The analysis focused on "seat management"--that is, hiring an outside contractor to provide equipment, software, and services for distributed computing requirements. The agencies said the main reasons they chose that approach were to improve IT management, boost end-user support and productivity, and upgrade their technologies.
The General Accounting Office, the investigational arm of Congress, prepared the report at the request of the Government Reform Committee's subcommittee on technology and procurement policy. It studied six agencies: the Department of Defense, the Department of the Treasury, the Peace Corps, NASA, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the General Services Administration.
"Although the six agencies reviewed reported various positive results from implementing seat management, (the GAO) could not determine whether they were achieving expected costs and benefits because they did not perform sufficient up-front analyses or routinely monitor actual results," the report said.
The GAO looked at contracts such as a Treasury Department deal for 1,600 desktops and 700 notebooks, along with voice/telephone administration, Web-site support, training, fax support, personal digital assistant support, and the establishment of a classified network. A three-year contract for NASA's Kennedy Space Center included 3,000 desktops, along with phone services, Web site consulting, help-desk services, infrastructure upgrades and asset management.
The agencies studied said that they had positive results from their contracts, but they failed to "sufficiently analyze their baseline and projected costs and benefits up front and monitor actual implementation results," the GAO found.
In other findings:
The Treasury's Departmental Offices estimated the costs of seat management and an alternative, but didn't make any predictions as to what the benefits would be. Also, the cost estimate was developed about a week before the contract award and was based on the winning bidder's proposal, the GAO said.
The Defense Logistics Agency and the Peace Corps both determined what their pre-seat management costs were, but didn't do any cost-benefit analysis or note any alternatives before choosing that route, the study found. And the Peace Corps analysis included costs for foreign and domestic operations, even though it used a seat management contract only for its domestic operations.
The cost-benefit analyses conducted by NASA and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services excluded internal agency costs, such as those associated with program and contract management. And the GAO found that the two agencies' analyses did not include a thorough or reliable baseline of the costs associated with their pre-seat-management computing environments.
The agencies said that they didn't have the time or resources to perform better analyses. And in some cases, they said that upper-level management had mandated that outsourcing and a performance-based contract be used, and that budgetary savings was not a goal of the seat management program.
"We are recommending that each of the six agencies in our review monitor all actual seat management costs and benefits," the report suggests, adding that the agencies should also determine what their current costs are and analyze expected costs, benefits, and risks.