oversight

Federal Information Resources Management Act (S. 1742)

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-02-21.

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

                        United States General Accounting OfAce                        Ncw67
                        Testimony


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                                                                                                  140687

For   Release           Federal          Information        Resources             Management      Act
on Delivery
                        (S.   1742)
Expected      at
IO:00    a.m.     EST
Wednesday
February      21,
1990




                        Statement           of
                        Milton      J.      Socolar,      Special         Assistant        to   the
                        Comptroller            General

                        Before    the
                        Committee      on        Governmental           Affairs
                        United    States          Senate




            w




GAO/T-IMTEC-90-3
                                                                                           GAO Form 160 (12/27)
Mr. Chairman                 and Members of             the Committee:

I am pleased                 to be here         today        to discuss          S. 1742--the             Federal
Information                 Resources        Management Act of                1989 (S.          1742,         10lst
Cong.,         1st Sess.            (1989)).           The purpose          of      the bill          is to     further
the goals           of paperwork               reduction         and to provide                for     comprehensive
information                 resources        management           (IRM) of          federal          departments          and
agencies.              It     reauthorizes             the Paperwork             Reduction            Act of       1980    and
is designed                 to reduce        the burden          of duplicative               government
paperwork           for       business,         educational             institutions,                and individuals;
to     improve         the       information           infrastructure               and statistical               data     base
of     the     federal           government;           to set      a national           information             resources
management             policy,           including       the     improvement            of public             access      to
government             information;             and to         improve      the      efficiency           and
effectiveness                 of the Office             of Management               and Budget's              (OMB) Office
of     Information               and Regulatory              Affairs       (OIRA).

We support             the bill's            thrust      towards         continuing           to reduce           the
burden        of    federal         paperwork           and initiating               changes          in the way
information                 is managed in the                federal       sector.        The complexity                  and
cost     of     federal           information           systems--        billions        of dollars             every
year --along              with     the     technological               challenges        facing         the     nation
over     the       next       few years         call     for     such changes            and for          strong
leadership             on the part            of both          Congress       and the         agencies.

I would         like         to comment briefly                 on a few key provisions                       of the
bill     addressed               by recent       GAO work--the              need for          information
management             leadership            in the      agencies         and the paperwork                   reduction
responsibilities                   of OMB.           While      to date      we have little                completed
GAO work         in other         critical           areas'        included          in this          legislation--

statistical            policy,          information            dissemination,                 and public               access,
we have established                     a new issue            area        in GAO on "Government
Information            and Statistics"                which         will      provide         broader           coverage          of
these      topics       in the          future.

Role of the Chief Information
Resources Management Official

Federal        agencies          are     facing        a crisis            in managing             their        information
resources.             For. example,              in testimony              before          your    Subcommittee                 on
Government          Information               and Regulation                last      June,l        we reported                that
the government              spends        about       $20 billion              each year            on information
technology.             Yet we could               not      identify          a single          large         systems
development            project         that       met each of              three      important            criteria--
satisfying          user     needs,           coming        in on time,             and reasonably                    meeting
original        cost     estimates.                In our report               Meeting          the Government's
Technology          Challenge            which      is being           released             today,2        we identified
several        fundamental             principles            that      government             agencies           must follow
to   improve        their        management           of     information              technology.                 Development
and implementation                 of     information               systems         should         proceed            under
well-defined            plans      which          provide       a clear            vision      of how information
is   to be used to further                        agency      objectives.               Service            to the public
should        always     be a key consideration,                            and top management                        within      the
agency        must always          be seriously               involved             in the process.



lstatebent          of Ralph           V. Carlone            (GAO/T-IMTEC-89-9;                     June        12,      1989)

