November 27, 2012 at 1:17 pm #173720
Information Technology Dashboard
Opportunities Exist to Improve Transparency and Oversight of Investment Risk at Select Agencies
What GAO Found
Chief Information Officers (CIO) at six federal agencies rated the majority of their information technology (IT) investments as low risk, and many ratings remained constant over time. Specifically, CIOs at the selected agencies rated a majority of investments listed on the federal IT Dashboard as low risk or moderately low risk from June 2009 through March 2012; at five of these agencies, these risk levels accounted for at least 66 percent of investments. These agencies also rated no more than 12 percent of their investments as high or moderately high risk, and two agencies (Department of Defense (DOD) and the National Science Foundation (NSF)) rated no investments at these risk levels. Over time, about 47 percent of the agencies’ Dashboard investments received the same rating in every rating period. For ratings that changed, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) reported more investments with reduced risk when initial ratings were compared with those in March 2012; the other four agencies reported more investments with increased risk. In the past, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) reported trends for risky IT investments needing management attention as part of its annual budget submission, but discontinued this reporting in fiscal year 2010.
Agencies generally followed OMB’s instructions for assigning CIO ratings, which included considering stakeholder input, updating ratings when new data become available, and applying OMB’s six evaluation factors. DOD’s ratings were unique in reflecting additional considerations, such as the likelihood of OMB review, and consequently DOD did not rate any of its investments as high risk. However, in selected cases, these ratings did not appropriately reflect significant cost, schedule, and performance issues reported by GAO and others. Moreover, DOD did not apply its own risk management guidance to the ratings, which reduces their value for investment management and oversight.
Various benefits were associated with producing and reporting CIO ratings. Most agencies reported (1) increased quality of their performance data, (2) greater transparency and visibility of investments, and (3) increased focus on project management practices. Agencies also noted challenges, such as (1) the effort required to gather, validate, and gain internal approval for CIO ratings; and (2) obtaining information from OMB to execute required changes to the Dashboard. OMB has taken steps to improve its communications with agencies.
Why GAO Did This Study
In June 2009, OMB launched the federal IT Dashboard, a public website that reports performance data for over 700 major IT investments that represent about $40 billion of the estimated $80 billion budgeted for IT in fiscal year 2012. The Dashboard is to provide transparency for these investments to aid public monitoring of government operations. It does so by reporting, among other things, how agency CIOs rate investment risk. GAO was asked to (1) characterize the CIO ratings for selected federal agencies’ IT investments as reported over time on the Dashboard, (2) determine how agencies’ approaches for assigning and updating CIO ratings vary, and (3) describe the benefits and challenges associated with agencies’ approaches to the CIO rating.
To do so, GAO selected six agencies spanning a range of 2011 IT spending levels and analyzed data reported for each of their investments on the Dashboard. GAO also interviewed agency officials and analyzed related documentation and written responses to questions about ratings and evaluation approaches, as well as agency views on the benefits and challenges related to the CIO rating.
What GAO Recommends
GAO is recommending that OMB analyze agencies’ investment risk over time as reflected in the Dashboard’s CIO ratings and present its analysis with the President’s annual budget submission, and that DOD ensure that its CIO ratings reflect available investment performance assessments and its risk management guidance. Both OMB and DOD concurred with our recommendations.
November 27, 2012 at 1:21 pm #173725
More Information fromInformation Week:
Federal IT Dashboard: Agencies Overstating Progress?
New GAO report concludes that some agencies use the transparency tool to paint a rosier picture of IT projects than reality warrants.
By Patience Wait InformationWeek
November 19, 2012 08:47 AM
The federal IT Dashboard, an online reporting tool intended to bring transparency to the performance of Uncle Sam’s biggest technology investments, shows that at least some agencies tend to present an overly optimistic picture of how their IT projects are doing, says a new report from the Government Accountability Office.
The GAO analyzed IT project data from June 2009 to March 2012 reported by six agencies: The National Science Foundation; the Office of Personnel Management; and the departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Interior. Agency CIOs rate their projects on a scale of high risk to low risk.
November 27, 2012 at 1:27 pm #173723
More information from FedScoop.com
Opportunities exist to improve transparency and oversight of investment risk for information technology at selected federal agencies, the Government Accountability Office said in a new report.
Part of that includes the Office of Management and Budget beginning to analyze the investment risk of these IT systems over time as reflected in the Information Technology Dashboard and present its analysis with the president’s annual budget submission.
To conduct its report, the GAO found that chief information officers at six federal agencies rated the majority of their information technology IT investments as low risk, and many ratings remained constant over time. Those agencies include Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Interior, Office of Personnel Management and the National Science Foundation.
Specifically, CIOs at the selected agencies rated a majority of investments listed on the federal IT Dashboard as low risk or moderately low risk from June 2009 through March 2012. At five of these agencies, these risk levels accounted for at least 66 percent of investments.
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