GAO takes aim at financial, tax and battlefield-intelligence systems

GAO takes aim at financial, tax and battlefield-intelligence systems

In a flurry of activity yesterday, the General Accounting Office identified work that needs to be done to ensure the government's financial, tax-processing and battlefield-intelligence systems meet administration goals.

The congressional oversight unit issued a report about the Defense Department's intelligence analysis systems and sent auditors to Capitol Hill to brief lawmakers about IRS performance and financial management.

On the financial front, comptroller general David M. Walker told a House subcommittee that system and data security inadequacies continue to be an underlying problem for agencies trying to produce consolidated financial statements.

"Many federal agencies must accelerate their efforts to improve underlying financial management systems and controls," Walker told the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Efficiency and Financial Management. [Click here for Walker's complete testimony.]

Also, agencies must do more to assure that the government's financial data is not at risk, he said. "The federal government is not in a position to estimate the full magnitude of actual damage and loss resulting from federal information security weaknesses because it is likely that many such incidents are either not detected or not reported," Walker said.

Meanwhile, at a hearing of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight, a pair of GAO auditors said the IRS has put in place an architectural plan for managing its business systems modernization but needs to better justify fiscal 2004 spending plans for operation and maintenance of existing systems.

"IRS is beginning to realize payoffs from the ongoing systems modernization investments and wider management improvements," according to the testimony of James R. White, director of tax issues, and Robert F. Dacey, director of IT systems issues. [Click here for White's and Dacey's testimony.]

The pair noted, however, that the IRS does not plan to implement capital planning and investment controls until the fall, which would be too late to justify next year's systems operations and maintenance funding request.

Finally, in a separate report, GAO recommended that DOD apply stringent controls to its efforts to consolidate its systems for analyzing battlefield data.

Through a massive effort, Defense wants to weave together more than two dozen systems into an overarching Distributed Common Ground-Surface System for capturing and reviewing intelligence data that the services use to identify and hit enemy targets.

Two of 26 DCGS systems have been certified as interoperable to date, according to the report, Defense Acquisitions: Steps Needed to Ensure Interoperability of Systems that Process Intelligence Data. [Click here for the full report.]

"DOD has been slow to plan for this initiative, and it has not addressed important questions such as how and when systems will be pared down and modified as well as how the initiative will be funded," GAO said.

Defense officials mainly agreed with GAO's findings and plan to act on its recommendations, noted Kevin P. Meiners, director of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance programs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Specifically, GAO called for DOD to do three things:

  • Draft a migration plan for each system to come under the DCGS umbrella.

  • Develop an investment strategy for all phases of the project.

  • Enforce certification of the interoperability of systems being developed for or migrated to DCGS.

  • In a letter to GAO, Meiners balked at only one thing: centrally funding the certification process as a pilot program. GAO had recommended this possibility if funding became a barrier to certification.

    "The department believes it is premature to identify a solution without further definition of the problem," Meiners said.


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