GAO finds overlaps in IT investments within DOE and DOD

The Defense and Energy departments need to work harder to reduce potential overlaps in their major information technology investments, according to testimony presented by the Government Accountability Office at a House subcommittee hearing.

The GAO reviewed 810 IT investments reported by the Defense, Energy and Homeland Security departments.

It found 31 potentially duplicative investments totaling $1.2 billion at DOD, and six potentially duplicative investments totaling $8 million at Energy, said David Powner, GAO's director of IT management issues, at the Feb. 17 hearing.

No duplication was found in the DHS IT programs reviewed by GAO, he added.

The overlaps at DOD and Energy occurred in human resource management, information and technology management and supply chain management, Powner said.

Although the departments have processes, including investment reviews, that are intended to prevent overlaps, the duplication has persisted, Powner said. A factor hampering progress is likely “miscategorization of investments within agencies,” Powner added.

Responding to Powner’s report, Teri Takai, CIO at DOD, said the department has taken steps to address most of the possible duplications, and she disputed the rest.

“The GAO has highlighted 31 business-related DOD IT investments, which included contract management, personnel management, and logistics that they consider duplicative,” Takai said. “As the GAO reports, the Department has taken action to address 27 of these investments. The remaining four systems are non-duplicative, and satisfy very different requirements in the human resource management functional area.”

Michael Locatis III, CIO for Energy, said the GAO’s review identified investments in back-end infrastructure as a source of duplication. However, Locatis explained that because the identity credentialing and document management infrastructure will be installed at three separate locations— at facilities in Chicago, Oak Ridge, Tenn. and Washington, DC--there was a need for separate investments in local hardware and software costs for deployment.

“These costs could not be avoided or reduced by consolidation given their diverse locations,” Locatis said. “This was done not to report them as separate and distinct investments but rather to show separate budget line items where funding was being distributed to different locations to implement the infrastructure.”

With regard to potential duplication in records management identified by the GAO, Energy is taking a comprehensive approach and examining policy, governance and application process. A number of actions have been taken to the revise the management process, Locatis said.

Until the business changes are fully implemented, some existing systems will remain in place, he added. “The records management investments cited in GAO’s report are existing systems that will remain in place while the departmental strategy is being implemented. A decision on these investments will be made once the approved departmentwide applications are identified,” Locatis said.

Richard Spires, CIO of DHS, said the department has made efforts to reduce overlaps by creating governance boards for portfolios including security, procurement and management. Each portfolio board has a multi-year planning horizon and a measurable set of objectives that would significantly improve mission or business effectiveness.

“Having implemented such enterprise and portfolio governance in the private sector, the IRS, and now working to mature it at DHS, I know firsthand how difficult this process can be,”Spires said in his testimony. “It takes about three years for a portfolio governance approach to mature to the point where the portfolio has a solid set of business objectives and measures, a defined goal end state, and a viable enterprise transition strategy. This approach cannot be treated as a budget exercise in which you gather people once a year to do analysis.”

The hearing was held by the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and Procurement Reform.

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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Reader comments

Wed, Feb 22, 2012

Gee, it seems to me that the governance process within the agencies are working. What happened to the portfolio governance of OMB to cut across all agencies.

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