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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Office of the U.S. Courts Is Without a CIO to Handle IT Oversight, GAO Reports

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (the Office) relies on IT systems for court administration and probation and pretrial services.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has looked at the Office’s IT workforce management and found it didn’t have a strategic approach to addressing its IT workforce needs, although it had taken steps to implement leading practices. For example, it didn’t have a recruiting strategy or training program focused on its IT workforce to address the cybersecurity skills gaps it had identified in that workforce.

Also, GAO is concerned that the Office doesn’t have a Chief Information Officer to handle IT oversight across the agency.

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts is a judicial branch agency that, among other things, provides IT support services to federal courts. Regarding IT workforce management, the Office’s implementation of leading practices varied. The Office substantially implemented practices in the performance management area, but was less successful in recruitment and hiring and training and development. For example, although the Office identified gaps in the cybersecurity skills of its IT workforce, it did not have a recruiting strategy for IT staff and did not establish a training program for its IT staff. Agency officials told GAO that they did not establish such a training program because the agency’s departments are to address training on an individual or project basis. 

GAO found that The Office partially implemented most of the 23 selected project management best practices for its three largest IT projects: the Judiciary Electronic Filing System, JSPACE (an enterprise facilities management system), and the Probation and Pretrial Services Automated Case Tracking System 360. It fully implemented the majority of the supplier agreement management practices for each project. However, for project planning, while the Office had developed life cycle cost estimates and schedules for each project, GAO found that none of the cost estimates were comprehensive and none of the schedules were well-constructed. The watchdog determined that insufficient oversight and incomplete IT project management guidance have hampered the projects and may have contributed to cost increases and schedule overruns.

Although a Chief Information Officer (CIO) with enterprise-wide authority could address IT oversight and guidance shortcomings, such a position does not exist at the Office. Instead, the Associate Director for the Department of Technology Services serves as the principal IT advisor to the Director. Agency officials told GAO that the Associate Director does not have oversight of other Office units that separately manage their own IT workforces and projects. The judicial branch does not have a statutory requirement to establish a CIO. However, according to GAO’s prior work at federal agencies, leading organizations adopt and use an enterprise-wide approach to managing IT under the leadership of a CIO.

GAO is making 18 recommendations, including that the Office improve its IT workforce planning and management, enhance its IT project management practices, and establish a CIO position with enterprise-wide responsibility. The Office said it would evaluate the recommendations in light of its decentralized management model and determine what improvements to make. 

Read the full report at GAO

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Homeland Security Today
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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