Report: GSA facing challenges with legacy systems

As the General Services Administration tries to adapt readily to its customers' needs, the agency has faces challenges that may impede that progress, according to a recently released report.

Although the leaders of GSA's Federal Acquisition Service have been successful in melding the Federal Technology Service and the Federal Supply Service, the FAS management must deal with legacy computers systems, Kenneth Crompton, deputy assistant inspector general for acquisition audits at GSA, wrote in a report dated July 30.

FAS Chief information Officer Ed O'Hare has to integrate old systems from the former FTS and FSS, which merged in 2006 to become FAS. Currently, there are 17 major systems and 47 non-major systems left over from the two services, Crompton wrote.

One such legacy system is an order-processing system that supports more than 21,000 users from customer agencies and operates on COBOL, a decades-old mainframe computing system. The system's codes were written in the 1970s and first put into practice at GSA in the 1980s. The system only follows the business rules of two organizations: GSA and the Defense Logistics Agency, he wrote.

Maintaining the system is a long-term challenge for GSA, but there's a more immediate concern, he wrote. Few people know the COBOL code and younger software developers aren't learning how operate it, Crompton wrote.

"While COBOL coders still remain in the workplace, their numbers are diminishing," Crompton wrote. He recommended O'Hare continue to plan for ways to pass down the workforce's knowledge of the old computer systems.

Crompton made other recommendations in the report.
  • Officials should have a sufficient number of government employees to oversee the more than 1,400 contract personnel working with FAS. Many contractors are working on services, such as assistance with contracts, and may be working closely enough to influence policies and the way programs are managed.
  • As FAS tries to streamline nine separate business processes, officials need to complete a charter for a steering committee, which they drafted in 2007. They also need to tell the FAS community about it.
  • Officials also need to approve rules and guidelines for the FAS Management Council. The council of GSA officials discusses problems, priorities and offers recommendation about FAS to its commissioner.

"Transforming a large organization is a challenging endeavor," Crompton wrote. "FAS has made strides in developing an effective acquisition organization."

Matthew Weigelt writes for Federal Computer Week, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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