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Report Finds HUD's IT Systems Severely Lacking

Outdated, redundant IT systems and paper-based processes are among the problems identified by the Government Accountability Office.

About half of the work needed to meet the Department of Housing and Urban Development's IT goals is stalled or behind schedule, many of its systems are outdated or duplicative, and the department lacks IT management controls, limiting its ability to help pull the country out of recession, the Government Accountability Office has found.

"HUD's ability to effectively and efficiently perform mission-critical operations, including those integral to our nation's economic recovery and reinvestment activities, is constrained by its current IT environment," the GAO wrote in a new report. "To overcome these limitations and maximize IT support to HUD programs, such as those that involve home mortgages and provide rental assistance, it is essential for the department to have the capability and capacity to manage both its existing IT environment and its ongoing and future IT modernization efforts."

HUD's problems start with its IT infrastructure. The agency has multiple grants management systems that can't share data, still renews about $7 billion in low-income grants using an inefficient paper-based system, maintains at least 16 financial management systems, and has IT systems that are, on average, 15 years old. Historically, only a small percentage of IT spending has been set aside for new development, including 2% in 2008.

The agency's been trying to change this, but the GAO found that poor IT management controls will likely continue to hold it back from meeting strategic goals such as modernizing its IT infrastructure and developing its IT workforce. HUD didn't assess its performance against those goals in 2008, as required by government regulations, nor did it make clear the basis of its assessment a year earlier. The GAO found that HUD has incomplete IT architecture guidance, relied on outdated information to assess its workforce, and has yet to create a program management office to handle IT modernization.

In working with GAO, HUD officials said the agency was working to resolve the issues identified in the report, blaming the situation on a revolving door of IT leadership and limited resources. In a letter to GAO, HUD deputy CIO Lynn Allen said HUD would "dedicate resources toward achieving" GAO's recommendations for overhauling its IT processes and provide a timeline for doing so soon.

The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 gives HUD $25 million annually through 2013 to modernize its IT systems and do other work, while the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act adds $59.5 million to that. Increases in IT funding as part of HUD's "Transformation Initiative" could provide as much as $217 million more in the agency's 2010 budget.

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