oversight

Land Management Systems: BLM Faces Risks in Completing the Automated Land and Mineral Record System

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-03-19.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                 United States General Accounting Office

GAO              Report to the Chairman and Ranking
                 Minority Member, Subcommittee on
                 Interior and Related Agencies,
                 Committee on Appropriations,
                 House of Representatives
March 1997
                 LAND MANAGEMENT
                 SYSTEMS
                 BLM Faces Risks in
                 Completing the
                 Automated Land and
                 Mineral Record System




GAO/AIMD-97-42
      United States
GAO   General Accounting Office
      Washington, D.C. 20548

      Accounting and Information
      Management Division

      B-271929

      March 19, 1997

      The Honorable Ralph Regula
      Chairman
      The Honorable Sidney R. Yates
      Ranking Minority Member
      Subcommittee on Interior
        and Related Agencies
      Committee on Appropriations
      House of Representatives

      This report presents the results of our review of the Bureau of Land
      Management’s (BLM) efforts to complete the development of the
      Automated Land and Mineral Record System/Modernization
      (ALMRS/Modernization). This project is intended to improve BLM’s ability to
      record, maintain, and retrieve land description, ownership, and use
      information, and is the largest system development project ever
      undertaken by BLM or the Department of the Interior, of which BLM is a
      part. Currently, BLM and the prime contractor are approaching the final
      stages of software development and the beginning stages of operational
      testing.

      In August 1995 we reported to you on BLM’s progress and the potential
      problems in developing and implementing the ALMRS/Modernization.1 At
      that time, we discussed the complexity of the effort and the likelihood that
      the project schedule could be delayed because BLM had planned
      insufficient time to accomplish certain steps and deal with unanticipated
      problems.

      As a follow-up to that assignment, you asked that we ascertain (1) if risks
      remain that could seriously affect the performance, capability, or cost of
      ALMRS, (2) if BLM is operationally and managerially ready to deploy ALMRS in
      fiscal year 1997, (3) the latest cost estimates for ALMRS and reasons for any
      cost increases, (4) what Interior is doing to promote the use of ALMRS by its
      other bureaus, and (5) if other Interior bureaus are planning to use ALMRS
      for their land management needs. Details of our objectives, scope, and
      methodology are provided in appendix I.




      1
       Land Management Systems: Progress and Risks in Developing BLM’s Land and Mineral Record System
      (GAO/AIMD-95-180, Aug. 31, 1995).



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                   BLM has recently encountered problems with the ALMRS/Modernization
Results in Brief   development that increase the risk of degraded performance and
                   capability, and these problems have already resulted in higher costs.
                   During expanded testing of the ALMRS/Modernization, BLM discovered that
                   the system performed some functions more slowly than expected and did
                   not process all transactions correctly during tests using an
                   operationally-sized database. BLM also recently suspended the
                   development of an important reporting capability and substituted some
                   standard reports which cost less and take less time to finish. BLM and the
                   prime contractor have progressed in correcting these problems. Their
                   correction efforts are continuing.

                   Although BLM is preparing to begin deploying ALMRS in fiscal year 1997 after
                   development and testing are complete, it will not be ready to deploy ALMRS
                   until it has completed essential management plans, policies, or procedures
                   to help ensure a successful transition and operating environment. Still
                   lacking are a configuration management plan and a system security plan
                   and security architecture. Also, transition and operations and maintenance
                   plans are incomplete. These tools are essential to help ensure system
                   availability and performance and to avoid security and operational
                   problems.

                   The modernization is now expected to cost about $537 million through
                   fiscal year 2002 or about 33 percent above the $403 million estimate
                   provided to the Office of Management and Budget in 1993. According to
                   BLM’s Assistant Director for Information Resources Management (IRM),
                   some project costs were underestimated and some were not included in
                   the original estimate. Project delays have also added to the increase. The
                   Assistant Director also stated that the estimate could change as BLM
                   refines its life-cycle cost model.

                   Interior established a working group of representatives from each of its
                   bureaus to study the feasibility of using ALMRS to support each bureau’s
                   requirements. The preliminary study indicates that, with modification,
                   ALMRS can be used to support the needs of all bureaus. The department has
                   stated that it intends to use ALMRS to support the land title and record
                   management responsibilities of all bureaus but is waiting for the
                   successful completion of ALMRS and the results of the final study before
                   issuing procedures on the use of ALMRS. In the interim, the Bureau of
                   Indian Affairs (BIA) has already declared that it will use as much of ALMRS
                   as it can to meet its needs.




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             BLM’s  mission is to manage public lands and resources to best serve the
Background   needs of the American people. The Bureau manages approximately
             264 million acres of public land in 28 states—about one-eighth of the land
             in the United States. It also manages the mineral estate underlying another
             300 million acres of lands administered by other government agencies or
             owned by private interests. Public resources managed by BLM include
             rangelands, timber, minerals, watersheds, wildlife habitats, wilderness and
             recreation areas, and archaeological and historical resources. The Bureau
             has 210 state, district, and resource area offices that manage over 1 billion
             paper documents, including land surveys and surveyor notes, tract books,
             land patents, mining claims, oil and gas leases, and land and mineral case
             files. According to BLM, most of the paper documents are deteriorating and
             are becoming increasingly difficult to read.

