Federal Agencies Need to Improve IT Modernization Efforts | Citizens Against Government Waste

Federal Agencies Need to Improve IT Modernization Efforts

The WasteWatcher

In 2024, the federal government is expected to spend more than $100 billion on information technology (IT) and cybersecurity investments, with nearly 80 percent of those funds being used for operations and maintenance on existing IT systems, including legacy systems.  Among the other items these funds will be spent on are software licenses and cloud services adoption.

Citizens Against Government Waste has long encouraged improved tracking and purchasing of software licenses in government, including hosting a briefing on Capitol Hill on May 10, 2013, which spotlighted ways in which software asset management could be improved.  Without proper tracking of software purchases and usage, it is impossible for federal, state and local governments to monitor and spend the taxpayers’ money effectively on software assets.  This was among the reasons that the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) supported the inclusion of software asset management tools and adoption of cloud services in the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), which was included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 (Public Law No. 113-66).

The House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform issues a report card on agency progress in meeting the goals of improving IT acquisition and management.  The FITARA report card measures seven key metrics including agency Chief Information Officer (CIO) authority enhancements; CIO investments; modernizing government technology; transition off Networx; cybersecurity; and Cloud Computing.  The February 1, 2024, report card, released by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Committee Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Information Technology and Government Innovation does not detail specific areas like software asset management, but instead includes this in the portfolio review savings.  A striking reflection on IT modernization is that 16 out of the 24 agencies reviewed received failing grades on their efforts to adopt cloud computing services, which CAGW has also promoted as being essential to save money and improve efficiency.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued several reports that track federal agency progress in accounting for software assets.  The January 29, 2024 report highlighted that agencies are still not able to properly account for software license usage leading to either “purchasing too many licenses – referred to as over-purchasing – or purchasing too few licenses that may result in additional fees – referred to as under-purchasing.”

The GAO spotlighted how software products that are bundled together under a single license may not have usage data for each product tracked individually.  GAO has recommended that the agencies improve their tracking of software licenses being used for their widely used licenses and compare software licenses used against those they have purchased to improve software investment decisions and find opportunities to reduce costs.  These recommendations were made to the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, State, and Veterans Affairs, the Office of Personnel Management, Social Security Administration, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

This type of mismanagement is not acceptable.  Private sector companies are not likely to waste money by buying more software licenses than they need.  It should be routine and simple for federal agencies to ensure that they manage their software assets properly and stop wasting taxpayer resources on duplicative or unnecessary software licenses. 



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