Oversight

Watchdog: Most agencies have incomplete IT inventories

room of computers

Most big federal agencies do not have complete inventories of their IT assets, which means they are missing opportunities to identify savings, creating security risks and not complying with the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act, according to a Sept. 29 Government Accountability Office report.

Federal IT spending accounts for more than $80 billion of the budget, and much of it goes to maintaining legacy systems. Application rationalization -- the process of streamlining a portfolio by reducing complexity and redundancy -- can save money.

But to streamline their IT portfolios, agencies must first inventory their assets.

In January, the Office of Management and Budget issued a requirement that all agencies complete an IT asset inventory by May with the goal of identifying security risks and areas for potential savings. The GAO report states that OMB's requirement "contributed to most of the agencies fully meeting the first three practices" of the four that GAO identified to determine whether agencies had complete inventories.

Auditors found that just four agencies -- the General Services Administration and the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Justice -- fulfilled all the inventory criteria set by GAO. Most agencies hit some of the benchmarks, but three agencies -- the Small Businesses Administration and the departments of Transportation and Labor -- fully met none of the criteria.

Most agencies failed the requirement to regularly update inventories.

The reasons agencies gave for not fully completing their IT asset inventories included focusing on major and high-risk investments instead and a lack of automated processes, which makes collecting and cataloging inventory information difficult.

GAO also looked at application rationalization at NASA, the National Science Foundation and the departments of Labor, Interior, Defense and Homeland Security.

Five of the agencies told auditors their processes were incomplete. The sixth, NSF, said it had implemented such processes, but auditors noted documentation corroborating that assertion was incomplete. The report states that only NASA had complete plans to collect data on its software applications.

DOD officials disagreed with the recommendation that it improve its application rationalization processes, but all other agencies agreed or made no comment in the report.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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