Fast Facts

The federal government spends over $90 billion a year on information technology. Earlier, we found that agencies sometimes award contracts for duplicative IT services—like awarding 2 contracts to the same vendor for the same services. Eliminating duplication could save money.

Agencies could help reduce duplication by

Using existing contracts for categories of similar goods and services—a.k.a. category management—as the Office of Management and Budget suggests

Analyzing IT spending to find duplication

The 7 agencies we reviewed fully or partially took these and other steps. We made 20 recommendations aimed at reducing IT contract duplication.

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Highlights

What GAO Found

Selected agencies varied in their efforts to implement five Office of Management and Budget (OMB) category management activities that contribute to preventing, identifying, and reducing duplicative information technology (IT) contracts. For example, most of the seven selected agencies had fully implemented the activities associated with identifying a Senior Accountable Official and training their workforces. In contrast, about half the agencies had fully implemented the activity associated with sharing contract information (see figure). Agencies cited several reasons for their varied implementation, including that they were still defining how to best integrate category management into the agency.

Extent to Which Seven Selected Federal Agencies Implemented Five Category Management Activities That Contribute to Reducing Information Technology (IT) Contract Duplication

Extent to Which Seven Selected Federal Agencies Implemented Five Category Management Activities That Contribute to Reducing Information Technology (IT) Contract Duplication

aThis refers to spending on contracts that are not aligned with the Office of Management and Budget's criteria for agency-wide, multi-agency or government-wide, and “Best in Class” contracts.

bThis activity applies to sharing information with officials for agency-wide, government-wide, and “Best in Class” IT contracts, that are owned by the agency. Since nearly all of the Department of State's IT contracts were owned by other agencies, GAO determined that this activity was not applicable.

Four of the seven agencies had fully or partially implemented the activity to regularly use a spend analysis to identify potential contract duplication. Each of these four agencies had fully implemented the activity to develop and implement strategies to address the identified duplication, which, according to agency officials, resulted in millions of dollars in savings. The remaining three agencies had not implemented either of the two spend analysis activities. Until agencies ensure that their efforts to prevent, identify, and reduce duplicative IT contracts are fully aligned with category management principles and practices, and are informed by spend analyses, they will be at increased risk of wasteful spending. In addition, they will likely miss opportunities to identify and realize savings of potentially hundreds of millions of dollars.

Why GAO Did This Study

Given that the federal government spends over $90 billion annually on IT, it is important that agencies avoid spending on duplicative contracts. Such duplication can occur, for example, when an agency awards two or more contracts to the same vendor for the same services. Category management—in which spending is managed by categories such as IT—and analyses of agency spending on products and services (called spend analyses) have been recognized as effective practices for identifying duplicative contracts.

GAO was asked to review agencies' efforts to reduce IT contract duplication. GAO determined the extent to which (1) selected agencies' efforts to prevent, identify, and reduce duplicative or wasteful IT contracts were consistent with OMB guidance; and (2) these efforts were informed by spend analyses.

GAO compared relevant documentation from seven federal agencies with the most IT spending and new contracts to five activities identified in OMB guidance and two spend analyses activities identified in guidance. GAO rated each agency as having fully, partially, or not implemented each activity.

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Recommendations

GAO is making 20 recommendations to six agencies to fully implement the category management and spend analyses activities. The agencies generally concurred. Two agencies provided additional evidence that led GAO to withdraw one recommendation and modify one other.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Agriculture The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the agency fully implements the category management activity to reduce unaligned IT spending, by performing an analysis of alternatives to justify the agency's unaligned IT contracts. (Recommendation 1)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of Agriculture The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the agency fully implements the category management activity to develop and implement vendor management strategies, by implementing the strategies it had developed. (Recommendation 2)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of Agriculture The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the agency fully implements the category management activity to share prices paid, terms, and conditions for purchased IT goods and services. (Recommendation 3)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of Agriculture The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the agency finishes implementing its process to analyze IT contract data. (Recommendation 4)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of Agriculture The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the agency develops and implements strategies to address duplication identified through the use of spend analyses. (Recommendation 5)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the agency fully implements the category management activity to reduce unaligned IT spending. (Recommendation 6)
Open
The Department of Defense (DOD) concurred with the recommendation. In December 2020, DOD officials reported that the department has taken steps to reduce unaligned IT spending. For example, the officials stated that, in November 2020, the department established a Category Management Governance Working group to focus on governance, including category management policy and enterprise buying. In addition, the officials stated that the Chief Information Officer issued guidance on IT category management hardware purchasing solutions, and plans to issue additional guidance on IT category management in June 2021. However, DOD has not yet provided documentation showing that the department has reduced unaligned IT spending. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to address our recommendation.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the agency documents its annual spend analyses used to identify opportunities to reduce IT contract duplication. (Recommendation 7)
Open
The Department of Defense (DOD) concurred with the recommendation. In December 2020, DOD officials stated that department plans to issue standard operating procedures for its spend analyses in March 2021. The officials stated that the procedures will address documenting annual spend, and integrating existing DOD initiatives that identify opportunities to reduce IT contract duplication. We will continue to monitor the department's efforts to address our recommendation.
Department of Health and Human Services The Secretary of Health and Human Services should ensure that the agency uses a spend analysis on a regular basis to identify IT contract duplication. (Recommendation 8)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of Justice The Attorney General should ensure that the Department of Justice fully implements the category management activity to reduce unaligned IT spending, by performing an analysis of alternatives to justify the agency's unaligned IT contracts. (Recommendation 9)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of Justice The Attorney General should ensure that the Department of Justice fully implements the category management activity to share prices paid, terms and conditions for purchased IT goods and services. (Recommendation 10)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of Justice The Attorney General should ensure that the Department of Justice fully implements the category management activity to engage the workforce in training regarding category management principles and practices, by tracking its workforce's attendance in the training. (Recommendation 11)
Closed - Implemented
In November 2020, Department of Justice (DOJ) officials stated that the department monitors category management training provided by the Federal Acquisition Institute. In addition, the officials provided supporting documentation, including a report that showed the number of DOJ staff that had completed category management training in fiscal year 2020. As a result, the department has increased its ability to assess whether its workforce is acquiring the knowledge on category management principles and practices that could contribute to reducing duplicative contracts.
Department of Justice The Attorney General should ensure that the Department of Justice uses a spend analysis to identify opportunities to reduce IT contract duplication. (Recommendation 12)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of Justice The Attorney General should ensure that the Department of Justice develops and implements strategies to address duplication identified through the use of spend analyses. (Recommendation 13)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of State The Secretary of State should ensure that the agency fully implements the category management activity to develop and implement vendor relationship management strategies, by executing its vendor management plan. (Recommendation 14)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of Veterans Affairs The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should ensure that the agency fully implements the category management activity to develop processes and policies for implementing the agency's category management efforts. (Recommendation 15)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of Veterans Affairs The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should ensure that the agency fully implements the category management activity to reduce unaligned IT spending, by performing an analysis of alternatives to justify the agency's unaligned IT contracts. (Recommendation 16)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of Veterans Affairs The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should ensure that the agency fully implements the category management activity to develop and implement vendor relationship management strategies. (Recommendation 17)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of Veterans Affairs The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should ensure that the agency fully implements the category management activity to share prices paid, terms and conditions for purchased IT goods and services. (Recommendation 18)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of Veterans Affairs The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should ensure that the agency uses a spend analysis to identify opportunities to reduce IT contract duplication. (Recommendation 19)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of Veterans Affairs The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should ensure that the agency develops and implements strategies to address duplication identified through the use of spend analyses. (Recommendation 20)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

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