GAO: Agencies, OMB need to do better with IT reinvestment plans


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The Government Accountability Office wants federal agencies, along with the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, to better realize the potential of reinvesting the savings from IT reform efforts.

A GAO report released Tuesday found that 24 agencies that instituted reforms pushed by OMB saved the government $3.6 billion, with 69 percent of the savings — $2.5 billion — coming from four agencies: the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Treasury, and the Social Security Administration.

The report also found that 22 agencies were either not fully implementing OMB plans to reinvest their IT savings or not keeping track of how those dollars were being spent.

In May 2012, OMB initiated a “cut and reinvest” effort that required agencies to reduce their IT budget by 10 percent. They were then tasked to use between 50 and 100 percent of the money saved on “innovative solutions” that would produce a return within 18 months, or demonstrably improve citizen services or administrative efficiencies.

GAO found within four agencies — the departments of Education, the Interior and Labor, and the Social Security Administration — that reinvestment plans were never tracked, keeping OMB from monitoring how $350 million in reinvestment funds were spent. When asked why, the agencies told the GAO that OMB did not require oversight of reinvestment funds.

“When combined with the lack of established performance targets — similar to those used by OMB in the fiscal year 2014 budget cycle — it will be difficult for OMB to gauge agency progress in reinvesting their savings going forward,” the report reads. “In the absence of a requirement for agencies to track actual reinvestment performance and defined targets, OMB will be limited in its ability to ensure that agencies’ reinvestments are occurring as planned and may not be able to hold agencies accountable for continued progress.”

Furthermore, of the 27 agencies required to submit fiscal year 2014 reduction and reinvestment plan information, only nine had met or exceeded OMB’s targets. Specifically, 11 agencies had only partially met OMB’s guidance and five failed to do so, while two did not submit the required document.

This lack of reporting caused savings for fiscal 2014 to fall short of OMB’s proposed reinvestment goals.

“Specifically, agencies should have submitted a total of $7.6 billion in reductions and proposed reinvestments between $3.8 and $7.6 billion,” the report reads. “Instead, agencies collectively proposed reductions of about $3.0 billion and reinvestments of $2.1 billion in their fiscal year 2014 budget submissions.”

GAO suggested that in the future agencies submit a complete reinvestment plan and OMB establish performance targets for agencies’ reinvestments.

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