Information Resources: Management Improvements Essential for Key Agriculture Automated Systems

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-09-12.

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

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St~plt~llllwr            I!M)
                                          Essential for Key
                                          Automated Systems

                                          RESTRICTED --Not
                                                                to be released outside the
                                          General Accounting Offhe unless specifically
                                          approved by the OfTice of Congressional

----                              I_--.

(;AO/IM’I’14X              :-W-H!?
~..--~..l__-l”~.--.~i”l-.-   ---__.- -.._“..--------
                   United States
                   General Accounting Office
                   Washington, DC. 20548

                   Information    Management   and
                   Technology    Division

                   September 12,lQQO
                   The Honorable Robert E. Wise, Jr.
                   Chairman, Subcommitteeon Government
                     Information, Justice, and Agriculture
                   Committee on Government Operations
                   Houseof Representatives
                   Dear Mr. Chairman:
                   After expressing interest in our ongoing work at the Department of
                   Agriculture’s Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS),
                   on February 14,1990, you requested information on two major ASCS
                   information resourcesmanagement(IRM) projects. You asked us to (1)
                   explain escalating costs and schedule delays for ASCS’Grain Inventory
                   ManagementSystem (GIMS) and ProcessedCommodity Inventory Man-
                   agementSystem (PCIMS), and (2) evaluate how ASCS   monitors and man-
                   agesdisk capacity to determine upgrades for minicomputers in its
                   approximately 2,800 county offices.

                   Ineffective project managementand oversight contributed to cost
Results in Brief   growth, scheduledelays, and important user needsnot being met for the
                   grain and processedcommodity inventory systems.Current cost esti-
                   mates for these systems amount to approximately $62 million, which is
                   almost 9 times the initial estimate of about $7 million. Onesystem was
                   installed 2 years later than planned, and the other is scheduledto be
                   installed in July 1991, which would be almost a 6-year delay. The pri-
                   mary factors leading to cost increasesand schedule delays were poor
                   initial estimates, ill-defined user requirements, an ambiguous systems
                   concept design, and weak changeorder controls. Changesin legislation
                   and policy also accountedfor someof the cost and scheduleoverruns.
                   ASCS  has drafted a request for about a $57-million increasein procure-
                   ment authority, primarily to purchase additional minicomputer disk
                   drives and computer equipment for county offices between July 1990
                   and September 1992. Our analysis, however, identified flaws in the
                   method ASCS   usesto justify these purchases.On average,about 12 per-
                   cent of county offices’ disk capacity is wasted to maintain unnecessary
                   files-files that should be deleted or offloaded to other storage devices.
                   Including these files, as well as other deficiencies, distorts projections of
                   future disk capacity requirements at county offices. We believe that cur-
                   rently available funds can cover county office disk capacity needsuntil

                   Page 1                             GAO/IMTEGfN-S6   Agriculture   Automated   Systems


             September 1992, and that the $67-million procurement request is not
             We are making a seriesof recommendationsto improve the way ASCS    (1)
             managessystem development projects and (2) estimates and justifies
             computer needsat county offices.

             As an agencyof the Department of Agriculture, ASCS   administers farm
Background   commodity, conservation, and emergencyassistanceprograms, including
             commodity loans and price support payments to farmers. To support
             this mission, ASCShas automated the acquisition, storage, movement,
             sale, and donation of grain and processedcommodities inventories. ASCS
             also has equipped its county offices with minicomputers to help process
             commodity loans, pay price supports, and enroll farmers in conservation
             The GIMS, PCIMS, and network of county office minicomputers are critical
             componentsof MS’ information resourcesmanagement.These auto-
             mated information systems directly bear on how well ASCS performs its
             major program responsibilities, In fiscal year 1989, MS’ program and
             administrative costs amounted to some$13 billion. In addition, at the
             end of fiscal year 1989, ASCS’commodity inventories amounted to nearly
             $4 billion.

             ASCS awarded a contract in 1983 to develop the two major automated
             inventory systems at a combined cost of about $7 million. ASCS’esti-
             mates of scheduledcompletion and estimated costs for GIMS and PCIMS
             changedsubstantially between 1983 and 1990. About a 2-year delay
             occurred in GIMS installation, and numerous enhancementswere required
             to meet users’ needsimmediately after the system was installed in 1987.
             After the contractor completed the initial user requirements analysis
             and system design, ASCS   terminated PCIMS’ system development in 1986,
             only to restart it in 1987. It is still in the acceptancetesting phase and is
             now scheduledfor phased installation that ASCS        expects to complete by
             July 1991, nearly 6 years late. The cost of both systems has grown to a
             current estimate of about $62 million.
             Besidesthese two large inventory systems projects, MC%acquired and
             installed IBM System 36 minicomputers in each of its approximately
             2,800 county offices to support program administration and office auto-
             mation. As of June 1990, ASCS had spent about $181 million to install,
             upgrade, and maintain these minicomputers.

