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Agencies not analyzing steady state IT systems, says GAO

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Federal agencies that spend the most on steady state information technology systems generally don't conduct annual oversight analyses on them as required by the Office of Management and Budget, says the Government Accountability Office.

In a report (.pdf) dated Oct. 16 that wasn't posted online until Nov. 15, auditors note that of the about $79 billion agencies (not including the intelligence community) spent on reported IT programs during fiscal 2011, $54 billion was for systems in operations and maintenance.

OMB calls for agencies to annually examine those systems with an eye to answering questions such as how much a system contributes toward achieving business needs or goals, possible alternative methods and a comparison of current performance to original estimates.

GAO selected for review the five largest federal spenders on steady state systems--the departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Treasury and Veterans Affairs, which spent about $37 billion on IT O&M in fiscal 2011--and focused specifically on the 75 major IT systems at those agencies.

Auditors found the DoD, Treasury and VA did not conduct the analyses while DHS and HHS had policies in place for their annual completion but didn't always get around to doing them all. Of DHS's 44 steady state investments, the department conducted analyses on 16 of them, while HHS managed to do seven of its eight steady state system analyses.

DoD and VA officials told auditors they haven't done the analyses since they already must send into OMB each year a business case for IT systems known as an Exhibit 300. OMB officials told auditors that the Exhibit 300 process "is not a substitute," however and the GAO notes that writing a 300 doesn't require identifying possible alternatives or other matters, such as identifying lessons learned.

For more:
- download the report, GAO-13-87 (.pdf)

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