GAO Report: Effort to Consolidate Governmentwide Acquisition Data Systems Should Be Reassessed

Today I read through a recent acquisition report from GAO: Effort to Consolidate Government Wide Acquisition Data Systems Should Be Reassessed. There are a lot of interesting observations within the report. GAO performed the study to assess the acquisition strategy being used to develop the Integrated Acquisition Environment (IAE). The report finds that progress has been made consolidating IAE systems and many challenges remain for the completion of IAE. The report states, “GAO analyzed program costs, schedules, contracts, acquisition documents, and briefings, and interviewed IAE program officials and contractors.”

The report mentions the IAE was developed in 2001 in an attempt to consolidate multiple data systems used with the acquisition process. The hope is that IAE will reduce duplication and IT costs, creating a more streamlined approached to the acquisitions process. The GAO report found that IAE developed in two stages, using different acquisition strategies. The report finds, “In 2001, GSA began establishing a portfolio of standardized government-wide data systems through an acquisition strategy known as “adopt, adapt, acquire.” The report then identifies that in 2008, GSA attempted to develop one integrated system called System for Award Management (SAM). From the IAE website:

The Integrated Acquisition Environment (IAE), a Presidential E-Government initiative managed by GSA, facilitates every phase of the acquisition lifecycle, from market research to contract administration. The federal government has made the acquisition of goods and services secure, streamlined, and cost-effective with IAE. The goal of the IAE initiative is to integrate, unify and streamline the federal acquisition process for government buyers and sellers.

Through IAE, the acquisition functions common to all agencies are now centrally managed as shared systems. In the coming months, these shared systems will be integrated into a single system, the System for Award Management (SAM). SAM integrates the capabilities provided by the legacy systems, streamlining processes, eliminating redundant data, and saving taxpayer money.

The GAO report goes into detail about SAM and highlighted that the program is at risk of being implemented. Like many of the initiatives, the goal of SAM was to eliminate duplication, improve efficiency and cut costs. GSA is continuing to make progress in developing SAM. GAO reports that phase 1 is to be completed in May. Although progress has been in developing SAM, challenges are still present, as the initiative has been stalled due to rising costs and decreasing funding, the program has been delayed nearly 2 years. The GAO report finds:

“Two years into development, however, SAM is in trouble due to higher costs that planned funding levels do not cover. Most of the cost growth seen to date is largely the result of mistakes the program made. Rather than using a consolidated hosting strategy as initially proposed, the program adopted a piecemeal approach involving multiple sources that will cost about $65 million more than expected. The need for additional resources to cover the increase in hosting costs, however, coincided with significant funding shortfalls in the past 2 years and now the program cannot afford to develop SAM as planned.”

The report makes some strategic recommendations on how to best approach SAM, the report provides three different scenarios for GSA to explore (1) terminating SAM development and continuing to operate the legacy systems, (2) maintaining the current acquisition approach to developing SAM, (3) pursuing a different acquisition strategy for SAM, such as using a 
single contractor to develop and operate the system.

GAO recommends that “GSA reassess the IAE business case to determine whether the current acquisition strategy is the most cost effective alternative and if so, reevaluate the current hosting strategy and align contract payments with the program schedule. GSA agreed with GAO’s recommendations and indicated that it will take appropriate action.”

What are some ways to improve? Which recommendation should GSA follow?

This post is brought to you by the GovLoop Acquisition Council. The mission of this council is to provide you with information and resources to help improve government. Visit the GovLoop Acquisition Council to learn more.

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