U.S. Government Blew $321 Million on Redundant IT Programs
When you have an information technology budget as large as that of the United States government, monitoring expenditures can be tough. And $82 billion is a beast of an annual budget. So many agencies, so many allocations. How do you ensure that you’re not doubling up or spending on redundant programs?
Well, if you’re the federal government, you don’t. You blow hundreds of millions of dollars on duplicative IT programs and then wait for the Government Accountability Office to apprise you of them.
To wit, a new GAO study that found 12 redundant IT investments at three key federal agencies — the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services. Between 2008 and 2013, these agencies spent $321 million on programs the GAO determined to be potentially duplicative. Among them: Four overlapping enterprise information security investments at the HHS, and a pair of dueling dental care management programs at the DOD.
Not exactly an efficient use of resources, but, then, efficient use of resources has never been one of the government’s strong suits when it comes to IT.
“Information technology should enable government to better serve the American people,” the GAO observed in its report. “However, according to the Office of Management and Budget, despite spending more than $600 billion on IT over the past decade, the federal government has achieved little of the productivity improvements that private industry has realized from IT. Too often, federal IT projects run over budget, behind schedule, fail to deliver promised functionality, or are duplicative of other projects.”
And yet we continue to throw billions in taxpayer money at them year after year after year. Now, to be fair, the GAO reviewed 590 investments. So, in addition to the 12 that were found to be redundant, there were 578 that weren’t. In other words, things could have been worse. That said, $321 million spent unnecessarily is a travesty that clearly demands better IT program management. Sure, $321 million is a rounding error in the context of a budget this large. But it’s also $321 million.
“Today’s GAO report outlines why effective oversight of the $82 billion spent yearly on IT is essential,” said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), ranking member of Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. “As the GAO report highlights, the government has failed to make gains in improving productivity in IT. We have seen too many delayed and over-budget projects, including some that are duplicative.”