             Page 2                             GAO/IMTECOO-II5   A@hkure   Automated       Systems

                        ASCS originally planned for a complete equipment replacement in its
                        county offices by the end of fiscal year 1992. According to the Assistant
                        Deputy Administrator for Management,planning for this replacement
                        project was begun and later postponed by top AXX managementseveral
                        times becauseof higher agency priorities. It now expects to completely
                        replace all existing equipment by 1996 at an estimated cost of $960 mil-
                        lion over its lo-year life, making it one of the largest ADP projects the
                        agency will undertake in the next few years. Delays in starting this
                        equipment replacement have made it necessaryto upgrade existing
                        county office equipment on an interim basis until the replacement
                        occurs.AX%is planning to request the General ServicesAdministration’s
                        approval of about $268 million in additional procurement authority,
                        most of which will be used for the interim upgrades to existing

                        Federal Information ProcessingStandards Publications provide gui-
Inadequate Project      danceto federal agenciesfor effective managementof automated
Management and          system development projects1 The principal causeof the cost growth
Oversight Contributed   and scheduledelays was a lack of adherenceto these guidelines,
                        resulting in inadequate project managementand oversight. Additional
to Inventory Systems’   factors outside the agency’scontrol explain someof the cost and
Cost Growth and         scheduleoverruns, such as changesin legislation and agricultural
Schedule Delays

ASCS’ Shortcomings in   ASCS’initial attempts to determine both systems’ size and scopewere
Determining Systems     inadequate becauseit misjudged user requirements. A comparison of
                        AN%’original user requirements and those initially produced by the con-
Requirements            tractor demonstrates the extent of this misjudgment. The contractor’s
                        requirements showed about a 60-percent increasein the number of data
                        entry screensand reports neededfor GIMS and about a 260-percent
                        increasein those neededfor PCIMS. In other words, Ascssignificantly
                        underestimated the size of the system it needed.
                        One reason for this underestimate was that managementdid not involve
                        key users in defining requirements. User representatives stated that

                        (June 61983).

                        Page 3                           GAO/IMTJGG3046 A&wlture   Aut~matcxl Systems

                         somekey users were not available becausethey were neededto manage
                         an increasing work load. In addition, a division chief in ASCS’
                         City Commodity Office said someusers were not fully committed to
                         helping identify requirements because,given past managementactions,
                         they did not believe the new system would becomea reality. For
                         example, ASCS  managementhad terminated several previous develop-
                         ment efforts becauseof conflicting demands for in-house resourcesand
                         higher-than-anticipated bids for system development provided by
                         Lack of managementcontrol over system design changesalso increased
                         GIMS' cost. According to an internal agency document, contractor repre-
                         sentatives stated that ASCS project managerspermitted users to go
                         unchecked in submitting modifications affecting system design after the
                         contractor began building the system. This agency document also noted
                         that ASS’ lack of managementcontrol over system design modifications
                         increasedsystem complexity and may have automated unnecessary
                         functions with no cost-savingpotential.

Poor Contract            PCIMS’ cost increasesstem partially from ASCS' failure to thoroughly
Management Contributed   review the contractor’s system design document before approving and
                         accepting it. Documentation prepared by the contracting officer noted
to System Development    that ASCS  acceptedan ambiguous design that could only be corrected by
Problems                 additional system changes.In someinstances,this may have led to the
                         government’s paying extra for functions that should have been included
                         in the original system design becausesystem changeslate in a develop-
                         ment effort are generally more expensive than changesmade during
                         ASCS’ decision to start, stop, and then restart development of PCIMS had
                         further negative effects on the system’s cost and original completion
                         schedule.In May 1986, after the contractor prepared the requirements
                         and design for PRIMS, ASCS  terminated this project segmentafter consid-
                         ering several factors, including the contractor’s estimated development
                         cost. However, in September 1987, ASCS senior managementreversed
                         this decision and amendedthe contract to restart the project becausethe
                         existing system technology was not meeting current needs.According to
                         the contracting officer, the long delays between starting, stopping, and
                         then restarting work on the contract resulted in additional costs.

                         Page 4                           GAO/EWEG9O-S6   Agricukure   Automated   System
Interagency Project         ASCS waited until after awarding the development contract for PCIMS
Management Has              before bringing two other Agriculture agencies-the Agricultural Mar-
                            keting Service (AMS) and the Food and Nutrition Service (ms)-into the
- .         to System       effort. According to ASCS officials, the three agenciesneed to share infor-
uelays                      mation on processedcommodity inventories to accomplish their indi-
                            vidual missions. However, the contractor noted that having three
                            agenciesinvolved in the project increasedthe system’s complexity, size,
                            and cost.
                            The contractor further noted that the increase in the number of partici-
                            pants and perspectivesthat had to be consideredin reaching key project
                            decisionscontributed to scheduledelays and cost growth. As a result,
                            the processused to coordinate and agreeon refinements to system
                            requirements invited delays. For example, according to information pro-
                            vided by project managementofficials, lack of an effective resolution
                            mechanismslowed the agenciesin agreeingwhether FCIMS would be
                            implemented in phasesor all at once.

