Sens. Carper, Collins React to GAO Report Detailing Wasteful Government Information Technology Investments

WASHINGTON – Today, Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security, and Susan Collins (R-Maine), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, reacted to a report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) earlier today that found significant problems with the implementation, oversight and management of a critical National Archives information technology project, the Electronic Records Archive.

Since 2001, the National Archives has been developing the Electronic Records Archive to preserve and manage the federal government’s electronic records. The GAO report released today determined that the project has faced several delays in the last decade and is estimated to spend nearly $200 million in increased costs.

“Today’s report reconfirms that the federal government continues to waste billions of taxpayer dollars on many failing information technology projects that are over budget and late on delivery,” said Sen. Carper. “These audits call into question whether the government has a strategy for maintaining and making available electronic records. They also serve as a call to action for Congress to protect taxpayer dollars from government waste. We must take to the steps to ensure that the National Archives, as well as all federal agencies, maintains a high level of oversight with regard to its information technology investments.”

“For years my colleagues and I have urged previous administrations to hold agencies and contractors accountable for the skyrocketing costs and extended time lines of these expensive investments,” continued Sen. Carper. “The Government Accountability Office’s report underscores the need for congressional action on this matter. To this end, I plan on reintroducing the Information Technology Investment Oversight Enhancement and Waste Prevention Act in the coming months, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to ensure that it reaches the president’s desk.”

“Today’s findings also call into question whether the federal government has an effective strategy for maintaining and making available to the public the tremendous amount of electronic records agencies produce,” continued Sen. Carper. “This problem has been apparent for some time, so I am disappointed to discover that it has not yet been addressed. I plan to hold subcommittee hearings in the spring to explore possible solutions.”

“This new GAO report confirms my worst fears about poorly managed IT investments in federal agencies. Large IT project failures have cost taxpayers billions of dollars in wasted expenditures,” said Sen. Collins. “We are routinely seeing IT projects fail because of poor planning, ill-defined and shifting requirements, undisclosed difficulties, and lack of consistent monitoring. Senator Carper and I will be reintroducing legislation this Congress that is intended to prevent these types of IT project failures by increasing oversight with the power to suspend commitment of funds to a project until necessary changes are made. This legislation will aim to reduce the risk of projects exceeding deadlines and cost parameters, while ensuring the delivery of their intended capabilities.”

The Information Technology Investment Oversight Enhancement and Waste Prevention Act of 2009,coauthored by Sens. Carper and Collins, passed the Senate unanimously last year. The legislation sought to better monitor the approximate $80 billion that agencies annually spend on information technology.

The bill addressed many of the identified information technology waste problems by requiring federal agencies to conduct an independent cost estimate for projects prone to mismanagement, and by authorizing the Office of Management and Budget to utilize a team of highly-qualified experts to prevent project costs from spiraling out of control. The bill also required agencies to alert Congress when an information technology investment significantly exceeds the expected cost estimate and mandates that the project undergo a rigorous analysis to get it back on track.

To read a full copy of the GAO report, please click here.