GAO reports on Agencies’ rebaselining projects

Medical Technology, Healthcare & Government IT

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A fellow EA at the Army sent me a link to the GAO’s recent IT report entitled “OMB and Agencies Need to Improve Planning, Management, and Oversight of Projects Totaling Billions of Dollars“. The study’s introduction says it was needed because:

…the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which plays a key role in overseeing the federal government’s IT investments, identifies major projects that are poorly planned by placing them on a Management Watch List and requires agencies to identify high-risk projects that are performing poorly (i.e., have performance shortfalls). Having accurate and transparent project cost and schedule information is also essential to effective oversight. At times, changes to this information—called a rebaselining— are made to reflect changed development circumstances. These changes can be done for valid reasons, but can also be used to mask cost overruns and schedule delays.

It’s worth reading and getting our hands around what the legislative side thinks about our IT projects. Their summary indicates rebaselining is a major issue:

In its rebaselining review, GAO reports that 48 percent of the federal government’s major IT projects have been rebaselined for several reasons, including changes in project goals and changes in funding. Of those rebaselined projects, 51 percent were rebaselined at least twice and about 11 percent were rebaselined 4 times or more. In addition, while the major agencies have all established rebaselining policies, these policies are not comprehensive. Specifically, none of the policies were fully consistent with best practices, including describing a process for developing a new baseline and requiring the validation of the new baseline. Agencies’ policies varied in part because OMB has not issued guidance specifying what elements these policies are to include. In its report, GAO makes recommendations to OMB to issue guidance for rebaselining policies and to the major agencies to develop comprehensive rebaselining policies that address identified weaknesses.

Not exactly a damning statement but certainly something we should be mindful of as we look forward to our new EA submissions in the figure. With some changes expected with the coming presidential transition it’s unclear what OMB’s direction might be but even if specific policies aren’t announced, if we just use standard best practices on our side we should be ahead of the curve.

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