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IG report finds flaws in NASA's mobile device management

NASA is not doing a good job managing its mobile devices, according to a new report authored by NASA Inspector General Paul Martin.

The space agency's mismanagement of its 16,900 agency-issued tablets, smartphones, cell phones and AirCards came with a hefty price tag for taxpayers in 2013. About 2,300, or 14 percent of all agency-issued devices, went unused for seven months while costing taxpayers $679,000, according to the report.

The report attributes the waste to "weaknesses in NASA's mobile device management practices," primarily its lack of a "complete and accurate inventory of agency-issued mobile devices." The IG explains that the information system NASA uses to order mobile devices from its primary IT contractor, HP Enterprise Services, "Is not fully functional or integrated with the database the agency uses to track IT assets."

This is the second time in as many months that significant IT issues have surfaced between NASA and HP Enterprise Services.

In January, the NASA IG released a report outlining "significant problems" in its $2.5 billion Agency Consolidated End-User Services (ACES) contract with HP Enterprise Services, which is expected to provide NASA with desktops, laptops, mobile devices, computer equipment and end-user services. The report came midway through the contract's four-year base period, and NASA officials said it was still evaluating whether to exercise the contract's option. When reached by FCW, a NASA official said the agency had no further comment on whether it would exercise the option.

With regards to the poor mobile-device management, the IG puts the blame on both parties.

"Neither NASA nor HP has an accurate inventory of Agency-issued mobile devices. NASA officials admitted they had no authoritative database of these devices and were not confident that HP could accurately account for the full inventory of mobile devices it provides to the Agency," the new report states. "The lack of a complete inventory adversely affects NASA's ability to verify the accuracy and completeness of ACES invoices and leaves the Agency susceptible to paying erroneous or excessive charges."

In its latest report, the IG also found that NASA has significant information security risks to address. The agency improved the secure means by which its mobile devices connected to NASA email systems in 2013, but with locations around the country, NASA still has vulnerabilities across its multitude of networks, including the wireless local networks at its centers.

Not surprisingly, the IG recommended NASA improve its methods for tracking agency-issued mobile devices and that the agency implement a centralized mobile device management capability. NASA CIO Larry Sweet, in the process of trying to centralize his authority over NASA's IT spending, signed off on both recommendations.

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

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