ASCSTop Management          Another contributing factor to PCIMS’ delay was top ASCS   management’s
Has Not Provided Clear      failure to provide clear and consistent direction. The Deputy Adminis-
                            trators for Managementat AMSand FNSand the Director of ASCS’Kansas
and Consistent Direction    City Commodity Office, the principal user organization, identified this as
                            a major problem. The ASCS official responsible for the project is the
                            Deputy Administrator for Management.From 1983 to 1990, six people
                            filled this position or served in an acting capacity. Decisionsto start,
                            stop, and then restart the development of PCIMS are attributable, in part,
                            to decisionsmade by three ASCS deputy administrators for management.
                            Overall project direction and decision making suffered from this lack of
                            continuity in a key senior managementpost.

External Factors Have       Finally, somefactors outside Ascs’control contributed to the difficulty
Played Secondary Roles in   in developing the two systems.Specifically, legislation such as the Food
                            Security Act of 1986 changedGIMS’ requirements after ASCS    acceptedthe
-         System            system design. Similarly, legislative requirements such as those coming
Uevelopment                 from the Prompt Payment Act and other agricultural policy changes,
                            including commodity packaging and shipping period initiatives, affected
                            PCIMS requirements after design acceptance.However, ASCS    records and
                            our discussionswith project managementofficials indicate that these
             Y              legislative and policy changeswere not the principal causesin the two
                            systems’ cost growth and scheduledelays. According to ASCS    records, at

                            Page 6                            GAO/IMTEG@O-gS   Agriculture   Autimated   8yrtema

                      most about $7 million of the nearly $65 million in contract cost growth
                      for both systems was due to these new requirements2

                            is installed and operating, and several users told us that the new
Problems Remain       GIMS
                      system is an improvement over its predecessor.Nevertheless,it does not
Despite Significant   meet some important inventory managers’ needs that were deleted in
Investment            1986 to conserve contract funds. For instance, besides keying data into
                      GIMS, users key some of the same data into separate personal computer-
                      based systems to prepare management information reports. ASCSis also
                      using in-house resources and another contractor to enhance GIMS to
                      satisfy user needsthat were not met when the system was implemented
                      in 1987. Through June 1990, the agency incurred about $5 million in
                      direct costs for in-house programmer staff and had obligated about $1
                      million in funds for the other contractor to continue developing and
                      modifying GIMS.
                      The three user agencieshave no available meansto resolve potential
                      disagreementsthat may arise during PCIMS acceptancetesting, installa-
                      tion, and maintenance. According to the AMSDeputy Administrator for
                      Management,each agency seeksits own interests rather than a common
                      goal becausethe project managementstructure has offered no strong
                      central control over project development. Representativesof ASCS and
                      FNShad similar concerns.

                      Having an effective project managementstructure in place to provide
                      direction, control, and oversight is important during the rest of the sys-
                      tems’ implementation phasesas well as the remaining phasesof opera-
                      tion and maintenance. According to their representatives, each agency
                      expects to correct or enhancethe computer programs during the
                      system’s life cycle, but they have no final agreementon orderly and
                      cost-effective software maintenance. Federal guidance states that estab-
                      lishing a structured software maintenance policy is a vital step in cre-
                      ating and supporting an orderly processin which all requested changes
                      are formally submitted, reviewed, ranked, and scheduled.3Such a main-
                      tenance policy is necessaryto ensure that all changesare reviewed for
                      their effect on the whole system.

                      2ASCSrecords indicate that at most about $6.6 million of the nearly $13.6 million cost increase for
                      GIMS and about $1.6 million of the approximately $41.6 million cost increase for PCIMS can be attrib-
                      uted to new legislative requirements.
                      3Guidelines On Software Maintenance, Federal Information Processing Standards Publication 106
                      (June 16,1984).

                      Page 6                                         GAO/IMTEG9O-S5      Agriculture   Automated   Systems
                            Just as information managementweaknessescontributed to problems
WeaknessesExist in          with AS@inventory systems,they present problems for enhancements
ASCS’County Office          being planned for its county office minicomputers. In May 1990, ASCS
Minicomputer Disk           planned to request the General ServicesAdministration’s approval of
                            about $268 million in additional procurement authority through
Capacity Management         December1996. This procurement authority is mainly for more mini-
                            computer disk drives and equipment upgrades at its county offices. To
                            determine whether these additional purchasesare justified, we
                            examined ASCS’  procedures used to managedisk capacity for its county
                            office minicomputers. We also evaluated disk file use for each county