             During the early 1980s, BLM found that it could not handle the case
             processing workload associated with a peak in the number of applications
             for oil and gas leases. It recognized that to keep up with increased
             demand, it needed to automate its manual records and case processing
             activities. Thus, in the mid-1980s, the Bureau began planning to acquire an
             automated land and mineral case processing system. The scope and
             functionality of the planned system changed over the years, ranging from a
             system to automate paper documents and records and case processing
             activities to a system that would provide automated information systems
             and geographic information system (GIS)2 capabilities.

             In 1993, BLM decided on the scope and functionality of the
             ALMRS/Modernization.   The bureau designated it a critical system for
             (1) automating land and mineral records and case processing activities
             and (2) providing information to support land and resource management
             activities. The ALMRS/Modernization is expected to provide an efficient
             means of recording, maintaining, and retrieving land description,
             ownership, and use information to support BLM, other federal programs,
             and interested parties. It does this by establishing a common information
             technology platform,3 increasing public access to BLM records through the
             Internet, integrating multiple databases into a single geographically
             referenced database, shortening the time to complete case processing
             activities, and replacing costly manual records with automated ones.


             2
              Geographic information system technology is the computer hardware and software that allow for the
             assembly, storage, manipulation, and display of geographically referenced data, i.e., data that are
             associated with specific places on earth, such as the geographic location of a lake or oil well.
             3
              An automated information systems environment that consists of interoperable hardware, systems
             software, and communications.



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    The ALMRS/Modernization consists of the ALMRS initial operating capability
    (IOC), geographic coordinate database (GCDB),4 and modernization of BLM’s
    computer and telecommunications infrastructure and rehosting of
    selected management and administrative systems.5 These components are
    described more fully below.

•   The ALMRS IOC is the flagship of the ALMRS/Modernization. With new
    software and upgraded hardware, it is to provide (1) support for case
    processing activities, including leasing oil and gas reserves, recording valid
    mining claims, processing mineral patents, and granting rights-of-way for
    roads and power corridors and (2) information for land and resource
    management activities, including timber sales and grazing leases.
•   GCDB is the database that will contain geographic coordinates and survey
    information for land parcels and provide the basic geographic data for a
    GIS. Other databases, such as those containing land and mineral records,
    are to be integrated with GCDB. ALMRS IOC will tie BLM’s records and land and
    mineral resource data to the GCDB’s legal descriptions of specific land
    parcels.
•   The information technology modernization and rehost component consists
    of installing computer and telecommunications equipment and office
    automation applications, and converting selected management and
    administrative systems to a relational database system to be used
    throughout the Bureau.

    Some elements of the ALMRS/Modernization, such as new computer and
    telecommunications equipment, e-mail and office automation, were
    installed at BLM offices from fiscal year 1994 through fiscal year 1996.
    Eleven of the 12 administrative applications to be rehosted are now
    operational.6

    Concerned that BLM might deploy the system prematurely, the House and
    Senate appropriations committees directed BLM to test, verify, and validate
    that ALMRS operates as specified and certify to them that it performs
    accurately and effectively, and provides the expected capabilities prior to
    deployment. BLM retained a contractor to conduct the independent

    4
     We previously reported significant cost overruns and milestone slippages on an earlier project to
    develop the GCDB. See Land Management Systems: Extensive Cost Increases and Delays in BLM’s
    Major Data Base Project (GAO/IMTEC-91-55, Aug. 5, 1991).
    5
     BLM has been converting selected management and administrative software from COBOL, a
    third-generation programming language that uses flat data files, to INFORMIX, a fourth-generation
    query language and relational database system.
    6
     There were 13 administrative applications, however, BLM canceled the Fire Management System on
    January 21, 1997.



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                    verification and validation testing. The Bureau expects to base its
                    certification to the committees on the independent verification and
                    validation testing and operational testing and evaluation.


Recent Management   ALMRS/Modernization    project management has undergone significant
Changes             change in the past 6 months. The project manager and deputy project
                    manager retired and were replaced with project comanagers. A technical
                    director position was created to oversee the more technical aspects of the
                    project and support project management decision-making. Finally, BLM
                    created a new senior-level post, the Assistant Director for IRM, to oversee
                    the bureau’s IRM program. The former acting Director of the Department of
                    the Interior’s Office of Information Resources Management was selected
                    for this position.


                    ALMRS IOC  software development was nearing completion when software
ALMRS/              problems were identified in the spring and summer of 1996. Correction of
Modernization       these problems has caused the project schedule to be delayed almost 1
Schedule Risks      year. According to the current project schedule, BLM plans to deploy ALMRS
                    IOC in its Arizona, Idaho, and New Mexico offices by the end of fiscal year
                    1997 and complete the deployment to the remaining states in fiscal year
                    1998.

                    However, BLM may not be able to maintain this schedule. As we reported in
                    August 1995, BLM continues to allow little time between critical milestones
                    for ALMRS IOC and, therefore, there is insufficient time to deal with
                    unknown problems that BLM acknowledges are likely to surface. In its
                    January 29, 1997, Project Management Plan working draft, BLM expressed
                    concern that the current milestones are overly optimistic and lists them as
                    a major risk.7 According to the plan, the short time frames are influenced
                    by BLM’s desire to begin deploying the system in fiscal year 1997.

