GAO faults USDA's telecom and service center efforts

The General Accounting Office last month slapped the Agriculture Department for not properly managing its telecommunications systems and services, as well as for poor management of its service center modernization initiative.

The GAO report, which is part of its series on "Major Management Challenges and Program Risks" at federal agencies, said, "Among other things, the USDA has not consolidated and optimized telecommunications where opportunities exist to do so or established sound management practices to ensure that telecommunications resources are effectively management and payments for unused ...services are terminated."

In addition, GAO said there are several weaknesses in the USDA's multibillion-dollar effort to modernize service centers, including several management weaknesses that raise concerns regarding the extent to which the IT modernization program will achieve an adequate return on investment or significantly improve customer service. The weaknesses include "acquiring new IT without first determining how it will operate to provide required service, not managing the IT projects as investments and not developing a comprehensive plan and management structure."

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