2Meeting the Government's  Technology                                      Challenge:          Results           of a GAO
Symposium, (GAO/IMTEC-90-23 February                                       21, 1990).
                                                              2.
 The establishment                      of       a chief         information               resources             management

 official          at each agency                        as a career            appointee             having        the     necessary
 qualifications                      and experience                   should       help      agencies            better       focus        on
 information              management.                       But while          this       official          may seek to
 promote         the      effective               acquisition,                 management,             and use of
 information              resources,                  his     effectiveness                will       be dependent             to a
 large       extent        on the              interest,              attention,           and understanding                   given        to
 information              management                  by other           top    agency         officials.             The bill
 recognizes             this.           It      promotes          greater             awareness          and understanding
of     information                   management              by calling            for     the chief             information
official          to develop                  and implement                  formal        training            programs        on IRM
 concepts          (section             3506 (c)              (2)),         and for        the OIRA Administrator                          to
ensure         that       such training                      is done (section                  3504 (a)           (6)).        Training
 for     agency         program              officials           is essential                and needs to receive                      a
high        priority            if     meaningful              progress            is to be made.

Need For a Strategic   Approach
to Information   Manaqement

Effective              information                resources             management             is essential                to carrying
Out vital              national              functions.                The delivery               of these         vital      services
by the government--                          such as tax              processing,             air      traffic        control,             and
national          defense--depends                          directly           on good information                    management
practices,              including               the      effective             use of        information             technology.

In too many instances                            agencies             do not          complete         strategic            IRM plans
and develop              plans          that       are not             integrated            into      their       mission       plans
'and g:als.              As a result,                    millions           of dollars               are spent        on major

                                                                        3
information            systems         that     do not meet agency                    needs,         do not         perform
as desired,            are not         cost     effective,              and are not compatible                       with
existing        or future             agency       systems.

There        are opportunities                and challenges               for      improved           program
management            through         IRM, and program              managers               should      be the
agencies'         front-line            information              managers         in meeting            that
challenge.             Agencies         should       also        be encouraged               to incorporate                 IRM
explicitly            in their         strategic          plans     and to          link      these       plans       to the
agency's        mission         and budget.

The Quality            of Public          Information

We concur         in the        central         purpose          of S.    1742:            to "ensure          the
greatest        possible         public         benefit          from     information               collected,
maintained,            used,     disseminated,               and retained                  by the     Federal
Government."             Much of          our work in reviewing                       OMB's approval                 process
for   agency       data-collection                 requests         focused           on achieving               the proper
balance        between         minimizing          the public's             paperwork               burden       while
assuring        the     best     possible          quality         in the         information            to be
produced.         One of our              reviews         examined         changes           in the      paperwork
burden3        and found         some increases              , primarily              associated             with
applications            for     benefits         and regulatory               and compliance
collections.             On the         other      hand,         we found         little       real      change          in the
paperwork        burden         for    business        generally.                 Another       report           assessed
OMB's process            for     assuring          information            quality            in its      forms

8Paperiork Reduction:  Little                          Real Burden                Change in Recent                   Years
(GAO/PEMD-89-19FS, June 1989).
                                                             4
clearance         process.4               We found          problems         with      both     quality       and
timeliness          in this           process:             reviews         were slower          than      in earlier
years,      there       was a large                increase         in the         number of reviews
exceeding         the     legally          authorized              time     limits,       some OMB approved
requests         were technically                   flawed,         and review          policies          were
inconsistently                 applied.            We concluded             that      some changes          in OMB's
procedures          could        lead       to notable             improvement           in information
quality.

Commission          on Federal             Information

We support          the     creation          of     the Commission                 (section       203)     which        is
designed         to study          the     gathering,              processing,          analysis,          and
dissemination             of     information               by the      federal         government.           The
weaknesses          in OMB's forms                  clearance          process         are directly          addressed
by the     Commission's                mandate        to      improve        the quality           and timeliness
of OMB's reviews                 of    agency        data      collection             requests.

However,         we feel         the Commission's                   role     should       be expanded            to
include        examining          how well           agencies          use information              internally            to
manage or to achieve                      their      mission         objectives.               At the      same time,
the    tasks      already         laid       out     for      the Commission              are so broad            that
they     could      not be accomplished                       in any meaningful                 way by July           1991.

We suggest          a later           reporting            date.




