GAO

A new survey suggests apps lose value and become costly if they perform slowly, fail altogether or are overwhelmed with users. But third-party monitoring could be the solution for to save money and ensure reliability of increasingly essential government agency apps.

The Government Business Council’s “Industry Insights” survey noted that agencies such as the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Veterans Affairs ran into trouble when apps were overwhelmed and shut down. Such instances, GBC notes, undermines the agency’s mission and public trust. Keep reading →

Three years ago, Government Accountability Office was required by law to annually publish a report detailing duplicative, overlapping, and fragmented federal programs. It will be issuing its third report in early 2013. But it is preparing its list now for potential government reorganizers.

The “Memos to National Leaders” project – jointly sponsored by the National Academy of Public Administration and the American Society for Public Administration — recommends a reorganization commission, and it also offers suggestions for “virtual reorganizations” of programs, as an alternative. An earlier IBM Center blog series raised the issue as to whether the federal government should reorganize. Keep reading →


Reps. Darrell Issa and Gerry Connolly say federal IT mismanagement has not only cost taxpayers billions, but has a dire effect on the economy.

The two congressmen with a history of butting heads agree sweeping federal IT reforms and giving CIOs budget authority would fix the problem. They talked about why on a stage in the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C. on Monday. Keep reading →

While the Obama administration and the federal government have worked to set up ways to share geospatial data between agencies, a new report from the Government Accountability Office finds that lack of coordination between departments is resulting in costly duplication and millions of wasted tax dollars.

While the GAO report said the extent of duplication in geospatial investments is unknown, it said billions of dollars are being spent across the federal government on duplicative geospatial investments.

Further, “many mission-critical applications, such as those used to respond to natural disasters-floods, hurricanes, and fires-depend on geospatial information to protect lives and property. Thus, it is important that the data acquired to support these critical functions be done in a timely and coordinated manner, with minimal duplication,” the report concluded.

The government has tried to coordinate the use of geographically-related data by setting up the Federal Geographic Data Committee, under the direction of the Office of Management and Budget. One of the FGCD’s tasks was to create a metadata standard to mark geospatial information and a clearinghouse to store and disseminate it.

But the GAO found that agencies that collect and use such data are not using the clearinghouse to identify geospatial investments, coordinate activities and avoid duplication. According to the GAO, the FGCD has not planned or launched an approach that allows agencies to manage and more effectively share geospatial data to avoid costly redundancies.

Additionally, the report said the FGCD’s master plan is missing key elements, such as performance measurements for many of its defined goals.

The three departments responsible for implementing and managing geospatial information government-wide – Commerce, Transportation and Interior – have only put some of the steps needed for national geospatial data sharing into effect.

Among the three departments, the only major goal that they all achieved was to make metadata available on the clearinghouse. Only the Interior Department has designated a senior official to oversee sharing geospatial information with other departments and agencies. None of the three departments has launched a strategy to share data and only the Commerce Department has partially established a metadata policy.

OMB, meanwhile, does not have complete and reliable information to identify duplication in agency investments, the report said.

One example of the lack of coordination cited by the report is that the Census Bureau, the USGS and the Department of Homeland Security are independently acquiring road data, which is reported to have wasted millions of tax dollars.

“Unless OMB, the FGCD and federal departments and agencies decide that coordinating geospatial investments is a priority, the situation is likely to continue,” the report said.

To improve coordination and reduce duplication, the GAO report recommended that the FGCD develop a national strategy to coordinate geospatial information, federal agencies follow federal guidelines to manage geospatial investments and that the OMB develop a mechanism to identify and report on geospatial investments.

The OMB and two of the departments have agreed with the GAO’s recommendations while one department has neither agreed or disagreed with the findings, the report said.

Keep reading →

The push to adopt continuous monitoring as a more advanced means for ensuring network security can only work if other network technologies are made secure, said a leading computer scientist from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Agencies need to understand the underlying security issues, beyond what continuous monitoring can offer, because adversaries can take advantage of weaknesses to bring down network capabilities, said Ron Ross, senior computer scientist and fellow at NIST. Ross (pictured above, seated far left) made the remarks at the recent Symantec Government Symposium on government security practices. Keep reading →


No one should have been surprised by the outcome of yesterday’s presidential election.

