Wringing out $79B worth of IT: Feds debate system duplication

Getting rid of duplicated IT systems was the topic of a congressional hearing

Teresa M. Takai, DoD CIO
When you have some of the largest IT organizations on the planet, it probably comes as no surprise - though no less of a costly problem --when you find out you have multiple redundant systems.

Getting rid of highly duplicated IT systems was the topic of a congressional hearing today which took to task two of the largest Federal IT organizations - the Department of Defense with a IT budget request of approximately $37 billion for 2013 and the Department of Energy at about $2.2 billion - for a number of redundant systems used by both agencies.

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"With at least $79 billion spent in fiscal year 2011 by the United States government on IT investments, it is important that federal agencies avoid investing in duplicative investments, whenever possible, to ensure the most efficient use of resources," stated  David Powner, the Government Accountability Office's Director, Information Technology Management Issues.  The GAO this week issued a report on the redundancy issue at the hearing.

Powner said the GAO reviewed 810, or 11%, of the approximately 7,200 IT investments federal agencies report to the Federal Office of Management and Budget.  The GAO review represents approximately 24% of DOD's IT portfolio and 19% of DOE's.  The GAO found:

  • Of the 810 investments the GAO identified 37 potentially duplicative investments at DOD and DOE within three categories - Human Resource Management, Information and Technology Management, and Supply Chain Management).
  • 31 potentially duplicative investments totaling approximately $1.2 billion for fiscal years 2007 through 2012 at DOD and DOE.
  • 6 potentially duplicative investments totaling approximately $8 million at DOE.

The GAO said the 37 investments comprise 12 groups of investments that appear to have duplicative purposes based on its analysis of each investment's description, budget information, and other supporting documentation from agency officials.

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"For example, we identified three investments at DOE that were each responsible for managing the backend infrastructure at three different locations. We also identified four DOD Navy personnel assignment investments-one system for officers, one for enlisted personnel, one for reservists, and a general assignment system-each of which is responsible for managing similar assignment functions. Additionally, the Air Force has five investments that are each responsible for contract management, and within the Navy there are another five contract management investments," Powner stated.

With few exceptions the DoD and DOE say they are working on the duplication issue.

"The GAO has highlighted 31 business-related DoD IT investments, which included contract management, personnel management, and logistics that they consider duplicative. As the GAO reports, the Department has taken action to address 27 of these investments. The four remaining four systems are non-duplicative, and satisfy very different requirements in the human resource management functional area," said Teresa Takai, the DoD's CIO.

The DOE CIO Michael Locatis said because the Identity Credential and Management system requirements needed to be implemented at multiple locations-- Chicago, Oak Ridge, and Washington, DC Headquarters, we determined that there was a need for separate investments in the local hardware and software costs associated with the deployment of the technology. These costs could not be avoided or reduced by consolidation given their diverse locations. "The Office of Science is initiating the Science IT Initiatives Working Group, a group that will meet regularly with key stakeholders to ensure the oversight of  infrastructure, consolidating where needed and establishing a governance process," he stated.

With regard to records management, DOE has undertaken a comprehensive approach to records management revitalization that is examining everything from policy and governance to records management applications for electronic records," Locatis stated.

Such IT systems duplication is by no means a problem centered on the DoD or DOE.  The GOA said it reported that there are hundreds of IT investments providing similar functions across the federal government. For example, agencies reported about 1,500 investments that perform general information and technology functions, about 775 supply chain management investments, and about 620 human resource management investments.

So lot's more work needs to be done.

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