation should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer verifies the completeness of DOT's inventory of current telecommunications assets and services and establishes a process for ongoing maintenance of the inventory. (Recommendation 21)
Open
While Department of Transportation (DOT) officials stated that the department has developed a comprehensive inventory of its telecommunications assets and services, and maintains this inventory on a regular basis, DOT has not provided documentation of its inventory or the associated maintenance processes. In June 2021, DOT officials stated that they are working to implement this recommendation by the end of December 2021. We will continue to follow-up with DOT on its efforts to implement this recommendation.
Department of Transportation The Secretary of Transportation should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer identifies the agency's future telecommunications needs, areas for optimization, and costs and benefits of new technology; and completes efforts to align DOT's approach with its long-term plans and enterprise architecture. (Recommendation 22)
Open
Department of Transportation (DOT) officials stated that they conducted an assessment of the department's future telecommunication requirements. According to officials, the results of this analysis were included in the department's EIS Statement of Work. However, DOT has not demonstrated that it used its complete inventory of existing services to identify its future needs. DOT officials also stated that they conducted extensive research to identify areas for optimization and sharing, but they did not provide documentation of this research. Further, DOT has not yet provided evidence that the department has aligned its transition approach with its long-term plans and enterprise architecture. In June 2021, DOT officials stated that they are working to implement this recommendation by the end of December 2021. We will continue to follow-up with DOT on its efforts to implement this recommendation.
Department of Transportation The Secretary of Transportation should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer identifies roles and responsibilities related to the management of assets and human capital and legal expertise for the transition; develops a transition communications plan; and fully uses configuration and change-management processes in DOT's transition. (Recommendation 23)
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Transportation (DOT) developed a transition communications plan and identified roles and responsibilities related to legal expertise and the management of assets and human capital. DOT also provided evidence that it is requiring the use of change management in the transition. By taking these actions, DOT is better able to ensure that transition staff have the information necessary for comprehensive understanding, accountability, and shared expectations for the transition.
Department of Transportation The Secretary of Transportation should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer fully identifies the resources needed for the full transition, justifies requests for transition resources, identifies staff resources needed for the full transition, and fully analyzes training needs for staff assisting with the transition. (Recommendation 24)
Open
Department of Transportation (DOT) developed a transition resource plan that identifies functional roles needed for the transition, such as network engineers and staff to place new telecommunications orders. However, the transition resource plan did not identify the staffing levels needed for each of the functional roles, such as how many network engineers are necessary, and DOT did not provide other documentation that fully identifies these resources needs. In addition, DOT has not yet provided documentation that it has identified the funding needed for the full transition, justified requests for transition resources, or fully analyzed training needs for staff assisting with the transition. In June 2021, DOT officials stated that they are working to implement this recommendation by the end of December 2021. We will continue to follow-up with DOT on its efforts to implement this recommendation.
Department of Transportation The Secretary of Transportation should ensure that the Department's Chief Information Officer fully demonstrates that DOT's transition goals and measures align with its mission; completely identifies transition risks related to information security, critical systems, and continuity of operations; and fully identifies mission-critical priorities in the transition timeline. (Recommendation 25)
Open
Department of Transportation (DOT) provided evidence that its transition goals and measures align with its mission and that it has identified the risks associated with the EIS transition. However, DOT has not yet provided documentation demonstrating that it has identified mission-critical priorities in its transition timeline. In June 2021, DOT officials stated that they are working to implement this recommendation by the end of December 2021. We will continue to follow-up with DOT on its efforts to implement this recommendation.

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