Coasties don't want expensive TISCOM laptops

USCG command still favors Windows Vista

An effort to centralize laptop acquisition at the Coast Guard is marred by an aging inventory of machines that service personnel tend to reject in favor of locally purchased computers.

Homeland Security Department auditors say in a newly released May 29 report (.pdf) that the Coast Guard Telecommunication and Information Systems Command has more than 5,000 laptops piled up at a warehouse, awaiting issuance. Slightly more than half of the laptops in the TISCOM inventory are also older than 3 years, auditors say.

The TISCOM laptops' unpopularity--auditors note a prevalence of what they call "non-standard laptops"--likely stems from several factors noted by auditors, including the fact that TISCOM charges recipients $2,270 per laptop and an annual fee of $1,533.91, meaning that a new laptop provided by the command costs nearly $4,000 in just its first year.

One field employee involved in the acquisition of laptops for his unit told auditors that "he did not understand the pricing model and felt that obtaining standard laptops was a hassle," the report says.

Another possible reason is that TISCOM laptops come with the Windows Vista operating system, Microsoft's flop of a system almost universally reviled for its slowness, annoying user account control feature and initial lack of compatible drivers.

TISCOM has persisted in adding to its inventory, however--in September 2011, it purchased 3,671 laptops for $6.5 million, and a year later bought another 3,000 for $4.4 million. It made that latter purchase even though as of Dec. 3, 2012, 57 percent of the original September 2011 batch had yet to be issued.

Because laptops relentlessly lose value after being bought, laptops with the same processing capabilities could have been bought today for $290 less each, auditors say.

Testing of TISCOM-issued laptops by auditors also found patch management problems--95 percent of a sample lacked critical and high-risk security patches more than 6 months old. The command is responsible for deploying patches to standardized laptops within 30 days of a patch release date, auditors say.

For more:
- download the report, OIG-13-93 (.pdf)

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