Oversight

GAO dashboard tracks action on recommendations

magnifying numbers

The federal government could save tens of billions of dollars annually by eliminating duplicative and wasteful spending, according to a new Government Accountability Office report. And now GAO has an online dashboard to track agencies' response to these and other recommendations.

Anyone interested in the government's response to GAO recommendations on IT, for example, could visit the Action Tracker, check the box marked Information Technology and navigate to any of the five topic areas listed to see the government's progress. The new tool reveals that the Obama administration is acting on several GAO priorities with recommendations in its fiscal year 2014 budget, scheduled to be released on April 10.

The 2014 budget guidance from the Office of Management and Budget, cited by GAO, requires agencies to plan to consolidate duplicative or low-value IT investments. The GAO reports that, "with this updated guidance, federal agencies are now more likely to identify duplication across their IT portfolio and reduce or avoid IT costs across the agencies." Similarly, OMB adopted GAO's recommendations on the use of "IT investment categories" designed to help agencies identify duplicate and overlapping IT spending.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee and a frequent critic of the administration, took note of this in an April 9 hearing devoted to the GAO report, crediting the Obama team for proposing $25 billion in savings through cuts and consolidations. The news of the cuts was first reported in USA Today on April 9.

The GAO report's section on duplicative IT spending called out a few overlaps in particular. The government spends billions of dollars a year on collecting and maintaining geospatial data, for example. The Federal Geographic Data Committee coordinates the collection and maintenance of geospatial data among agencies, but even with standards and coordination, the GAO found that resources are still being duplicated. The GAO had previously urged the Interior, Commerce, and Transportation departments to implement plans to streamline operations, but thus far the federal government has not acted.

The report also urges Congress to look at whether it makes fiscal sense to fund the Commerce Department's National Technical Information Service, which purchases and distributes technical information, given that much of the information is available for free. The savings there, however, is relatively minimal -- the NTIS runs an account deficit of about $1.3 million a year -- the difference between what it pays for information and collects in fees.

The section on revenue enhancement, meanwhile, calls out cloud adoption and strengthening oversight of IT spending on operations and maintenance as having the potential to yield billions in savings.

And at the hearing, Issa took the opportunity to cite his committee's recent passage of the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) as a means to save the government money. "If we implement this and other harmonized programs we can save many dollars," Issa said.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the About.com online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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