Wasteful Disk Utilization   The ASCS  KansasCity ManagementOffice (KCMO) is responsible for man-
Found on County Office      aging county office minicomputer disk capacity and procuring addi-
                            tional disk capacity for the offices. ASCS county offices are staffed with
Minicomputers               employeeswho do not report directly to KCMO. Most of these offices do
                            not have staff with highly technical computer skills. KCMO centrally
                            managesADP support for the county offices, including procuring,
                            writing, testing, and installing the computer software and related equip-
                            ment used to perform administrative and operational functions,

                            In this regard, KCMO managesdisk capacity at the county offices by peri-
                            odically monitoring directories listing all computer programs and data
                            files stored on the offices’ disks, KCMO staff purchase, develop, and
                            revise the software run on the county minicomputers and maintain an
                            official list of programs and associateddata files that should reside on
                            the disks. KCMO updates this list quarterly and supplements it through
                            discussionswith programmers, KCMO comparesthis list against county
                            office directories, identifies files for deletion, and tells the counties to
                            purge these files. In addition, storage of county-generated data files,
                            such as word processingfiles, is monitored by KCMO. If they are unusu-
                            ally large, KCMO recommendsthat they be off-loaded to diskettes or tape.
                            KCMO  performs capacity managementcheckswhen county offices pass a
                            70-percent disk utilization threshold. KCMO purchases additional disk
                            storage upgrades only after checking that the county disk drives do not
                            contain program or data files that either should be deleted or off-loaded
                            to diskettes or tape.
                            We examined file directories for the minicomputer disks in each ASCS
                            county office to determine how efficiently disk spacewas being used. As
                            of June 1990, computer programs and files meeting ASCS  criteria for

                            Page 7                             GAO/lMTECQOI5   Agriculture   Automated   Systems
                                          deletion or off-loading to temporary storage devices(i.e., floppy disks or
                                          computer tape) accounted for about 12 percent of the total disk space
                                          used by all ASCS  county offices.4On a county-by-county basis, we found
                                          that as little as 2 percent and as much as 36 percent of the disk space
                                          used was occupied by files identified for deletion or backup storage on
                                          an alternative medium. Table 1 presents a frequency distribution for
                                          specified ranges of disk spaceoccupied by these files.
Table 1: Dlrtributlon of County Offlce
Disk Space Occupied by Flies Identified   Percentage of disk space occupied                                               Number of counties
for Deletion or Alternatlve Storage       5orless                                                                                             155
                                          6tolO                                                                                            1,241
                                          11to15                                                                                             982
                                          16to20                                                                                             321
                                          Over20                                                                                               83
                                          Total                                                                                            2,782

                                          In January 1990 KCMO took steps to improve disk capacity management
                                          procedures.For instance, it is planning to improve disk capacity man-
                                          agementprocedures by providing a computer program to assist county
                                          office staff in purging files from disks. In addition, KCMO is providing
                                          more comprehensivewritten guidance on methods that county
                                          employeescan use to help better use and managedisk capacity.

                                          These are positive steps, and the changescould improve the accuracy
                                          and timeliness of KCMO'S disk capacity monitoring. However, it is unclear
                                          whether they will result in more effective disk spaceuse in the county
                                          offices. The capacity monitoring processis not resulting in unneeded
                                          files (those identified for deletion or migration to other storage devices)
                                          being promptly purged on a regular basis. KCMO can tell the counties to
                                          purge unneededfiles, but it is the power of KCMO to deny purchasesof
                                          additional disk drives that appears to serve as the real incentive for the
                                          county offices to take disk managementactions.

                                          4To identify the computer programs and files that could be deleted or temporarily removed from
                                          county office disks, we used AS3 criteria as of June 1990. (See app. III for more details.) At the
                                          completion of our audit work in August 1990, KCMO was evaluating the criteria to determine
                                          whether changes should be made.



ASCS’ Projections for   ASCS’ method for projecting future county office minicomputer disk
                        capacity requirements is basedupon current inefficient disk use. Fur-
Interim Upgrades Are    thermore, new farm legislation expected to be enacted soon may signifi-
Questionable            cantly changethose requirements. As a result, ASCS  lacks reliable
                        information to justify its request for interim computer equipment
                        ASCS uses a computer model to estimate its future disk storage, computer
                        upgrade, and associatedmaintenance needs.6The model is basedon his-
                        torical trends in disk capacity use and estimates of disk spacerequire-
                        ments for major new software planned for the county office
                        minicomputers. These trends are projected into the future to identify
                        equipment needsand support requests for procurement authority.
                        ASCS’  projections can result in questionable results for two reasons.First,
                        ASS projects wasted disk spaceinto future periods. By not eliminating
                        these files from ASCS’ projections, inaccurate estimates of disk capacity
                        requirements and associatedequipment needsoccur. Second,ASCS         does
                        not use an overall file growth rate for an historical baseperiod in pro-
                        jecting disk capacity for the future. Instead, AS(IS,
                                                                            uses assumptions and
                        procedures-which are not fully documented and which we were unable
                        to fully evaluate-that attempt to assessthe impact of major new
                        software it plans to install. However, since AXS doesnot know its
                        software plans beyond 1991, it would appear more reasonableto use an
                        overall growth rate when projecting future capacity needs.This simple,
                        straightforward solution assumesnew software will be introduced at
                        rates determined by previous growth patterns.

