Federal Agencies Faulted For Unnecessary IT Spending

Departments of Homeland Security, Defense and Health and Human Services continue to combat overlapping IT projects, says watchdog group.
5 Helpful Online Services From Uncle Sam
5 Helpful Online Services From Uncle Sam
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The federal government has introduced various strategies to ensure that agencies do not overspend on IT. But several key agencies are still not where they need to be, a new Government Accountability Office report concludes.

The GAO, a federal watchdog agency, reviewed 590 technology investments and found 12 potentially duplicative IT projects at the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS), Defense (DOD), and Health and Human Services (HHS). The duplicative projects accounted for approximately $321 million in IT spending between fiscal years 2008 and 2013. The GAO selected these three agencies because they're spending the most on IT.

The DOD has the largest IT budget of any federal agency, with spending budgeted to spend estimated at $38.8 billion for fiscal year 2013, according to a White House summary of government IT budgets.

At the DHS, there are two potentially overlapping efforts for immigration enforcement booking management, costing $30.3 million in the five-year timeframe. This includes the processing of illegal aliens detained under suspicion of immigration law violations. The DHS told the GAO it needs two immigration booking systems due to unique requirements, but the agency did not provide specifics.

[ Think federal budget woes are winding down? Guess again: Sequestration II: Expect Budget Rollercoaster In 2014. ]

Of the six duplicative investments at the HHS, four support enterprise information security, adding up to $256.6 million over the five years. The other two are for determining Medicare coverage, costing $3.8 million. The HHS said it would reevaluate its information security investments this fall to identify areas where the agency could consolidate. The HSS told the GAO that several functions of the Medicare coverage system have been consolidated, without offering a resolution for the other overlapping functions.

The federal government set aside approximately $82 billion this year for IT and has spent close to $80 billion in each of the past several years. "By addressing these duplications, the agencies will be able to provide assurance they are avoiding investing in unnecessary systems and thus saving resources," the report concluded.

In 2011, the GAO identified four areas that would help agencies improve their IT processes, including Department of Defense business systems, enterprise architecture, data centers and e-health records. The goal is to save billions of tax dollars annually by addressing duplications in programs, agencies, offices, and initiatives that are harming the government's effectiveness. In that report, the GAO identified 81 areas of duplication in hundreds of federal programs. The newly released report focused on other potentially redundant investment areas at the larger federal agencies.

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