4PapeGwork Reduction:                       Mixed Effects  on Agency Decision                               Processes
and Data Availability                      (GAO/PEMD-89-20, Sept. 1989).
                                                               5
.



    OMB Deleqation                       of Authority

    Our recent               reports              on paperwork               reduction                also     found     that          some
    agencies           have organized                          themselves              effectively             to meet the
    requirements                   of the Paperwork                       Reduction             Act     and obtain             approval
    for     virtually                all         of        their.information                   collection           requests            without
    major          modifications.                           We found       that         the     subsequent             review      of data
    collection               requests                 by OMB for           such agencies                 was redundant,                      and we
    recommended                   that          OMB exercise              existing             authority           to delegate
    approval           to these                  agencies.            OMB could                modify        or retract           its
    delegation               if      agency                performance           declined.              OMB has not              yet         acted
    upon this           recommendation,                           which     we believe                 would       improve        the
    efficiency               and timeliness                       of the         forms         clearance           function.                 The
    bill      continues                  to authorize                such delegations.

    GAO Reviews               of OIRA and the Agencies

    The requirement                        in section              110     for         a report         by GAO, no later                      than'
    July      1,     1991,          on the             overall        effectiveness                   and attentiveness                       of
    OIRA and the                   agencies                 in meeting           all     of     the     responsibilities
    assigned           by law,                  is unnecessary.                   GAO already                has sufficient
    authority           to do such work.                            Further,             if     enacted,         the     requirements
    of     section        110            would         draw too heavily                       on our     limited         staff
    resources;           we do not                     believe,           in any event,                 that    we could
    determine           the         impact             of      the bill         on agency             activities          in the              time
    specified.                In         lieu         of     a specific           legislative                requirement,               it
    would      be preferable                          for     us to work with                   the     Committee         to determine
    matters          of greatest                      concern       and concentrate                     our efforts              in those
    areas.
                                                                            6
.




    That      concludes      my testimony,          Mr. Chairman,            except   that    I have
    attached       several     technical       comments to my statement                  which    are
    largely      directed      toward      assuring         that     GAO and other       legislative
    agencies       are not     subject      to authority             of   the Administrator           of
    General      Services      or the      Archivist.              I would    be pleased      to answer
    any questions           you or the      other       Committee         members might       have.




                                                        7
ATTACHMENT                                                                     ATTACHMENT

Proposed        technical    chanqes   to   s.1742

1.   Page 15, section     (d), amending 44 U.S.C. 3504(f).     The first
     word of the new paragraphs       (4), (5), and (6) should
     respectively    be "overseeing",     "conducting", and
     "recommending."
2.   Page 61, section       301, amending 44 U.S.C. 3302.               The law
     currently     directs    the Archivist       to promulgate      regulations
     establishing      records     disposal    procedures.        The proposed
     amendment would add that the regulations                  are "binding      on all
     Federal     agencies."       Because the law currently          defines
     "Federal     agency to include         . . . any establishment          in the
     legislative      . . . branch,"        it appears that GAO would be bound
     by the Archivist's         regulations.       We recommend changing
     "Federal     agencies"     to "Executive       agencies."
3.   Page 63, section        (C) (2) amending 44 U.S.C. 2906.            Currently,
     44 U.S.C. 2906(a)(l),          entitled     "Inspection    of agency records,"
     provides      that the Administrator          of General Services    and the
     Archivist       (or designees),       in carrying     our their
     responsibilities        under Chapter 29 of title           44:
           II
                    may inspect  the records or records management
           piakices    and programs of any Federal agency solely     for
           the purpose of rendering     recommendations for the
           improvement of records management practices      and programs                     .
                     II
           .     .



     The proposed           amendment would          delete   the   word "solely,"     and
     add:
           "The Archivist       (or his designee)         may inspect  the records of
           any Federal agency for the purpose of determining                 whether
           records     in the custody of the agency have sufficient
           historical,      administrative,       legal,    research  or other value
           to warrant     further    preservation        by the government."
     We recommend that the words                “Federal       agency"    be changed    to
     "Executive aaencv".