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Coast Guard cultivates potential problems in GIS system development

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Government Accountability auditors say the Coast Guard is potentially setting itself up for information technology management complications by producing planning documents out of sequence for a new geographic information system.

The Coast Guard began development in 2010 of a new GIS viewer dubbed CG1V (it stands for "Coast Guard One View"), but auditors say the service has done things such as developing system requirements before it even defined how it planned to manage system development or had defined project phase deliverables.

In newly-released April 25 report (.pdf), auditors also say the service "may have prematurely selected CG1V as a solution" since it didn't review other viable alternatives and possibilities without know its full costs. Coast Guard officials told auditors they had permission from the chief information officer to skip the conceptual planning phase since all agreed that CG1V was a proven concept and that CG1V's planned interoperability with Homeland Security and Defense departmental systems would provide value. As a result, CG1V began as a phase 2 project in the Coast Guard's System Development Life Cycle -- guidance that only allows legacy systems to go through planning steps out of sequence.

Since starting in April 2012, the Coast Guard has gone back, to complete phase 1 documents, but as of February 2013 had yet to finish the acquisition strategy. Lack of an acquisition strategy has been a weakness of other Coast Guard technology efforts, auditors note.

One unnamed "key official from the CIO's office" told auditors that although the System Development Life Cycle has been around for nearly 9 years, some project sponsors see it as unimportant and that there "remains a lack of awareness around the process."

Auditors also note problems with an existing GIS viewer, EGIS (the "e" stands for "enterprise"). Users interviewed by auditors pointed to problems such as slowness inaccuracy. In one case, users found EGIS displaying a vessel track indicating that a 25 foot Coast Guard bot was located off the coast of Greenland, "a location where no such vessel had ever been."

Coast Guard IT officials have implemented a simplified version of EGIS known as EGIS Silverlight, but none of the field personnel interviewed by auditors said they knew of, or used, the alternative. Coast Guard CIO officials said it was up to EGIS sponsor to notify users about the Silverlight edition, while sponsor personnel said they were unaware that it had every been deployed.

For more:
- download the report, GAO-13-321 (.pdf)

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