That’s because data analytics now afford perfected math-based, non-subjective models that closely matched the outcome, according to New York Times Columnist Timothy Egan. Keep reading →

Getting better performance out of supply chain and operations activities is not at the top of everyone’s priority list, but it should be. In today’s world, moving things smartly and efficiently – regardless of whether they are people, product or petabytes – is paramount to success.

This challenge is not a new one. But, the pressures of meeting customer demands, fulfilling their mission requirements, and maintaining high service levels is significantly complicated at a time of diminishing budgets. Even though government organizations recognize the importance of making their operations more efficient, leaders must prove the benefit of the change before investing time, people, and money in system and process improvements. Keep reading →

When the Department of Homeland Security hired Chief Information Officer Richard Spires three years ago, he became the seventh CIO in eight years tasked with bringing rationality to DHS‘s unwieldy IT fiefdoms – and delivering on a mandate for sharing information across the department.

Spires, a former IRS deputy commissioner in charge of operations, quickly set his sights beyond technology matters, persuading the department’s top officials that to succeed, it would take a functioning governance board and the commitment of top leadership to support that governance if DHS was to achieve those goals.

That effort, followed by a systematic portfolio review of every major IT program across the DHS, is clearly paying off, according to a Congressional report from the Government Accountability Office. The report, issued Sept. 18, generally praised the Department of Homeland Security for making progress in achieving its information-sharing mission. But it also cautioned DHS that further steps should be taken to continue that progress and improve its efforts.

The GAO auditors reviewed information obtained from customers of DHS’s information sharing efforts, including 10 of 77 fusion centers, where states and major urban areas collaborate with federal agencies to improve information sharing; 1 of 7 DHS operational components who participate in the DHS Intelligence Enterprise, ICE; and 2 of DHS’s 16 intelligence community customers, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Investigators concluded DHS’s governance board is proving effective in enhancing collaboration among DHS components. The board has also developed and documented a process to prioritize some of the initiatives for additional oversight and support.

However, GAO said DHS needs to do more to sustain its progress: specifically updating its processes for identifying information-sharing gaps and the results; and analyzing root causes of those gaps. It also said DHS lacks an institutional record that would help it replicate and sustain

those information-sharing efforts.

The report also noted that funding constraints appear to be having a significant impact on DHS’s key information-sharing initiatives.

“Progress has slowed for half of the 18 key initiatives, in part because of funding constraints,” the investigation found, noting five of DHS’s top eight priority information-sharing initiatives

currently face funding shortfalls.

The governance board has not been able to secure additional funds for these initiatives because they ultimately compete for funding within the budgets of individual components, although the board’s involvement has kept some initiatives from experiencing funding cuts, according to DHS officials.

DHS’s eight priority information-sharing initiatives, as of September 2012, include:

  • Controlled Homeland Information Sharing Environment
  • Information Sharing Segment Architecture Transition
  • Law Enforcement Information Sharing Initiative
  • Common Operating Picture/User-Defined Operation Picture
  • Traveler Enforcement Compliance System Modernization
  • Private Sector Information Sharing Work Plan
  • Homeland Secure Data Network
  • Homeland Security Information Network
However, GAO also noted that “DHS has not yet determined the specific capabilities each particular program must implement for DHS to conclude that it has improved information sharing enough to achieve its information-sharing vision for 2015.”

Establishing the level of capabilities programs must implement could help DHS prioritize programs, and track and assess progress toward its vision, the report said.

DHS responded to GAO’s report, saying department officials concurred with GAO’s recommendations.


This is one in a regular series exploring how federal agencies are finding and implementing innovative ways to drive efficiency and cut costs.

The GAO is getting ready to dig deeper into the $1 trillion annually that the government spends on contracts, grants and loans to determine if taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely so that government agencies can make better decisions on making those awards, according to a GAO official. Keep reading →

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) have filed a bipartisan amendment to the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 to conserve energy, save taxpayer dollars and reduce government waste by requiring federal agencies to shut down needlessly duplicative federal data centers.

Agencies have been instructed to develop consolidation plans under the administration’s Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI), which would save over $2 billion according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). However, a number of agencies have been slow to begin to implement the plans – or, in some cases, to even take stock of the total number of centers they currently manage. The proposed amendment to the cybersecurity bill seeks to remedy that. Keep reading →

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