Federal acquisition reform hasn't solved persistent procurement problems, GAO says

Federal acquisition reform hasn't solved persistent procurement problems, GAO says

By Shruti Dat'

GCN Staff

Information technology procurement problems persist, despite recent federal acquisition reforms, according to the General Accounting Office.

Improving the outcome of Defense Department systems acquisitions, acquiring and using IT, and addressing acquisition work force issues are significant challenges, testified Henry L. Hinton Jr., GAO's assistant comptroller general of the National Security and International Af-fairs Division.

Hinton recently appeared before the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology.

The IT Management Reform Act of 1996, the 1995 reauthorization of the Paperwork Reduction Act, the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 and the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994 created a results-oriented approach toward IT acquisition.

The IRS has made progress toward sound IT investment decisions, and the Federal Aviation Administration has begun establishing a structured approach toward IT selection and investment, Hinton said.

'Other agencies have yet to make significant inroads into implementing the processes and controls needed to manage these acquisitions effectively,' Hinton said.

The federal government has wasted billions of dollars on IT that failed to deliver expected results, implemented poorly defined management processes and raised security risks, he said.

'Because the government is but one of many players in this services- and information-driven economy, it will have to become a smarter, more commercial-oriented buyer,' Hinton said.

Federal expenditures on IT goods and services, totaling $40 billion annually, will increase as agencies modernize equipment and continue to take advantage of the latest technologies, GAO said.

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy in the Office of Management and Budget is pushing agencies to move closer to a commercial model, take advantage of electronic commerce, and expand the knowledge and capabilities of its IT acquisition work force, testified Deidre A. Lee, OFPP director.

OMB and the federal Chief Information Officers Council also have instituted changes to OMB Circular A-11, Part 3, for the fiscal 2001 budget:

''Major IT acquisitions must be treated like all other capital assets.

''Agency managers, OMB and Congress must have sufficient planning data to make well-informed budget decisions.

''IT must be integrated into agencies' overall capital planning and budget processes.

''Acquisition strategy and cost, schedule and performance baselines must be more closely linked to an agency's missions.

E-commerce is becoming the preferred procurement method to accomplish a variety of procurement tasks'ranging from conducting marketing research and selecting suppliers to placing orders, Hinton said.

Use of General Services Administration schedule buys has grown from $4.5 billion in 1993 to $10.5 billion last year, with the most growth in IT buys, according to GAO estimates.

In it together

'Agencies are making greater use of contracts awarded by other agencies,' as well as Federal Supply Service contracts, Hinton said.

Lee said agencies are using multiple-award contracts, Multiple-Award Schedule contracts and governmentwide acquisition contracts for IT purchases because they offer broad discretion and increase efficiency.

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