                        Additionally, the 1990 farm bill may require AS.Xto implement new
                        farm programs, revise some,and discontinue others. This, in turn, may
                        affect future minicomputer disk capacity needsbecauseof changesin
                        number and size of files. Consequently, AK% future disk requirements
                        may differ substantially from those indicated by the historical trends.
                        To accommodateunpredictable requirements changessuch as legislative
                        modifications, ASCS now builds a 25 percent additional growth param-
                        eter into its projections at the suggestionof Agriculture’s Office of Infor-
                        mation ResourcesManagement.This figure is based,in part, upon the
                        agency’sobservation of past effects on capacity requirements resulting
                        from legislative changes,and doesnot appear to be unreasonable.

                        “Our ability to fully evaluate A!33 model was limited because ASCS never prepared complete            ’
                        written documentation such as logic charts, detailed narrative descriptions, or flow charts to describe
                        the methodology used to develop the model.

                        Page 9                                         GAO/IMTEG99-S5 Agriculture Automated Systems

                                                                                             -- . . -.- _____-           .-_-..~.- --.
Estimates for Interim      As of June 1990, the agency had about $26 million remaining under its
Minicomputer Upgrade       existing procurement authority for minicomputer equipment upgrades,
                           maintenance, and software in its county offices. This authorization
Funding Through Fiscal     extends through September 1992. In May 1990 ASCS     drafted procure-
Year 1992 Are Unreliable   ment requests indicating the agency neededan additional $67 million in
                           procurement authority for minicomputer equipment upgrades,mainte-
                           nance, and software between July 1990 and September 1992.”This esti-
                           mate includes about $32 million for additional disk capacity. The
                           estimate consistsof (1) an additional $63 million of additional procure-
                           ment authority under the existing contract, and (2) $4 million under a
                           new contract to get larger computers for those county offices that
                           require more disk storage than current systems can provide.7But these
                           estimates are derived mainly from the model’s questionable projections.

                           Given our concernswith ASCS’procedure for estimating future disk
                           storage and equipment upgrade needs,we made our own estimate. We
                           made calculations basedon more judicious disk usageand historical
                           rates of growth for software and data files, and then used this to project
                           future needs.(Seeapp. III for details.) Our estimates indicate that ASCS
                           funding requirements for minicomputer equipment upgrades, mainte-
                           nance, and software for the remainder of fiscal year 1990 through fiscal
                           year 1992 would be approximately $20 million. Our projections assume
                           that the average disk storage trend in growth for the past 2 years would
                           continue through 1992. If we increaseour funding estimate by 26 per-
                           cent to account for automation changesAXS may face after such events
                           as the passageof the 1990 farm bill (the practice employed by ASCS for
                           its own funding estimates), the figure would rise to about $25 million.
                           This increase could be met within AX% remaining procurement
                           authority, eliminating the need for the additional $57 million in procure-
                           ment authority ASCS  is requesting.

                           In May 1990 ASCS also estimated that, for fiscal year 1993 through the
                           first quarter of fiscal year 1997, it will need about $143 million for
                           interim equipment upgrades, maintenance, software, and support ser-
                           vices. However, we limited our estimate of AXX’ needsto the 1990 to
                           1992 period becausethe new farm bill may substantially changethe
                           agency’s future equipment needs.Before the end of 1992, ASCS      should be

                           (‘We used A!X% actual expenditures through June 1990 and adjusted the procurement request to
                           eliminate estimated funding needs before that date.
                           ‘ASCY is pursuing alternatives to acquiring these larger computers. One alternative involves changes
                           to the IBM System 36 processors to increase the maximum disk capacity the systems can support.

                           Page 10                                       GAO/IMTEG9O-85 Agriculture Automated Systems



              able to evaluate the farm bill’s impact and modify its request for pro-
              curement funds to more accurately estimate computer equipment
              upgrades and associatedmaintenance needsfor fiscal years 1993
              through 1996.

Conclusions   Our review of two major automation projects raises considerableques-
              tion about ASCS’ managementof information systems development and
              enhancementprojects. The grain and processedcommodity inventory
              systems support an important ASCS    responsibility involving the manage-
              ment of large commodity inventories worth billions of dollars. Poor
              planning, insufficient requirements analyses,and faulty contract man-
              agementhave kept ASCS    from finishing the systems on time, staying
              within original cost estimates, and meeting important user needs.These
              problems are contributing in a major way to ASCS    spending somenine
              times more in systems’ development costs for the two projects than was
              originally estimated. Unless these deficiencies in information resources
              managementare corrected, future information systems projects may
              suffer similar problems.