                    In addition to being overly optimistic, the current project schedule has not
                    been fully analyzed or updated. As a result, the project milestones may not
                    be reliable. The milestones could slip if BLM fully analyzes the human
                    resources usage and task relationships, and estimates the critical path for
                    the project. A complete, current, and accurate project schedule is essential
                    to adequately manage and control the hundreds of tasks that remain to
                    complete the project.

                    7
                     BLM defines a major risk as one which exceeds a 70-percent chance of occurring and would have a
                    detrimental effect on the program.



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                                       Table 1 shows the current milestones for qualifications testing
                                       (functionality and integration), acceptance testing, and deployment.
                                       According to the current schedule, deployment will be about 15 months
                                       behind the schedule that was in place at the time of our last report. This
                                       represents an 18-month delay in deployment from the schedule delivered
                                       to OMB when the project was approved in 1993.

Table 1: ALMRS IOC Final Testing and
Installation Milestones                                                              Milestones as of     Milestones as of
                                                                                     August 31, 1995      January 15, 1997
                                       Complete qualifications testing               2nd quarter          3rd quarter
                                                                                     FY 1996              FY 1997
                                       Complete acceptance testing                   3rd quarter          3rd quarter
                                                                                     FY 1996              FY 1997
                                       Begin deployment                              3rd quarter          4th quarter
                                                                                     FY 1996              FY 1997



                                       The Bureau and the prime contractor recently reported correcting the
Recent Problems                        remaining performance problems and have made progress in correcting
Threaten the                           software errors, but have not yet fully succeeded. BLM also recently
Performance,                           suspended the software development and testing work for case
                                       information reporting—a flexible report-generating capability that has
Capability, and                        been identified as an important need to users—because completing the
Cost of the ALMRS/                     work to develop the capability would cost too much and take too much
                                       time. Correcting software problems has caused about a year in schedule
Modernization                          delays which, according to BLM, will cost about $12 million.


Performance Problems and               ALMRS IOC  software development was progressing relatively smoothly and
Software Errors Have Been              nearing completion until the time of user evaluation testing at some of the
Identified                             New Mexico pilot site offices in May 1996. During this testing, BLM users
                                       observed and assessed whether ALMRS successfully performed various
                                       functions in field office environments. A number of problems were
                                       reported involving unacceptably slow system performance. Additional
                                       testing was performed throughout the summer using an
                                       operationally-sized database rather than the smaller test database used in
                                       earlier testing. The additional testing uncovered a large number of
                                       problems.

                                       The severity of these problems was brought to the forefront at an August
                                       1996 meeting to discuss the ALMRS/Modernization project. During the
                                       meeting, the prime contractor reported that there were 204 uncorrected



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                           high-priority problems.8 Also, BLM estimated that the overall performance
                           of ALMRS IOC was about 20 times too slow to meet its needs. Since then, BLM
                           and the prime contractor have been trying to correct these problems. As a
                           result of the efforts, BLM and the prime contractor reported that as of
                           February 3, 1997, uncorrected high-priority problems had been reduced to
                           about 85. The prime contractor also reported on January 31, 1997, it had
                           resolved the remaining system performance problems.

                           However, the true performance of ALMRS IOC will not be known until testing
                           has been performed in an operational environment with realistic user
                           loads and an operationally-sized database. According to BLM’s plans, this
                           will occur before full deployment, during capability demonstration
                           assessment testing at four offices in New Mexico—a state expected to
                           have one of the largest ALMRS workloads. This will be the opportunity for
                           BLM users to test the functionality and performance of ALMRS IOC in an
                           operational environment with true workloads before deployment.

                           In regard to this issue, the Acting Deputy Assistant Director for IRM stated
                           that BLM is keenly aware of the need to deliver a responsive system. BLM is
                           closely monitoring key performance indicators and pending software tests
                           as refinements are made to the software. Also, the official added that
                           performance at less than desired speeds will diminish expected work
                           productivity increases, and lead to worker dissatisfaction with the system.


Some Capabilities May Be   While the ALMRS/Modernization is expected to provide the basic
Deferred                   functionality needed by BLM to perform its mission, work has been
                           deferred on a significant reporting capability. Case information reporting
                           was to replace a number of standard reports and provide users with an ad
                           hoc reporting capability—the ability to select information from databases
                           and prepare reports they need—to help them accomplish their work. BLM
                           users consider this capability an important part of the support to be
                           provided by ALMRS IOC. From a software development standpoint, case
                           information reporting is a complex software integration of multiple
                           segments of the system.

                           Because of its complexity, the development of the case information
                           reporting capability cost more and took more time than anticipated.
                           According to the Acting Deputy Assistant Director for IRM, the former

                           8
                            High-priority problems are defined as ones in which the software does not work, causing the
                           computer system to crash; or discontinue operation or ones in which a critical function cannot be
                           executed. Resolving these problems involves correcting the software or implementing acceptable
                           procedures to work around the problems.



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                     ALMRS/Modernization     project manager canceled the task order for case
                     information reporting in October 1996, believing that completing the
                     development and testing would cost at least $1 million more than the
                     estimated $1.5 million already spent and extend the project completion
                     date. In lieu of case information reporting, BLM has been working to
                     provide some standard reports and a rudimentary ad hoc reporting
                     capability that it believes will provide needed information to meet minimal
                     staff requirements.

