Computer Chaos 8 Recommendations

Congress and federal agencies should consider the following options to remedy the problems that exist in the way the federal government buys computer systems:

  1. Emphasize early oversight and planning: Target oversight of computer acquisitions on the early phases of programs to encourage agencies to reevaluate how they do business before spending money on automation.
  2. Reduce bureaucratic barriers to purchases: Replace the Delegation of Procurement Authority process with an approach that provides meaningful oversight over early planning. Establish one forum for reviewing all contract protests, and streamline internal agency review processes which add months to purchasing time and result in the acquisition of outdated technology. If the government cannot reduce the time it takes to competitively buy computers before they are obsolete, it should consider alternatives such as leasing, task order contracts, and privatization of federal computer services and operations.
  3. Avoid reinventing existing technology: Ensure that developing unique systems is the exception rather than the rule. It should be rare for the government to purchase anything but commercially available hardware and software.
  4. Size projects to manageable levels: The government should address automation in manageable segments that are compatible with other systems and easily cancelled if they run into any cost or schedule difficulties.
  5. Encourage innovation: Establish pilot programs to try new procurement ideas. As technology changes, what is appropriate in today's buying environment may be obsolete tomorrow. No one has a monopoly on good ideas and the government needs to be flexible incorporating new technology.
  6. Create incentives for the government and contractors to perform: Allocate agency information budgets based on past management performance in meeting cost, schedule, and performance goals. While cost should remain a significant factor, the government should select computer contractors as much as possible based on past performance and reputation.
  7. Communicate lessons learned: Encourage the foundation of interagency advisory groups to share experiences with federal computer system acquisitions. Industry-government communications should be enhanced during all phases of the acquisition cycle. An online data base with agency comments on contractor performance should be established and made available to agencies buying computer systems.
  8. Reevaluate existing procurements and halt new procurements until the computer acquisition process is improved: Suspend and review existing large computer system acquisitions to determine if current agency plans for automation will achieve the best value for the taxpayer. Halt new large computer procurements until the government improves the computer acquisition process and can ensure effective planning, cost effectiveness, and timely delivery of new systems.

Minority committee staff will continue to investigate these problems and Congress should explore the recommendations made in this report through hearings and legislation.

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