              The capacity managementprocessASCS usesfor its some2,800 minicom-
              puters housed in county offices acrossthe country likewise contains
              deficiencies. An improved disk capacity managementprogram would
              help ASCS   better manageexisting disk spaceusageand more accurately
              identify requirements for future disk capacity needs.Improvements in
              its minicomputer capacity and performance monitoring could lessenthe
              need for the additional equipment purchasesplanned through 1992.
              Until ASCS   corrects shortcomings in its disk managementprocedures and
              the methodology used to estimate future minicomputer equipment
              needs,risks increasethat additional ASCS funding requests will not be
              fully justified.
              More important, these problems raise concernsfor ASCS’    upcoming effort
              to replace all county office computer equipment by the end of 1996. This
              project will be one of the most significant automation undertakings the
              agency will face in the 1990s.The delay in starting this effort has
              resulted in the need for millions to be spent on interim computer
              upgrades. In constructing its approach to this major agency automation
              project, ASCS will need to resolve the weaknessesfound in our review of
              important information systems development projects.

              Page 11                           GAO/IMTEGBO-SS Agriculture Automated Systems
                                                                                                 c     r


                      Becauseof the managementand oversight problems evident in these
Recommendations       ASCS automation projects, we recommendthat the Secretary of

                  l direct the Administrator, ASCS, to improve project managementand
                    oversight for new information systems development or enhancement
                    projects by ensuring that (1) information needsare sufficiently identi-
                    fied to describethe scopeand magnitude of software systemsprojects
                    before advancing to the development phase, and (2) project size and
                    scopeare reasonably controlled;
                  l direct the Administrators of ASCS,  AMS,and FNS to complete an agreement
                    governing software maintenance for PCIMS and establish an effective res-
                    olution processto arbitrate interagency disagreementsto ensure orderly
                    and timely system implementation and maintenance;
                  . direct that ASCS’fiscal years 1990-92funding request for county office
                    minicomputer upgrades, maintenance, software, and other equipment be
                    reestimated and that any additional funding neededbeyond the approxi-
                    mately $26 million remaining in existing procurement authority be con-
                    tingent upon correcting the flaws in ASCS’forecasting to more accurately
                    estimate equipment upgrade needs;and
                  . direct that approval of AHX’ requests for county office minicomputer
                    equipment procurement authority for fiscal year 1993 and beyond be
                    contingent upon the agency’simplementing a more effective disk
                    capacity managementprogram, as verified by the Department’s Office
                    of Information ResourcesManagement.

                      We conducted our work in accordancewith generally acceptedgovern-
                      ment auditing standards. The views of ASCS   officials were sought during
                      the course of our work and their informal commentswere obtained on
                      this report. We have incorporated these commentswhere appropriate.
                      At your office’s request, we did not obtain written ASCS commentson a
                      draft of this report.
                      As arranged with your office, unless you publicly announcethe contents
                      of this report earlier, we plan no further distribution of the report until
                      30 days from the date of this letter. At that time, we will send copiesto
                      the Secretary of Agriculture, the Administrators of the Agricultural Sta-
                      bilization and Conservation Service,Agricultural Marketing Service, and
                      Food and Nutrition Service, and other interested parties. We will also
                      make copies available to others upon request.

                      Page 12                           GAO/IMTEG90-85 Agriculture Automated Systems


               This work was performed under the direction of JayEtta Z. Hecker,
               Director, Resources,Community, and Economic Development Informa-
               tion Systems,who can be reached at (202) 275-9676.Other major con-
               tributors are listed in appendix IV.

               Sincerely yours,

               Ralph V. Carlone
               Assistant Comptroller General

               Page 13                         GAO/lMTEG90436 Agriculture Automated Systems


Appendix I                                                                                             16
Objectives, Scope,and
Appendix II
Dates of Key Events
and Cost Estimates for
Appendix III
GAO Methodology for
Estimating ASCS
County Office
Upgrade Needs
Appendix IV
Major Contributors to
This Report
Table                    Table 1: Distribution of County Office Disk Space
                             Occupiedby Files for Deletion or Alternative Storage

                         Page 14                         GAO/lTMTEC9O-S5 Agriculture Automated Systems


    ADP         automated data processing
    AMS         Agricultural Marketing Service
    ASCS        Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service
    FNS         Food and Nutrition Service
    GAO         General Accounting Office
    GIMS        Grain Inventory ManagementSystem
    IBM         International BusinessMachines
    IMTEJC      Information Managementand Technology Division
    IRM         information resourcesmanagement
    KCMO        KansasCity ManagementOffice
    PCIMS       ProcessedCommodity Inventory ManagementSystem

    Page 16                           GAO/IMTECBO-S5 Agriculture Automated Systems   ;
                         ‘h /
Appendix I

