GAO counts $320M spent on 12 duplicative programs

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A dozen potentially duplicative IT investments at three departments have cost the federal government more than $320 million over the last five fiscal years, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office.

Of the 590 information technology purchases the GAO studied in a recent report, 12 were identified as potentially redundant programs at the Homeland Security, Defense and Health and Human Services departments. GAO examined those departments because they have the largest amount of planned IT spending in the federal government. The government spends about $82 billion annually on IT.


Read the report.

Since the review, DOD has consolidated two programs and expressed intent to cancel a third. GAO recommended DHS and HHS conduct further analyses to help direct consolidation efforts and suggested that DOD develop a plan to cancel the third duplicative program.

Among the findings:

DHS maintains two programs that support immigration enforcement booking management. DHS argues that it needs both programs, but GAO believes it should provide an analysis to show that one program would not meet the need.

GAO found four duplicative programs at DOD, including two that track the health care status of combat personnel and two that manage dental care.

It found six at HHS, including four that support enterprise information security and two for Medicare coverage determination.

DOD and HHS agreed with GAO's recommendations.

The report found qualified praise and criticism on Capitol Hill.

"Our federal government sets aside $82 billion annually for IT investment," said Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) in a joint Sept. 12 statement with ranking committee member. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). "With so much money on the line, it is critical that our government agencies are doing everything possible to save taxpayer money."

While Carper said the study showed some areas that needed improvement, he said it was "promising that GAO found that only 12 of the 590 investments reviewed were duplicative." He added that there was "clearly" more work to do in improving IT spending throughout the federal government. "As I like to say, 'the road to improvement is always under construction.'"

Coburn was less charitable.

"Today's GAO report outlines why effective oversight of the $82 billion spent yearly on IT is essential," said Coburn. "As the GAO report highlights, the government has failed to make gains in improving productivity in IT. We have seen too many delayed and over-budget projects, including some that are duplicative."

Coburn vowed to continue to conduct additional IT oversight and "pressure agencies to follow GAO's recommendations to reduce unnecessary and wasteful duplication."

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.

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Reader comments

Mon, Sep 16, 2013 Gov Emp1

I wonder how many of these duplicates were by accident or because of someone flexing their authority. In our agency, twice, a regional office starting a program and be well underway, when someone at the central office, and higher level, decided they could do it better. They didn't have the authority to stop the work at the regional level but they could start their own duplicate effort. In both situations, they politicized their programs over the regional's. In one situation, their program became the standard but there were issues with it. In the other situation, the head of the organization looked at both programs and found the one from the central office to be inferior and ordered work on it to stop.

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