The Office of Management and Budget’s IT Dashboard is supposed to be a trusted source for transparently analyzing the quality of federal IT investments and reducing duplication. But according to a new Government Accountability Office report, the dashboard is not living up to its promise.
To begin with, GAO’s investigation of OMB’s IT Dashboard found that the tool isn’t as accurate as it should be. Of the the 759 major IT investments across 27 agencies listed on the website with varying degrees of risk, many of the ratings inaccurately reflected the investment’s likelihood of achieving its stated goals. GAO also “identified issues with the accuracy and reliability of cost and schedule data,” according to the report.
The Defense Department, which controls one of the largest IT budgets in the world, was among the agencies lacking accuracy in its IT investment reports.
“[W]e reported in October 2012 that Defense had not rated any of its investments as either high or moderately high risk and that, in selected cases, these ratings did not appropriately reflect significant cost, schedule, and performance issues reported by us and others,” the GAO report said.
The most troubling finding, the GAO report states, might be that more and more agencies are deliberately removing their investments from the IT Dashboard, in turn crippling the backbone upon which it was built — transparency.
“[I]n December 2013, we found that agencies had removed investments from the Dashboard by reclassifying their investments—representing a troubling trend toward decreased transparency and accountability,” the report states. “Specifically, the Department of Energy reclassified several of its supercomputer investments from IT to facilities and the Department of Commerce decided to reclassify its satellite ground system investments.”
GAO also faulted OMB for not keeping the Dashboard current. “As of December 2013, the public version of the Dashboard was not updated for 15 of the previous 24 months because OMB does not revise it as the President’s budget request is being prepared.”
Despite the inadequacies GAO found on the IT Dashboard, the agency recognized that OMB and other agencies are making positive strides toward a more effective and efficient federal IT environment. Specifically, GAO highlights OMB TechStat and PortfolioStat programs and data center consolidation, the latter two of which it said has “the potential to save at least $5.8 billion through fiscal year 2015, despite weaknesses in agencies’ implementation of the initiative.”
However, with the federal government scheduled to spend $82 billion on IT this year alone, GAO said it’s important to do everything feasible to ensure governmentwide IT investments are as effective as possible.