Senators Highlight Best Practices for Federal IT Investments

WASHINGTON – Today, Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Scott Brown (R-Mass.) highlighted a recent report that identifies best practices for federal government information technology (IT) acquisitions. In the report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified successful IT investments as well as the critical factors that led to the successful acquisition of these investments.

As of 2011, the federal government’s IT portfolio was priced at roughly $80 billion. IT projects frequently incur cost overruns and take much longer than expected, and many times do not meet performance goals. As a result, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) launched several initiatives to improve the oversight and management of IT investments. As part of their ongoing effort to improve IT management, Senators Collins, Carper and Brown requested that the GAO analyze various agencies’ successful IT projects and determine best practices.

“Now more than ever, we must be better stewards of taxpayer dollars in all programs and learn how to do more with less,” said Sen. Carper, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management and Government Information. “The federal government’s information technology portfolio is no exception. We need to cut what we can’t afford and nurture innovative and more cost-effective technologies. This GAO report provides the federal government with valuable guidance on how we can achieve better results for less money when it comes to our information technology portfolio. I hope federal agencies heed these recommendations and incorporate these practices into their IT management where possible. I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Administration to ensure that we continue to improve our nation’s information technology management.”

“The federal government plans to spend more than $80 billion next year on information technology. History has shown that government IT projects frequently face challenges of meeting cost, schedule, or performance goals,” said Sen. Collins, Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. “It is imperative that the government learn not only from its past mistakes, but from its successes. I urge agencies across the government to adopt the best practices identified by this report, which will help ensure that taxpayer dollars are invested wisely.”

“With the federal government investing over $80 billion in IT in 2012, it is now more important than ever to ensure that best practices are identified and circulated government-wide,” said Sen. Brown, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management and Government Information. Federal IT acquisition must continually be improved so agencies have the mission critical systems they need, when they need them, and without wasting millions of taxpayer dollars in the process.”

The GAO examined seven federal IT investments that were successfully acquired in that they best achieved their respective cost, schedule, scope, and performance goals. The investments studied were from seven federal agencies: Commerce, Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs. The GAO found nine common factors that were critical to the success of three or more of the seven investments, including: active engagement with program stakeholders and end users throughout process; properly trained and consistent staff; senior department and agency executives support; prioritized requirements; regular staff communication with prime contractors; and sufficient program funding.

The GAO noted that implementation of these critical factors will not necessarily guarantee that federal agencies will successfully acquire IT systems because many different factors contribute to successful acquisitions. Nevertheless, these critical factors support OMB’s objective of improving the management of large-scale IT acquisitions across the federal government, and broad incorporation of these factors could complement OMB’s efforts.

In April, the Senators, as well as Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), introduced the Information Technology Investment Management Act of 2011, which seeks to better monitor the federal government’s $80 billion IT portfolio and requires troubled projects be fixed or terminated.