Reports tie IT weaknesses to agencies' problems | GCN

A set of reports recently sent to Congress point up flaws in government management and
identify troubled information technology efforts as interlinked with the problems.


In one report, the inspectors general of 24 agencies listed what they consider the
government’s most serious management and performance problems.


Meanwhile, in a series of reports on government’s riskiest programs, the General
Accounting Office said most agencies lack clear systems architectures, making it difficult
for them to build interoperable systems.


GAO officials said systems planning, security, and date code repair and testing for
2000 were the agency’s top technology concerns.


Although GAO said it did not add any new technology concerns to its annual list of
risky issues this year, it did not remove any, either. GAO identified the year 2000
problem and systems security in 1997; systems planning has been on the list since 1995.


In the area of systems planning, GAO found that “agencies have embarked upon
massive modernization projects without defined information architectures in place
[resulting in] problems in systems interface and data exchange, confusion for users and
delays in program operations.”


Such problems plagued the modernization efforts of the Federal Aviation Administration,
IRS, Defense Department and National Weather Service, GAO said.


In a “Dear Colleague” letter, House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) and
Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, said the
IGs’ findings, both individually by agency and governmentwide, “paint an
alarming picture of the state of management in the federal government.”


The IGs’ list of troubled projects includes some of government’s major
systems initiatives and often overlapped those noted by GAO, which also identified the FAA
air traffic control modernization and the National Weather Service’s Advanced Weather
Interactive Processing System as risky efforts.


The weather service may be close to completing the modernization of its forecasting
systems, but it still lacks an overarching architecture, GAO said. Additionally,
AWIPS—the centerpiece of this effort—is behind schedule and is far from
providing all the promised capabilities, GAO said.


FAA has begun developing a complete air traffic control systems architecture,
establishing defined cost-estimating processes, acquiring a cost-accounting system and
improving its software acquisition. Still, several major systems development projects are
likely to run over budget and behind schedule, GAO predicted.


“The IG responses also provide many examples of federal programs and activities
that are simply not achieving their intended results,” the Republican leaders said.


IT is at the heart of many problems, the IGs told Congress. The IGs found that nearly
every agency—22 of the 24 agencies reviewed—had “serious information
technology weaknesses, which frequently include computer security risks, year 2000
computer conversion problems, and the inability to produce reliable data to measure how
the agency is performing and what results it is achieving.”


According to the IGs, 10 of the 24 agencies suffer from confused or untenable missions,
absolute or otherwise dysfunctional organizational structures and staff problems.
Furthermore, 14 of the 25 agencies exercise inadequate oversight of their grants and
contracts, the IGs’ report said.


Of the 24 agencies, 19 have serious financial management weaknesses. “The
pervasive financial management problems confronting the federal government are
particularly striking,” Armey and Burton said.


The challenge, the lawmakers said, is for the Clinton administration to act on the
findings. “Congress has recently enacted a number of tools to address government
management and performance problems such as the Government Performance and Results
Act,” they said. “More legislation isn’t the main option.”


Congress needs to continue with “vigorous oversight that will keep attention
focused on these problems, keep asking tough questions about them, work cooperatively with
the agencies and hold agencies accountable until the problems are resolved,” Armey
and Burton said.


The House Government Reform Committee has posted a summary of the IGs’ findings on
the Web at http://www.house.gov/reform/letters/ig_summary.htm.

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