                     In this regard, the Assistant Director for IRM said all mandatory reporting
                     requirements will be met before deployment. In addition, the Acting
                     Deputy Assistant Director for IRM stated that BLM intends to reactivate case
                     information reporting to provide a more powerful and user friendly
                     reporting capability. The official said he expects this reporting capability
                     to be included in the first set of maintenance modifications after
                     deployment.

                     Other capabilities could also be deferred if they cannot be successfully
                     completed within the newly revised project schedule. A recent BLM task
                     order for the contract included a provision that would allow it to defer any
                     ALMRS IOC capability that cannot be successfully developed and tested on
                     time.

                     The House and Senate Appropriations Committees-directed testing should
                     provide information to the Committees on any remaining significant
                     problems or loss of capabilities. Further, the testing should help BLM
                     prevent deployment before performance and capability issues are
                     satisfactorily resolved.


Costs May Increase   Significant cost risks remain in completing the ALMRS/Modernization
Further              project. BLM estimates that the cost of the milestone delays to correct
                     software problems is about $1 million per month. The 1-year delay will
                     cost about $12 million and any additional delay would also cost about
                     $1 million a month.

                     Further, BLM recently identified other risks that could also increase costs.
                     In its January 29, 1997, Project Management Plan working draft, BLM noted
                     the following major risks:




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                           •   Telecommunications network traffic may be too high under a normal
                               ALMRS IOC workload, especially in remote areas. If this occurs, BLM may
                               have to acquire additional communications lines at a significant cost.
                           •   Computer servers may not provide adequate performance for states with
                               larger transaction volumes. If this occurs, BLM may have to (1) acquire
                               more capable servers at a higher cost and (2) extend the project schedule,
                               which would also increase costs.

                               According to the Acting Deputy Assistant Director for IRM, BLM has been
                               considering opportunities to mitigate the risks of increased cost. In this
                               regard, BLM has placed increased emphasis on enhancements to software
                               design because it was determined to be the most cost effective method of
                               increasing performance. The Acting Deputy Assistant Director said the
                               results of these efforts have been effective thus far and testing indicates
                               that further design changes will continue to return significant performance
                               increases. Also, the Assistant Director for IRM told us that improved
                               telecommunications capability is already planned and BLM expects to
                               acquire more capable computer servers.


                               The ALMRS project is approaching the end of software development and the
BLM Does Not Have              beginning of final testing. Although BLM is preparing to begin deployment
Essential Management           of the ALMRS/Modernization in July 1997, it does not yet have in place
Controls Needed                necessary management plans, policies, or procedures essential for
                               operating and maintaining a nationwide system. BLM has worked on these
Before Deployment              plans, policies, and procedures; however, at present, they are not finished,
                               approved, or ready to implement. BLM will not be ready to deploy ALMRS
                               until it establishes a configuration management plan, policies, and
                               procedures; system security plan and architecture; transition plan; and
                               operations and maintenance plan. These management tools are needed
                               before deployment to help avoid system failures, degradation of system
                               performance, unauthorized access, system outages, and operational
                               problems. The Bureau must also finish resolving preparedness issues at
                               ALMRS sites to avoid problems in the future.



Configuration Management       Configuration management plans, policies, and procedures are a set of
Plans, Policies, and           management controls over the composition of and changes to computer
Procedures Are Not             and network systems components and documentation, including software
                               code documentation. Configuration management is essential to
Complete                       successfully manage complex information systems and ensure their
                               integrity throughout their life cycles.



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                           According to the Acting Deputy Assistant Director for IRM, BLM has a
                           configuration management plan and the related policies and procedures to
                           manage ALMRS/Modernization hardware and software; however, these
                           plans have not been finalized and adopted. Also, the ALMRS/Modernization
                           configuration management board—an organization responsible for
                           managing the system configuration and changes—does not have the
                           authority to control changes in non-ALMRS systems and components
                           installed in state, district, and area offices. Unrestrained by bureau-wide
                           configuration management control, these offices and the state-level
                           configuration management boards could modify any local non-ALMRS
                           system—primarily personal computers, networks, and applications—and
                           perhaps adversely affect the ALMRS/Modernization.

                           System modifications without the safeguards imposed by the discipline of
                           configuration management could lead to undesirable consequences, such
                           as causing system failures, endangering system integrity, increasing
                           security risks, and degrading system performance. Site-readiness reviews,
                           conducted in 1996 at several state, district, and area offices show that
                           more needs to be done to fully manage and control the
                           ALMRS/Modernization configuration. For example, some BLM offices lack
                           local configuration management plans or policies, use various versions of
                           software, and use hardware that does not conform to BLM’s standards for
                           the ALMRS/Modernization.

                           On February 6, 1997, the Acting Deputy Assistant Director for IRM told us
                           that the scope of the ALMRS/Modernization configuration management
                           board responsibilities is being increased to include the remainder of BLM’s
                           information technology architecture that is networked to ALMRS. Subject to
                           the guidance of the ALMRS/Modernization board, local configuration
                           management boards in each BLM state office and center will control the
                           implementation of any hardware or software.


BLM Has No Security Plan   Security focuses on the ability to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and
or Architecture            availability of stored and processed data. Unsecured or poorly secured
                           systems are highly vulnerable to external and internal attacks and
                           unauthorized use. Security planning includes the identification of
                           high-level security requirements, including mission, management, and
                           technical security requirements; functional security requirements that
                           cover users’ security needs; data-sensitivity analysis to identify data
                           requiring special protection; and a security architecture that describes the
                           security controls and relationships among the various system components.



