ALMRS not ready, GAO says

The Bureau of Land Management got its hands slapped by the General Accounting Office for having too aggressive an implementation schedule for its massive Automated Land and Mineral Record System (ALMRS). In a March report to a House subcommittee GAO also said BLM did not have the policies or procedures in place to roll out the system in July as planned. [

]BLM uses ALMRS to oversee the use of millions of acres of federal land keeping track of oil gas and mineral leases and lease applications as well as timber and land sales. The system has been undergoing modernization since 1993 and has already seen its costs bloom. In 1993 the bureau estimated the cost to modernize the system through 2002 to be $403 million. In January however BLM updated that estimate to $537 million claiming that some costs were underestimated and that some were not included in the original estimate.[

]GAO's concern however is that the ALMRS modernization schedule is still too optimistic perhaps meaning even more cost increases. Moreover GAO officials contend that without an updated project schedule BLM will not be able to adequately manage and control the hundreds of tasks remaining for the project. [

]Bureau officials are expecting to begin deploying a modernized ALMRS in three states by the end of fiscal 1997. The initial deployment - termed within BLM as the project's "initial operating capability " or IOC - will be followed with a modernized ALMRS being brought on-line in remaining states by the end of fiscal 1998.[

]"However BLM may not be able to maintain this schedule " wrote GAO director for information resources management Joel C. Willemssen in a report to the House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies. "As we reported in 1995 BLM continues to allow little time between critical milestones for ALMRS' IOC and therefore there is insufficient time to deal with unknown problems that BLM acknowledges are likely to surface."[

]The GAO report also highlights the need for BLM to develop management plans particularly in the security area. "Although BLM is preparing to begin deployment of the ALMRS/Modernization in July 1997 it does not yet have in place necessary management plans policies or procedures essential for operating and maintaining a nationwide system " the report said.[

]BLM officials are not arguing with the ALMRS sore spots pointed out in the GAO report. "I think [GAO's] main point is that we aren't ready to deploy the system yet " said Gayle Gordon assistant director for IRM at the bureau. She explained that bureau officials agree with that point but said the bureau is on target for an initial ALMRS/Modernization phase before the fiscal year is finished.[

]"While there are issues we are working hard to resolve them with BLM " said Fred Mendez program manager for ALMRS at Computer Sciences Corp. the prime contractor. [

]CSC officials declined to comment on the specifics of the GAO report but a spokesman said the company is optimistic that the scheduling issues can be resolved.[

]ALMRS is used to manage about 264 million acres of government-owned land which amounts to about one-eighth of the land in the United States. BLM also manages the mineral resources that lie under another 300 million acres of lands administered by other agencies or private interests.

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