Watchdog calls on US Courts to establish IT workforce recruiting strategy  

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 18: The Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse, which hears cases from the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, stands in Lower Manhattan, January 18, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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The Government Accountability Office in a new report has called on the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to create an IT workforce recruitment strategy.

In an analysis published Thursday, the watchdog expressed concern that the court system’s administrative arm is lagging behind on recruiting technology expertise and improving the skills of its existing IT workforce.

“[A]lthough the office identified gaps in the cybersecurity skills of its IT workforce, it did not have a recruiting strategy for IT staff and did not establish a training program for its IT staff,” GAO said. “Fully addressing practices in these areas would help ensure that it has the knowledge and skills to tackle pressing IT issues.”

In addition to recruitment and upskilling, GAO said that appointing a chief information officer with enterprise-wide authority could address IT oversight and guidance shortcomings.

Currently, the U.S. court system’s administrative office does not have a CIO, and the associate director for the Department of IT Technology Services serves as the main IT advisor to the director.

According to GAO, agency officials have acknowledged that the administrative office associate director does not have oversight of other office units, which instead manage their own IT workforces and projects.

“The judicial branch does not have a statutory requirement to establish a CIO. However, according to GAO’s prior work at federal agencies, leading organizations adopt and use an enterprise-wide approach to managing IT under the leadership of a CIO,” the watchdog added in its report.

GAO noted that the U.S. court system’s administrative office has implemented systems improvement recommendations for at least three of its largest IT projects: the judiciary electronic filing system, an enterprise facilities management system known as JSPACE, and its probation and pretrial services automated case tracking system.

Commenting on the report, Reps. Gerry Connolly, D-VA and Hank Johnson, D-GA, said: “This report does not paint a pretty picture of the status of information technology acquisition and management by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AOUSC).  Simply put, it looks like the AOUSC doesn’t know how much its IT projects will cost, doesn’t have a handle on how IT’s money is spent, and doesn’t even know if its IT employees have the right skills and training.”

They added: “GAO documents that the AOUSC had no comprehensive cost estimates for the IT projects it evaluated, poorly constructed project schedules, routinely allowed serious cost overruns, and neglected its legal obligations to ensure that user fees are properly spent.”

The lawmakers said also that they expect AOUSC to work with them to establish in statute the position of CIO as recommended by the GAO.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to include comment from Reps. Connolly and Johnson.

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Administrative Office of the United States Courts, CIO, Government Accountability Office (GAO), U.S. Courts
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