IG happy with NASA's responses to IT acquisition advice

NASA’s inspector general is satisfied with the agency’s responses to recommendations that the IG had made in two recent information technology audits.

The first series of recommendations involved fixing an improper noncompetitive software acquisition. The second set concerned improvements to NASA’s IT capital planning and investment control.

On the first matter, the IG had found that NASA reneged on earlier assurances that it would correct the errant software procurement process. NASA was trying to make a particular vendor’s products standard agencywide without justification, according to the memo, issued Aug. 23.

The IG recommended that the Office of the Chief Engineer assess NASA’s agencywide requirements for the mechanical computer-aided design and data management engineering software tools involved.

There were two further recommendations: The Johnson Space Center’s procurement officer should suspend the procurement until the assessment was finished and NASA's Office of the General Counsel should notify the Government Accountability Office in writing of any deviations from the corrective actions that the agency promised in 2005.

In a new memo, dated Sept. 21, the IG reports that the space agency has provided the needed response, and the recommendations are "resolved and closed.”

However, an IG memo dated Sept. 14, states that NASA’s chief information officer has some work to do on information technology capital planning and investment control (CPIC).

That audit assessed the creation and execution of NASA’s IT investment portfolio and found that the agency is not selecting all portfolio investments in accordance with the agency’s pre-determined policy.

Specifically, NASA used the portfolio selection process for only $306 million of the $702 million office automation, IT infrastructure and telecommunications (OAIT) portfolio. "As a result, NASA cannot be adequately assured that it is selecting OAIT investments that best meet the needs and priorities of the agency,” states the memo, written by Evelyn Klemstine, NASA’s assistant IG for auditing.

The IG also identified inconsistencies in the way NASA centers categorized their OAIT investments. Common portfolio categories are intended to help managers prioritize projects and prevent dissimilar projects from competing against one another.

Without adhering to common categories, “the agency could be exposed to escalating project costs, duplicative and ineffective systems, unmitigated technical risks, slippages in projects schedules and low-value mission or business benefits,” Klemstine wrote.

She recommends that the NASA CIO establish clear requirements mandating compliance with NASA’s IT CPIC policy and use common portfolio categories throughout the agency. She also advised that the NASA CIO review centers’ IT CPIC policy submissions to ensure that the centers comply with the policy. Finally, she wants the NASA CIO to make sure all investments in the OAIT portfolio undergo the proper portfolio selection process by 2008.

In response to a draft of the memo, NASA management agreed with all three recommendations.

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