Critical Read

GAO's call to action in IT management

cover of gao report

What: Prepared testimony from the Government Accountability Office’s David A. Powner to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, urging federal agencies to implement major IT initiatives.

Why: In fiscal year 2013, the federal government plans to spend $74 billion on IT investments, and "IT projects too frequently incur cost overruns and schedule slippages, and result in duplicate systems while contributing little to mission-related outcomes," according to GAO. In response to these issues, Powner, director of IT management issues at GAO, draws on previous GAO research to urge that "agencies provide appropriate oversight of and adequate transparency into" IT services. 

Powner’s testimony covers OMB’s IT Dashboard, IT acquisition best practices, management of IT operations and maintenance investments, cloud computing, the IT reform plan and data center consolidation. The report concludes "OMB’s and agencies’ recent efforts have resulted in greater transparency and oversight of federal spending, but continued leadership and attention is necessary to build on the progress that has been made."

On OMB’s recent major initiatives for overseeing IT investments:

 "As part of the IT reform plan, in 2011 the Federal CIO Council launched an initial Best Practices platform on to provide agency case studies that demonstrate best practices in managing federal IT systems. According to OMB, agencies have been encouraged to develop practices that focus on early, frequent, and constructive communication during the acquisition process so that the government clearly understands the marketplace and can obtain an effective solution at a reasonable price."

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On IT Dashboard:

 "We recommend that the agencies take steps to improve the accuracy and reliability of their Dashboard information, and that OMB improve how it rates investments relative to current performance and schedule variance."

On Data Center Consolidation:

 "We recommended that the five selected agencies should implement recognized best practices when establishing schedules and cost estimates for their consolidation efforts and that OMB ensure agencies utilize its standardized cost model across the consolidation initiative."

On Cloud Computing:

 "...Only nine agencies reported having approved and documented policies and procedures for writing comprehensive agreements with vendors when using cloud computing."

 "Among other things, we recommend that OMB establish milestones for completing a strategy for implementing the federal cloud computing initiative."


About the Author

Emily Cole is an editorial intern for FCW.

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