Objectives, Scope,and Methodology

                       The objectives of our review were to provide information on AX% (1)
                       contract to develop two large inventory managementsystems,GIMS and
                       PCIMS,and (2) planned interim county office computer equipment
                       upgrade. We focused on the inventory systems’ original and current esti-
                       mated completion dates, reasonsfor cost increasesand scheduledelays,
                       and whether the two systems meet users’ needs.We were also to provide
                       information on the methods ASCS  uses,or could use, to determine when
                       county office computer upgrades are needed,and the actions taken or
                       available to improve the use and extend the life of county office com-
                       puter equipment.
                       To accomplish these objectives, we interviewed and obtained documents
                       from officials and personnel at the Agricultural Stabilization and Con-
                       servation Service in Washington, D.C., and at ASCS’Kansas City Manage-
                       ment Office and Kansas City Commodity Office. In addition, we
                       interviewed Department of Agriculture Office of Information Resources
                       Managementofficials, Agricultural Marketing Service officials and per-
                       sonnel, and Food and Nutrition Service officials and personnel in Wash-
                       ington, DC.

                       To respond to the questions on the development of these two inventory
                       systems, we reviewed pertinent contract, agency procurement, and sys-
                       tems design documents. We also reviewed documents relating to AS&
                       development and installation of GIMS and FCIMS. We interviewed a con-
                       tractor representative involved in these system development efforts. We
                       also interviewed users of the systems at ASCS,AMS, and FNSto determine
                       how well their needsare being met.

                       To respond to questions about the planned interim computer upgrade,
                       we reviewed federal regulations identifying actions agenciesshould take
                       in planning, acquiring, and using computer resourcesas part of an
                       agency’scapacity managementactivities. We also determined ASCS’cur-
                       rent and planned disk capacity managementactivities for county office
                       computers and the processused to determine the need for the interim
                       computer upgrades at these sites. We analyzed the impact of improving
                       disk managementat the county offices and reviewed ASCS' methodology
                       for projecting equipment needs.Finally, we independently estimated
                       ASCS’future equipment funding needs.
                       Our audit work was conducted between September 1989 and August
                       1990. We performed the review in accordancewith generally accepted
                       government auditing standards.

                       Page 16                          GAO/IMTE.G9O-86 Agriculture Automated Systems

          -..._ -.__
Appendix I
Objectives, &ope,   and Methodology

We did not obtain official agency commentson a draft of the report.
However, we discussedits contents with responsible ASCS  officials, and
have incorporated their comments where appropriate.

Page 17                               GAO/lMTEC!#O-S5   Agriculture   Automated   Systems
Appendix II

Dates of Key Events and Cost Estimaks for                                                                                                                  ’

Dollars in millions
                                                                                                         Estimated CosV                      Increase Over
                                                                                                                   Cumulative             Initial Estimated
Date         . ._- __.-...
                       -     Event                                                                   GIMS PCIMS         Total                           cost
Dec. 1983                    Contract awarded                                                         $4.4         $2.6          $7.0                      .
Jan. 1986                    Additional GIMS costs after user requirements definition and
                             design prepared                                                            5.8           l          12.8                          80
tvlay 1986                   PCIMS development terminated after user requirements
                             definition and design prepared                                                   .       .          12.8                          80
Aug. 1986                    Additional GIMS user requirements identified, plus new
                             requirements as a result of legislation                                    7.7           l          20.4                      190
Mar. 1987                    GIMS phased installation completed                                           .           .          20.4                      190
Sep. 1987                    Contract modified to restart PCIMS and to reflect design
                             requirements of ASCS, AMS, and FNS                                               .    18.9          39.3                      460
Feb. 1989                    PCIMS requirements identified after reviewing design and
                             adding functions originally planned to be developed with
                             in-house resources                                                               .     7.1          46.4                      560
Apr. 1989.                   Additional PCIMS requirements identified at acceptance testing
July 1990                                                                                                     .     6.2          52.6                      650
Aug. 1990.                   Planned contract increase for PCIMS implementation       support
July 1991                                                                                                     .     9.3         61.9                       780
July 1991                    PCIMS expected   to be installed                                                 .       .          61.9                      780
                             Totalab                                                                 917.8        $44.1        $81.9                       780
                                                      %epresents projected cost of completion at specified time. Additionally, for ease of presentation, some
                                                      events are combined and only major cost factors shown.
                                                      bTotals may not add due to rounding

                                                      Page 18                                        GAO/IMTEC9O-86       Agriculture   Automated   Systems

