GAO gives transition advice on IT, management

The next Congress and incoming president Barack Obama will need to deal with serious management problems facing federal agencies, including improving oversight of the government’s $70 billion annual investment in information technology, according to the Government Accountability Office’s new Web site on presidential transition issues.

Acting Comptroller General Gene Dodaro published a list of 13 urgent issues today that require attention during the transition and in the Obama administration’s first year in office. GAO’s site also highlights more than 100 management challenges that the administration will need to address governmentwide and agency by agency, such as improving IT management and information security.

“With the serious challenges related to financial markets and the economy, the financial crisis facing the nation, two wars under way, and the first transition since [the 2001 terrorist attacks] and the creation of a Department of Homeland Security, this is absolutely a unique time," Dodaro said in a news release.

GAO’s site includes sections on each agency and each major governmentwide challenge, with references to reports GAO has published on those topics.

Federal agencies often lack the basic management capabilities needed to address current and emerging demands, GAO said. For example, although the federal government spends $70 billion a year on IT, the management and use of that technology is not always effective.

“Agencies have spent billions of dollars on developing systems and processes that are not cost-effective, fail to deliver expected results and do not provide the best solutions to agencies’ needs,” GAO’s site states. The agencies also are not adequately protecting data and preserving privacy, the site states.

GAO identified several goals for IT management, including:

* Effectively managing major modernization programs, including ensuring that programs are justified on the basis of cost, benefits, and risks and are aligned with a modernization blueprint.
* Ensuring that executives are accountable for IT investments.
* Instituting rigorous and disciplined investment and acquisition management controls to help manage such projects.
* Ensuring that computer systems and information have adequate security and privacy protections.

Under the leadership of the Office of Management and Budget, agencies have taken steps to deal with those issues, but they need to do much more to improve the planning, management and oversight of IT investments, GAO said.

Governmentwide issues that require attention include collaboration, acquisition management, financial management, results-oriented decision-making and the workforce, GAO said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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