GAO: Defense Department outsourcing lessons need to be shared

The Defense Department generally is doing a good job of using commercial best practices for implementing outsourcing programs, but it needs a framework for sharing lessons learned to continue improving, a new report by the General Accounting Office says.

The report, "Information Technology: DoD Needs to Leverage Lessons Learned from Its Outsourcing Projects," reviewed five major outsourcing initiatives, including the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet and the National Imagery and Mapping Agency's Information Technology/Information Services project.

The watchdog agency found the agencies collectively implemented 88 percent of the recommended performance-based contracting practices outlined by a governmentwide interagency task force.

But there is no good mechanism in place for agencies to share the results of their outsourcing programs, including what they learned from abbreviating or omitting recommended actions, the report found.

For instance, the GAO reported the Navy limited its development of a baseline for its IT environment when it began NMCI. Instead, project officials relied on an existing inventory created in response to the year 2000 challenge.

"The Navy subsequently found that it had substantially underestimated the number of legacy applications, which, according to program officials, later contributed to the transition period slipping from two years to three years," said the report, released April 25.

GAO recommended the Defense Department "provide senior management support and adequate resources to develop and implement an electronic tool to capture and disseminate examples and lessons learned from actual IT outsourcing projects."

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