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GAO discussed the Forest Service's progress in addressing major weaknesses in the development of its Geographic Information System (GIS). GAO found that: (1) to be more flexible in configuring GIS capabilities for its 880 sites, the Service plans to evaluate configuration requirements during a planned pilot phase; (2) the Service's approach for assessing alternatives focused largely on automating its current ways of conducting business instead of rethinking and improving the way it performs its mission; and (3) the Service plans to improve its estimates of costs and benefits before it awards a contract for the project, but this approach is not consistent with systems development practices because the Service would not use a cost/benefit analysis to help determine the most cost-beneficial alternative. GAO believes that: (1) the Service's development of more specific data and system performance requirements for incorporation into its GIS solicitation was consistent with accepted practices and necessary for competitive bidding; and (2) some uncertainties remained regarding the adequacy of the Forest Service's new approach in reducing risks and improving GIS design and justification.

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