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GAO Finds Lack of Coordination on Federal IT Guidance

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the General Services Administration (GSA) both develop guidance to assist with federal IT projects and acquisitions. A review by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that these two agencies don’t always coordinate on the IT guidance that they develop for the rest of the federal government. 

Federal agencies spend more than $100 billion annually on IT to improve mission delivery and support; and enhance infrastructure, security, and management. For fiscal year 2021, 26 federal agencies reported 7,806 information technology (IT) investments on the federal IT Dashboard, a public website that OMB launched in 2009. OMB requires agencies to report their IT investments on the dashboard and categorize them in various ways that help describe their purpose. For fiscal year 2021, agencies reported their investments in one of three portfolio categories: IT infrastructure, security, and management (45 percent); mission delivery (37 percent); and mission support services (18 percent). Additionally, agencies are to classify each of their investments under one of 225 different service categories. The two service categories with the highest planned fiscal year 2021 spending were IT infrastructure ($17.9 billion) and health care delivery services ($3.9 billion).

Over the past 10 years, GAO has issued 12 reports that included 275 recommendations to agencies to address issues related to duplicative IT, such as weaknesses in the processes agencies used to reduce contract duplication. GAO also made 117 recommendations in six reports to address issues related to IT management roles and responsibilities, such as unclear responsibilities for chief information officers and acquisition officials. As of October 2021, agencies had implemented a total of 290 (74 percent) of the recommendations. Implementing the remaining 102 would provide agencies greater assurance that they are effectively managing IT acquisitions and operations.

OMB’s U.S. Digital Service (USDS) and the GSA’s 18F program offices help agencies deliver digital services, such as public facing websites and on-line benefit applications. These offices conduct similar activities to fulfill their missions, such as providing IT expertise on agencies’ projects, recruiting IT experts, and developing guidance to assist agencies. Although USDS and 18F coordinated on projects and recruiting efforts, they did not always do so to avoid developing duplicative IT guidance. Specifically, neither entity had an established, documented coordination approach, even though they had issued guidance on the same IT acquisition and development topics with similar content. USDS and 18F officials acknowledged the need to improve guidance coordination, but did not have specific plans to do so. Documenting a coordinated approach for developing and issuing guidance would reduce the risk of overlap and duplication, and the potential for conflicting information.

GAO is making two recommendations, one each to OMB and GSA, to establish and document an approach to coordinate on IT guidance provided to agencies. OMB and GSA generally concurred and said they have begun meeting to develop new processes to ensure future coordination between the two programs.

Read the full report at GAO

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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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