Challenge: Poor Return on Investment
The federal government annually invests more than $80 billion in IT, however, investments too frequently fail
or incur cost overruns and schedule slippages. In 2015 we designated IT acquisitions and operations as a
government-wide high-risk area. We found that agencies have IT projects that perform poorly, are scoped too
broadly, and are not designed to deliver functionality for several years. Federal IT acquisition often takes too
long and is unaccommodating to the rapid evolution of IT. Chief Information Officers (CIO) do not always have
sufficient authority over IT portfolios, which can lead to ineffective executive oversight and governance and can
cause federal IT projects to fail.
IT acquisition reform legislation enacted in December 2014 has strengthened CIO authority in this regard. The
law commonly known as the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act aims to improve federal IT
acquisition and operations. The law includes specific requirements, such as enhancing Agency CIO authority,
making publicly available detailed information on federal IT investments to enhance transparency and improve
risk management, and reviewing annually IT investment portfolios.
Public reporting and transparency are an important oversight component of the management of IT acquisition
and operations. As of June 2016, 196 of the federal government’s 746 major IT investments on the Office of
Management and Budget’s IT Dashboard—totaling $12.3 billion—were reported as in need of management attention
due to their high risk.