GAO: Better IT planning, management needed

Government agencies must continue to improve IT planning and performance measurement, as well as investment management, according to a report released yesterday by the General Accounting Office.

GAO surveyed 26 agencies to gauge implementation of 30 IT management practices set forth in recent legislation, including the 1995 Paperwork Reduction Act, the 1996 Clinger-Cohen Act, the 2002 E-Government Act and the 2002 Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA).

Regarding 12 IT planning and performance measurement practices, GAO found that, on average, 46 percent of agencies surveyed had the practices in place; 41 percent had partially implemented practices; 7 percent had not implemented practices at all.

When it came to 18 IT investment management practices laid out in government legislation, GAO found that, on average, 44 percent of agencies had implemented practices; 37 percent had partially implemented practices; and 17 percent did not have practices in place.

The middling results were not uniform across all practices. Nearly every agency adopted some practices, such as developing an annual report as part of a budget submission to outline progress in improving agency operations through IT. Conversely, not a single agency had fully implemented the practice of preparing a performance plan that, among other things, included resources and time periods for meeting FISMA requirements.

According to the report: "Agencies cited a variety of reasons for not having practices fully in place, such as the chief information officer position had been vacant, that not including a requirement in guidance was an oversight, and that the process was being revised."

GAO said some agencies could not explain why they weren't following prescribed practices, but insisted that following them would "make it more likely that the billions of dollars in government IT investments are wisely spent."

Most agencies agreed with GAO's findings, the report stated.

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