Is Technology Spending Wasted by the Government?

Is Technology Spending Wasted by the Government?

October 21

While the current Federal Government shutdown shines a light on the dysfunctional nature of American Politics, does the reported wasteful spending on technology by government agencies reveal that maybe the amount they spend isn’t the problem as much as how it gets spent? Still, adding some efficiencies and oversight inside governmental agencies may ultimately save tax dollars while improving the ability to serve the taxpayer.

Study Reveals Over $300 Million Wasted on IT at Three Government Agencies

The interesting aspect of a recent study revealing a possible $321 million wasted on technology at three different U.S. Federal Government agencies is that the report came from another government agency — the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). So in a sense, there is someone in Washington D.C. with their eyes at least partially on the pocketbook. Ultimately though, the wasted amount is a proverbial drop in the bucket compared to the overall U.S. budget, deficit, and debt.

The three agencies in question included the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The study covered the five fiscal years from 2008 to 2013. Simple math reveals the amount wasted averaged around $60 million per year.

The GAO study showed that the inefficient IT spending didn’t involve failed hardware or over-budget software system development as much as a notable duplication of effort. For example, HHS spent over a quarter-billion dollars on four separate systems each tasked with the responsibility to “maintain and secure the operations and assets” of the department.

David Powner, director of IT management issues for the GAO, feels government agencies need to do a better job of managing technology investments. “Many federal departments have poor IT investment management processes, especially when it comes to portfolio management that has been well documented in many GAO reports,” said Powner.

Most Government Technology Projects don’t Duplicate Effort

Even with those examples of duplicate IT investments leading to wasteful government spending, the problem could be a lot worse. In fact, the GAO study indicates a significant majority of technology expenditures didn’t involve a duplication of effort. The study reviewed 590 IT investments and found only 12 that they deemed as a duplication of effort. Even so, with over $300 million of taxpayer money wasted, there is no reason for better management to happen in the future.

The DOD and the HHS agencies had no problem with the findings of the GAO study. The Department of Homeland Security, on the other hand, felt its technology investments did not show a duplication of effort and said so in a letter included in the GAO study.

The GAO’s efforts to stamp out wasteful IT spending in the government need to be commended no matter how small the wasted amount was relative to the entire U.S. Federal Government budget. Governments at all levels need to be run with the efficiency normally found in the business world.