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GAO discussed the Forest Service's plans to acquire a nationwide geographic information system (GIS). GAO found that: (1) the nationwide system would be composed of commercially available GIS software linked by an existing telecommunications network; (2) the Service estimated that GIS would cost $1.2 billion over a 12-year period, of which about $900 million was for management and overhead costs; (3) the Service was not ready to procure a $1.2-billion nationwide system; (4) the Service did not analyze a full range of alternatives, made assumptions that unnecessarily limited the alternatives it considered, and did not analyze how those alternatives would affect its organization; (5) the Service did not estimate the dollar value of specific benefits it expected to achieve from GIS, but instead used an invalid representation of future benefits; (6) the Service did not adequately define its information and system performance needs, thereby failing to comply with regulations governing functional requirements for systems; and (7) there was an increased and unnecessary risk that GIS would not result in a cost-effective system.

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