Some IT bright spots in GAO annual risk report

Federal IT acquisition and DHS management see gains over 2015, but GAO wants more improvement.

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Although agencies’ managing of federal IT and operations and efforts of the Department of Homeland Security to improve its management functions are still on the Government Accountability Office's high risk list, both have seen some improvement, according to the government watchdog.

The Management of IT Acquisitions and Operations remains on latest edition of the GAO's high risk list of federal programs or functions that that put $1 billion or more in jeopardy, endanger public health or safety, service delivery, national security, economic growth or privacy.

According to GAO, efforts by the Office of Management and Budget and federal agencies to get a better handle on the management of IT acquisition and operations is showing results. It said OMB and agencies have met one of the five criteria for removal from the list -- leadership commitment. They have also partially met the four remaining -- capacity, action plan, monitoring and demonstrated progress.

Specifically, GAO singled out OMB for its leadership in demonstrating its commitment by issuing guidance for agencies implementing the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act, optimizing federal data centers and acquiring and managing software licenses.

The IT acquisitions and management area saw implementation of 46 percent of prior GAO recommendations.

For further improvement, GAO said that OMB and agencies must implement at least 80 percent of its recommendations related to the management of IT acquisitions and operations; ensure that a minimum of 80 percent of the government's major acquisitions deliver functionality every 12 months and achieve at least 80 percent of the over $6 billion in planned PortfolioStat savings -- as well as 80 percent of the more than $5 billion in savings planned for data center consolidation.

Another brighter spot in the report was in "Strengthening Department of Homeland Security Management Functions."

GAO said DHS "continues to strengthen and integrate its management functions, progressing from partially-met to met," in its criterion.

Since the GAO's last 2015 high risk update, it said DHS strengthened its monitoring efforts for financial system modernization by contracting for independent verification and validation services to ensure that the modernization projects meet key requirements. Those monitoring efforts are a key to supporting the department's financial management operations.

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