GAO Methodology for Estimating ASCSCounty
Office Minicomputer Upgrade Needs

               We independently estimated ASCS’    minicomputer disk and associated
               funding needsfor the remaining portion of fiscal year 1990 through
               fiscal year 1992. In basic terms, our methodology involved the following
               steps. First, we calculated the disk spacecurrently being used by each
               county office, assumingthe removal of files and software ASCS    identified
               for deletion or migration to other media, such as tape drives or dis-
               kettes. Next, we calculated an estimate of disk spacegrowth for all
               county offices basedon historical data from the past 2 years, a period
               for which ASCS  could readily provide the requisite data. We computed
               the averagemonthly growth in megabytesover the 2-year period and,
               using linear projections, estimated future county office disk storage
               needsthrough September 1992. Using these results, we estimated the
               cost of purchasing and maintaining additional computer equipment as
               well as the currently installed equipment and other related costs
               through September 1992. Each step is further explained below.
               To determine the data and software files that could be deleted or tempo-
               rarily migrated to other devices,we relied upon ASCS    criteria. These files
               included (1) those identified by ASCS for deletion, (2) those identified by
               ASCS  guidance as temporary files not requiring storage on disk, and (3)
               county office training files that ASCS instructions state can be migrated
               from disk when spacebecomeslimited.

               To determine the growth estimate for future disk spacerequirements,
               we obtained ASCS monthly data on averagedisk spaceuse for all coun-
               ties between May 1988 and May 1990. Using this information, we esti-
               mated the average amount of disk storage growth for all files at all
               county offices using linear regressionanalysis.’ To account for differ-
               encesin monthly disk spacegrowth for individual counties, we multi-
               plied the averagegrowth rate by the ratio of each county’s existing disk
               spaceusageto the overall averageexisting disk spaceusagerequire-
               ment.2For example, if the averagegrowth rate for all counties was 5
               megabytes per month and the overall averageexisting disk usagewas
               600 megabytes,the estimated growth rate for a county whose existing

               ’ Linear regression analysis is a statistical technique for evaluating a linear relationship of one or
               more independent variables to a single continuous dependent variable. It can be used to determine the
               best interpretive mathematical model for describing this relationship, and subsequently estimating
               future values of the dependent variable. We used time series regression analysis because of the tem-
               poral ordering of the independent variables (periods of tie), which allows one to see how the depen-
               dent variable (megabytes of disk space) has varied in the past and how it is likely to vary in the

               “An ASCS Kansas City Management Office assistant deputy director agreed that this approach for
               estimating disk space growth is appropriate and should provide a reasonable estimate of ASCS

               Page 19                                        GAO/IMTEC-SO-95     Agriculture   Automated   Systems
      Methoflology for Edmating    ASa
County Offlee Minicomputer    Upgrade Needa

disk spaceusagewas 400 megabyteswould be 4 megabytesa month
(400/600 times 6 megabytes).
We calculated each county office’s disk needsfor each month between
June 1990 and September 1992, by (1) calculating disk spacethat would
remain as of June 1990, after removing from each county office’s disk
those files ASCShas identified for deletion, and (2) increasing each
office’s disk spaceusageby the county’s estimated monthly growth rate,
After computing each county office’s disk spaceneeds,we estimated the
funding requirements for this period using AS& equipment cost infor-
mation The projected funding estimates include the cost for computer
and equipment upgrades plus other costs,including the maintenance of
existing and new equipment, system software, and other equipment
such as printers and terminals.
Using this methodology, our estimates indicate that ASCS   funding
requirements for these items for the remainder of fiscal year 1990
through fiscal year 1992 would be approximately $20 million. ASCS’May
1990 draft procurement request indicates that it needsabout $83 million
for these items for this period. The agency has approximately $26 mil-
lion in procurement authority remaining until the end of fiscal year
1992. Thus, the agency’sestimates indicate that it will neeti an addi-
tional $67 million through the end of fiscal year 1992. Our analysis
questions the validity of ASCS’ estimates of additional minicomputer disk
storage needsthrough fiscal year 1992 and the associatedrequest for an
increasein procurement authority. Our methodology sumesthat the
disk storage growth rate computed from the past 2-y ar period would
continue through 1992. If we increaseour estimate bf 25 percent to
account for new requirements imposed by imponderable events, such as
passageof the 1990 farm bill (the practice employed by ASCS    in its own
funding estimates), our estimate would rise to about $26 million. This
would be far less than the $67 million in additional procurement
authority ASCS is requesting to cover July 1990 through September 1992
and would amount to about $1 million less than ASCS’    remaining procure-
ment authority.

Page 20                                       GAO/IMTEC90-95   A@icultwe   Automated   Systems
Appendix IV

Major Contributors to This Report

                        Theodore C. Gearhart, Assistant Director
Information             David L. McClure, Assignment Manager
Management and          Dennis L. O’Connor, Reports Analyst
Technology Division,
Washington, DC.

-Kansas City Regional
                        CeceliaM. Ball, Staff Evaluator
 Office                 Thomas M. Codk, Staff Evaluator
                        Doris J. Hynes, Staff Evaluator
                        Jerry D. Hall, Computer Analyst

(510424)                Page 21                           GAO/IMTECBO-EK   Agrkmlture   Automated   Syeteme
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                                                                Orcltviug                        Inforruatiou

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                                                                I’.<). Hex 6015
                                                                Gaithersburg,   MD 201377

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