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                                 The security plan should define the policies and procedures for operating
                                 and maintaining a secure ALMRS/Modernization environment.

                                 While BLM has had a security planning effort underway, and has finalized
                                 some policies, such as a security access policy for the
                                 ALMRS/Modernization, it has taken no steps to develop a security plan and
                                 architecture. In addition, BLM has yet to finalize other key security
                                 guidance for the ALMRS/Modernization, including

                             •   a disaster recovery and contingency plan for the restoration of operations
                                 and data in the case of sabotage, natural disaster, or other operational
                                 disruption and
                             •   a security test, evaluation, and certification plan to provide assurance that
                                 the system will protect information, as required by the security policy.

                                 On February 6, 1997, the Acting Deputy Assistant Director for IRM told us
                                 that BLM is committed to following security requirements. He added that
                                 BLM is using risk assessment and contingency planning software to ensure
                                 a standard approach to security planning at all sites. While these efforts
                                 are commendable, they are not a substitute for a security plan and
                                 architecture.


Transition Planning Is Not       BLM  asked a contractor to help it develop a bureauwide plan for the
Complete                         deployment of and transition to ALMRS IOC. However, it is not clear to what
                                 extent this plan will address the transition issues related to the roles and
                                 responsibilities of BLM staff. Because the development of a transition plan
                                 not only requires detailed knowledge of the ALMRS IOC, but also a thorough
                                 understanding of BLM’s culture, existing work processes, and the current
                                 operational environment, it is important that BLM personnel play key roles
                                 in the transition planning.

                                 Many of the 210 BLM offices nationwide that will receive the
                                 ALMRS/Modernization system—designed to automate many manual
                                 functions—have little or no experience implementing sophisticated
                                 information systems. The process of deploying a major information system
                                 that people will use to do their jobs requires careful planning. The
                                 transition from automated capabilities provided by a centrally-managed
                                 mainframe system to a locally-managed integrated system will require
                                 changes in organizational roles, responsibilities, and interrelationships
                                 among the units and people using the system. A transition plan should




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                    address these issues, and guide BLM in defining new operational
                    procedures.

                    On February 6, 1997, the Acting Deputy Assistant Director for IRM told us
                    that BLM has begun discussions to form a team to address the expected
                    changes in work processes and the effect on local staff functions. In
                    addition, BLM plans to (1) finish the preparation of a final central transition
                    plan and (2) prepare guidance on completing final state plans as soon as
                    experience has been garnered from the capability demonstration
                    assessment testing at four offices in New Mexico.


Operations and      Operations and maintenance of information systems based on a
Maintenance Plans   client-server architecture9 require a large number of highly skilled people.
Are Not Complete    Unlike the centrally-managed legacy mainframe systems that have been
                    supporting BLM operations, the ALMRS/Modernization system will require
                    management and technical support at each major BLM site. This support
                    includes UNIX system managers, database administrators, user support and
                    telecommunication specialists, and security officers.

                    Site-readiness reviews of state, district, and area offices indicate that BLM
                    does not currently possess the managerial and technical capability to
                    support the ALMRS/Modernization system. BLM recognizes the risks
                    associated with operations and maintenance issues. In its January 29,
                    1997, Project Management Plan working draft, it notes significant risks
                    associated with not being prepared to manage staffing and skills issues
                    related to deployment, implementation, and operations and maintenance.
                    While BLM recognizes the need to develop or acquire sufficient managerial
                    and technical capability to operate and manage the ALMRS/Modernization,
                    and has launched an ambitious training program, some of its offices are
                    not yet prepared to operate and maintain the system.

                    On February 6, 1997, the Acting Deputy Assistant Director for IRM stated
                    that each BLM site has been operating the base ALMRS/Modernization
                    platform and network beginning as early as 1994. After a brief shakedown
                    period, the staff at each site have proven capable of operating and
                    maintaining the system. He said BLM has been providing extensive
                    technical training and achieved industry certification of fourteen of its
                    technical staff. As to other skills, the Acting Deputy told us
                    implementation of the ALMRS IOC application will require database

                    9
                     A distributed system that splits software tasks between client computers and server computers and
                    allows clients and servers to be independently located on a network. Client systems typically request
                    services of server systems.



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                      administration skills which are still being acquired. The official said the
                      sufficiency of numbers of qualified staff varies from site to site; however,
                      state directors have committed to providing sufficient staffing prior to
                      ALMRS implementation. Clearly, as noted in the discussions above, the
                      operations and maintenance of ALMRS is an area that must be managed for
                      BLM to achieve its objectives and the daily needs of its offices. Completion
                      of an operations and maintenance plan would help to ensure that BLM can
                      meet these needs and mitigate the risk described in its Project
                      Management Plan working draft.


