GAO: Census should make IT management consistent

The Census Bureau has yet to consistently perform actions related to IT management practices that it has put in place because it lacks clearly defined and written procedures, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Census, a bureau of the Commerce Department, has implemented IT investment, system development and enterprise architecture management, along with IT security and human capital management. But if the bureau does not adequately manage its IT investments, it is more likely to experience cost and schedule overruns and performance shortfalls, GAO said in a report released today.

The bureau is preparing for the 2010 decennial census, which it expects to cost $11.3 billion, including $2.7 billion in IT investments.

'Because the bureau plans to spend billions of dollars on information technology to prepare for the 2010 decennial census, building in sound IT practices now is more critical than ever,' said David Powner, GAO's director of IT management and author of the report.

For example, Census has established executive-level investment boards, but it lacks written procedures outlining how the investment boards are to operate. Such procedures would ensure a consistent and repeatable approach to investment management and decision-making.

Census agreed with GAO's recommendations and noted that it had already taken steps to implement the findings. 'We are in the process of introducing a corporate IT environment'one that will affect the Census Bureau operationally as well as organizationally,' said David Sampson, acting Commerce deputy secretary. 'We anticipate the improvements we will experience over time from this undertaking will strengthen an already solid IT operation and further improve upon our audit performance.'

Among GAO's recommendations, Census should:

  • Develop written procedures to guide its IT investment boards' operation and use those procedures for consistent investment management and decision-making practices

  • Develop well-defined written procedures that outline the process for selecting new IT proposals and reselecting ongoing investments

  • Institutionalize a process improvement initiative, such as the Capability Maturity Model Integration framework

  • establish a written policy endorsing and enforcing the Census enterprise architecture.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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