ALMRS sked criticized again

Incomplete plans continue to plague an enormous project to modernize the system that the Bureau of Land Management uses to manage millions of acres of federal land and mineral resources, the General Accounting Office said.

According to a GAO report released this month, BLM has not developed adequate plans for security, operations and maintenance for the Automated Land and Mineral Record System (ALMRS)— which the agency uses to oversee the use of more than 260 million acres of government-owned land— including tasks such as tracking oil, gas and mineral leases, lease applications, and timber and land sales.

Security Lacking

"BLM does not have a security architecture and sound security plan, complete transition plans, and complete operations and maintenance plans for ALMRS," according to the report, written by Joel Willemssen, GAO director of civil agencies information systems. "These tools are essential to manage the remainder of the project, help ensure system availability and performance and avoid security and operational problems."

BLM also has not developed a "credible project schedule" for ALMRS, Willemssen said.

The shortcomings are similar to what GAO reported about a year ago when it criticized BLM for having an unrealistic modernization schedule for ALMRS, which BLM estimates will cost almost $594 million.

Gayle Gordon, assistant director of information resources management for BLM, said GAO's findings were mostly on target at the time the report was compiled this past winter.

"We generally agree with the findings at the time of the review— i.e., February," she said. "If the same snapshot was taken today, the conclusions would be different."

Adequate security for ALMRS is in place, Gordon said. "We have a security architecture in place.... We have a security plan too."

Expected Schedule

ALMRS will be released in two phases. Release 1, expected in late summer, will give more than 4,000 federal workers access to land records. The public also will have access to the records if they visit specific ALMRS terminals located at BLM offices nationwide.

"We feel that for Release 1, the security we have in place is perfectly adequate," Gordon said. "[GAO's] sense is that [because] we haven't done a recent risk assessment of the system, how can we argue that we have a viable security plan?"

BLM continues to develop a security plan for Release 2, which will make land records available via the Internet in about a year, Gordon said.

Gordon also disagreed with GAO's assertion that BLM has not developed a credible schedule for the ALMRS modernization. She said the modernization is nearing completion. "We feel as if the system is working sufficiently," she said. "We need to have the formal [operational assessment], and that will probably take place [this summer]."

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