                      As of January 1997, BLM estimates that the ALMRS/Modernization project
Estimated Cost of     will cost about $537 million through 2002. This latest estimate is about
ALMRS Is Increasing   $134 million over the initially-approved cost estimate of $403 million, an
                      increase of about a third. According to BLM’s Assistant Director for IRM,
                      most of the cost increases are attributable to (1) the probable
                      underestimation of costs in the original estimate, such as the cost of
                      hardware and software maintenance and initial training, and (2) costs that
                      were not included in the original estimate, such as the cost of technology
                      refreshment, data communications line leases, facilities and utilities,
                      continuing training, and operations and maintenance costs to be funded by
                      BLM’s program areas. In addition, project delays contributed to increased
                      costs.

                      The original project estimate of $403 million provided to OMB in 1993
                      covered a 10-year period.10 During this 10-year period, the
                      ALMRS/Modernization was expected to be in operation for 6.5
                      years—mid-fiscal year 1996 through fiscal year 2002. The latest estimate,
                      however, includes only 4.5 years of operation—mid-fiscal year 1998
                      through fiscal year 2002.

                      According to the ALMRS/Modernization project budget analyst, BLM told OMB
                      that it believed it could develop and implement the ALMRS/Modernization
                      for an estimated $403 million. However, this estimate was not based on a
                      life-cycle cost model or sound cost estimating techniques. Therefore, this
                      cost estimate was not reliable. In 1995, BLM tasked a contractor to develop
                      a life-cycle cost model for the ALMRS/Modernization to accurately capture
                      the past cost and estimate future costs. The prototype model was
                      completed in April 1996. BLM has been working to input cost data into the
                      database and examine the prototype model. The $537 million cost estimate

                      10
                       The total was based on the estimate for fiscal year 1993 through fiscal year 2002 plus the funds that
                      had been obligated in fiscal years 1991 and 1992.



                      Page 13                                 GAO/AIMD-97-42 BLM’s Land and Mineral Record System
                      B-271929




                      was developed using a combination of the prototype model and other
                      financial data. However, it appears that this estimate will also change as
                      BLM continues to try to improve its ability to reliably estimate costs.


                      In this regard, the Assistant Director for IRM told us accurate project
                      accounting is complicated because of the underestimations and omissions
                      described above and other factors. Also, the Assistant Director said that
                      BLM has contracted with the consultant, who worked with the bureau to
                      develop the life-cycle cost model, to return in February 1997 to help refine
                      the model. Finally, the official stated that further study and work on the
                      life-cycle cost model will enable BLM to reasonably estimate cost
                      allocations and more accurately project costs for 1998 and future years.


                      The Department of the Interior has stated that it intends to use ALMRS as
Interior Intends to   the core system to support its land management responsibilities. ALMRS IOC
Promote the           was designed to automate an important part of those responsibilities—the
Departmentwide Use    creation and maintenance of land and mineral ownership and use records.
                      As geographic capabilities and data are developed over time, the
of ALMRS              department expects ALMRS to provide the automated land ownership and
                      use information to support all of its bureaus. The department stated that it
                      will establish procedures for the use of ALMRS by all bureaus after (1) the
                      software is developed and accepted by BLM and (2) BIA completes its study
                      of the adaptability of ALMRS to other bureaus’ requirements.

                      In 1993, the department established the Land Records Automation Work
                      Group, composed of representatives from each of its bureaus. The group
                      was charged with identifying the land title and record responsibilities of
                      the bureaus and determining the feasibility of using ALMRS to support those
                      responsibilities. The group found that, after BLM, BIA had the largest
                      requirement for automating land titles and other land records. Under the
                      auspices of the work group, BIA assessed whether ALMRS would satisfy the
                      requirements of the bureaus and what modifications would be necessary
                      to meet the requirements.

                      According to the report on its preliminary findings, BIA concluded that the
                      ability of ALMRS to meet its land records management needs is quite
                      positive, although modifications to ALMRS would be necessary.11 The
                      Bureau also noted that it is highly likely that ALMRS can be modified to
                      meet the needs of the other bureaus, adding that more analyses are

                      11
                       ALMRS/Modernization Commonality Assessment, performed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the
                      Department of the Interior’s Land Records Automation Work Group.



                      Page 14                              GAO/AIMD-97-42 BLM’s Land and Mineral Record System
                      B-271929




                      required to determine the extent of the modifications needed. In
                      discussing these findings, BIA officials stated that the Bureau is planning to
                      use ALMRS—or as much of it as possible—to meet its land title and records
                      system requirements.

                      The Acting Deputy Assistant Director for IRM also noted that BLM assigned
                      two technical specialists to assist the BIA in the planning stages of its land
                      records project, in an effort to facilitate the adoption or adaptation of
                      ALMRS.



                      BLM faces risks that threaten the performance and capability of the
Conclusions           ALMRS/Modernization    and resolving these may further increase costs.
                      Several risks could also adversely affect the recently revised project
                      milestones, including the deployment and completion dates, and the latest
                      cost estimate. The Bureau has been endeavoring to correct the problems
                      and mitigate these risks.

                      The absence of completed versions of essential plans, policies, and
                      procedures on configuration management, system security, transition, and
                      operations and maintenance adds additional risks. BLM understands the
                      importance of these essential tools, and has been working to develop
                      them. However, until these plans, policies and procedures have been
                      completed, approved, and put into place, the Bureau will not be ready to
                      deploy the system.


                      To reduce the risks and strengthen the management of the
Recommendations       ALMRS/Modernization, we recommend that the Director, of the Bureau of
                      Land Management:

                  •   fully update the ALMRS/Modernization schedule, including analyzing human
                      resources usage and task relationships to establish reliable milestones and
                      a critical path to complete the project;
                  •   disclose in BLM’s certification to the House and Senate appropriations
                      committees, information on (1) how well the system performs and (2) any
                      automated capability that has been removed, suspended, or deferred to
                      ensure that ALMRS IOC is not deployed with degraded performance or
                      capability loss;
                  •   establish a robust configuration management plan, and related policies
                      and procedures for establishing a program focused on managing the
                      components of and all changes to all BLM information systems, including



                      Page 15                       GAO/AIMD-97-42 BLM’s Land and Mineral Record System
                      B-271929




                      non-ALMRS/Modernization systems, to ensure successful management and
                      integrity of the ALMRS/Modernization;
                  •   establish a system security architecture and plan, including security
                      policies and procedures; disaster and recovery plans; and security test,
                      evaluation, and certification plans to reduce risks to the availability and
                      integrity of stored and processed data;
                  •   develop transition plans outlining the changes in organizational roles,
                      responsibilities, and interrelationships among the units and people using
                      the ALMRS/Modernization system to reduce the risk associated with those
                      changes; and
                  •   develop operations and maintenance plans addressing the acquisition,
                      management, and maintenance of managerial and technical support for
                      the ALMRS/Modernization system to help ensure successful operations.


                      The Bureau of Land Management provided comments on a draft of this
Agency Comments       report. These comments are summarized below and reprinted in appendix
                      II. BLM stated that it generally agrees with our observations and will
                      implement all of our recommendations. In this regard, BLM said it has
                      actions underway and fully intends to have the necessary plans, policies,
                      and procedures in place by the time ALMRS IOC is ready to be deployed to
                      the first state.

                      BLM’s comments describe the accomplishments and progress it has made
                      in the overall ALMRS/Modernization project. The Bureau said it is acting to
                      mitigate the risks that threaten the success of the project and is working
                      vigorously to ensure that ALMRS is developed and deployed as quickly as
                      possible without compromising quality. According to BLM, the new project
                      management team is taking a number of steps to increase the probability
                      of successful project completion. Finally, the Bureau states that it is
                      confident that the ALMRS software will meet its requirements and is
                      optimistic that the software can be deployed close to the current schedule.


                      We are sending copies of this report to the Secretary of the Interior,
                      Director of the Bureau of Land Management, Director of the Office of
                      Management and Budget; and interested congressional committees. We
                      will also make copies available to others upon request.

                      Should you or your staff have any questions concerning this report, please
                      contact me at (202) 512-6253. I can also be reached by e-mail at




                      Page 16                      GAO/AIMD-97-42 BLM’s Land and Mineral Record System
B-271929




willemssenj.aimd@gao.gov. Major contributors to this report are listed in
appendix III.




Joel C. Willemssen
Director, Information Resources Management




Page 17                     GAO/AIMD-97-42 BLM’s Land and Mineral Record System
Contents



Letter                                                                                              1


Appendix I                                                                                         20

Objectives, Scope,
and Methodology
Appendix II                                                                                        22

Comments From the
Bureau of Land
Management
Appendix III                                                                                       28

Major Contributors to
This Report
Table                   Table 1: ALMRS IOC Final Testing and Installation Milestones                6




                        Abbreviations

                        ALMRS     Automated Land and Mineral Records System
                        BIA       Bureau of Indian Affairs
                        BLM       Bureau of Land Management
                        COBOL     Common Business Oriented Language
                        GCDB      geographic coordinate data base
                        GIS       geographic information system
                        IOC       initial operating capability
                        IRM       information resources management
                        OMB       Office of Management and Budget


                        Page 18                    GAO/AIMD-97-42 BLM’s Land and Mineral Record System
Page 19   GAO/AIMD-97-42 BLM’s Land and Mineral Record System
Appendix I

Objectives, Scope, and Methodology


              Our objectives were to ascertain (1) if there are remaining risks that could
              seriously affect the performance, capability, or cost of ALMRS, (2) if BLM is
              operationally and managerially ready to deploy ALMRS in fiscal year 1997,
              (3) the latest cost estimate for ALMRS and reasons for any increases,
              (4) what the Department of the Interior is doing to promote the use of
              ALMRS by its other bureaus, and (5) if other bureaus are planning to use
              ALMRS for their land management needs.


              To determine if there are any remaining performance, capability, and cost
              risks, we reviewed ALMRS/Modernization project documents, assessments
              by the independent verification and validation contractor, prime
              contractor weekly and monthly status reports, software problem reports,
              and project management schedules. We also attended quarterly Interior
              reviews of the development project at the ALMRS/Modernization project
              office in Lakewood, Colorado, and observed user evaluation testing at the
              ALMRS/Modernization pilot site offices in Santa Fe, Albuquerque,
              Farmington, and Taos, New Mexico.

              We discussed the project with prime contractor officials; contractor
              officials involved with independent verification and validation testing, and
              operational assessment testing and evaluation; a senior technical analyst
              at Interior; and BLM’s Assistant Director for IRM. We discussed software
              development risks, performance problems, planned system capabilities,
              software problem reports, system testing, technical complexity, costs
              associated with milestone delays, and project management and scheduling
              procedures with project officials responsible for systems engineering,
              software development, budgeting, and project management. We reviewed
              the results of user evaluation testing, and database design and sizing
              analyses. We compared revised project milestones with past milestones,
              including those discussed in our prior report,1 and remaining project tasks.

              Because of the delays in the ALMRS/Modernization schedule, we were
              unable to review the results of the formal qualifications testing, pilot sites
              capability demonstration assessments, stress testing, independent
              verification and validation testing, and operational assessment testing and
              evaluation, as they had not taken place before the end of our fieldwork.

              To determine if BLM is operationally and managerially ready to deploy
              ALMRS/Modernization in fiscal year 1997, we reviewed draft configuration
              management, security, and transition plans, policies, and procedures, BLM’s
              operations and maintenance strategic options document, Carnegie Mellon

              1
               GAO/AIMD-95-180, Aug. 31, 1995.



              Page 20                            GAO/AIMD-97-42 BLM’s Land and Mineral Record System
Appendix I
Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




University’s Capability Maturity Model for Software, and minutes of BLM
configuration management board meetings. We reviewed the results of BLM
site-readiness reviews and BLM’s revised testing and deployment schedules,
and discussed them with ALMRS/Modernization project managers, the
Interior senior technical analyst, and the independent verification and
validation contractor.

To obtain the latest cost estimates for the ALMRS/Modernization and
reasons for any increases, we reviewed and analyzed project estimates and
compared them with estimates and categories in the original OMB-approved
funding agreement. We compared BLM’s current ALMRS/Modernization cost
projections with estimates included in our prior report.2 Budget estimates
were collected from and discussed with BLM’s Assistant Director for IRM
and the ALMRS/Modernization project budget analyst. We did not
independently verify the accuracy of the estimates.

To determine how Interior is promoting the use of ALMRS by other bureaus
and whether other bureaus are planning to use ALMRS for their land
management needs, we reviewed Interior’s Land Automation Work Group
meeting minutes, hearings report on BIA appropriations for fiscal year 1997
before the Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies, House
Committee on Appropriations, and BIA’s Commonality Assessment. We
discussed the department’s actions with its senior technical analyst and its
former Acting Director, Office of Information Resources Management.

Our work was performed from April 15, 1996, through February 21, 1997,
in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. We
performed our work at Interior’s information resources management
headquarters in Washington, D.C.; the ALMRS/Modernization project office
in Lakewood, Colorado; the prime contractor’s office in Golden, Colorado;
and independent verification and validation contractor’s offices in
McLean, Virginia and in the ALMRS/Modernization project office in
Lakewood, Colorado.




2
 GAO/AIMD-95-180, Aug. 31, 1995.



Page 21                            GAO/AIMD-97-42 BLM’s Land and Mineral Record System
Appendix II

Comments From the Bureau of Land
Management

Note: GAO comments
supplementing those in the
report text appear at the
end of this appendix.




See comment 1.




See comment 2.




                             Page 22   GAO/AIMD-97-42 BLM’s Land and Mineral Record System
                 Appendix II
                 Comments From the Bureau of Land
                 Management




See comment 3.




See comment 4.




See comment 3.




                 Page 23                        GAO/AIMD-97-42 BLM’s Land and Mineral Record System
                 Appendix II
                 Comments From the Bureau of Land
                 Management




See comment 1.




                 Page 24                        GAO/AIMD-97-42 BLM’s Land and Mineral Record System
                 Appendix II
                 Comments From the Bureau of Land
                 Management




See comment 1.




                 Page 25                        GAO/AIMD-97-42 BLM’s Land and Mineral Record System
                 Appendix II
                 Comments From the Bureau of Land
                 Management




See comment 1.




                 Page 26                        GAO/AIMD-97-42 BLM’s Land and Mineral Record System
               Appendix II
               Comments From the Bureau of Land
               Management




               The following are GAO’s comments on BLM’s February 21, 1997, letter.
GAO Comments
               1. This information is summarized in the “Agency Comments” section of
               the report.

               2. The components and status of the ALMRS/Modernization are summarized
               in the “Background” section of the report. BLM’s letter provides additional
               details that GAO believes are unnecessary to address the Subcommittee’s
               questions or understand the findings, conclusions, and recommendations
               in the report.

               3. BLM’s actions to identify and mitigate risks are discussed in the
               “ALMRS/Modernization Schedule Risks” and “Recent Problems Threaten the
               Performance, Capability, and Cost of the ALMRS/Modernization” sections of
               the report.

               4. The cost estimation difficulties are discussed in the “Estimated Cost of
               ALMRS  Is Increasing” section of the report. BLM’s letter states that the first
               estimate provided to OMB was $575 million. This estimate was reduced by
               BLM to $403 million after it awarded the contract to develop ALMRS. Since
               then, BLM has considered the $403 million estimate to be the official
               estimate.1




               1
                GAO/AIMD-95-180, Aug. 31, 1995.



               Page 27                            GAO/AIMD-97-42 BLM’s Land and Mineral Record System
Appendix III

Major Contributors to This Report


                       David G. Gill, Assistant Director
Accounting and         Mirko J. Dolak, Technical Assistant Director
Information            Keith Rhodes, Technical Director
Management Division,   Marcia C. Washington, Senior Information Systems Analyst

Washington, D.C.




(511412)               Page 28                    GAO/AIMD-97-42 BLM’s Land and Mineral Record System
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