GAO: Federal Tech Spending is Inefficient, Wasteful

Published July 28, 2015

The federal government’s annual expenditure of more than $80 billion for information technology incurs rampant waste and inefficiency, according to a June report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Despite widespread inefficiencies in tech spending, President Barack Obama’s 2016 budget, released in February, calls for a $2.3 billion increase in spending on hardware and software, up to $86.4 billion.

According to the GAO report, federal spending on obsolete technology has also increased over the past six years.

‘Improve and Modernize’

Deborah Collier, director of technology and telecommunications policy at Citizens Against Government Waste, says too many taxpayer dollars are going toward legacy systems that need to be replaced.

“That increases risk, like what we just saw at [the Office of Personnel Management],” Collier said. “[Some of the] data security breach that occurred at the Office of Personnel Management … was [caused by] running on legacy systems. Obviously we need to improve and modernize many of these systems.

“We can’t have agencies spending money on failing projects over and over and over again,” said Collier. “These projects need oversight, they need accountability, [and] they need transparency.”

Government agencies lack motivation to encourage efficiency, Collier says.

“If the federal government operated more like a business and needed to worry about the bottom line, I’m sure agencies would be operating a lot differently,” Collier said.

Failing Without Consequences  

David Williams, president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, agrees the government lacks incentives to do things right, which leads to lower quality of service at higher cost to taxpayers.

“There don’t seem to be any incentives for people to do their jobs … quickly [or] correctly, because the government is an entity that embraces paperwork,” Williams said.

“[The federal government] embraces layers of management, but [it doesn’t] embrace accomplishment and getting things done,” Williams said. “I think the problem is that there are no incentives for the agencies to get these problems fixed.”

‘A Bunch of Keystone Cops’

Williams says taxpayers are frustrated with the government’s failure to serve the people efficiently.

“Taxpayers don’t understand why the private sector can build software, advanced smartphones, and do things like that, but the federal government can’t do simple accounting software,” Williams said. “I think that’s the frustration; people see it in the ]private sector being done every day[. They see the] unleashing [of] the power of technology, and … federal government [bureaucrats] acting like they’re a bunch of Keystone Cops when it comes to trying to figure out how to build one simple website.”

Jessica Cross ([email protected]) writes from Cayce, South Carolina.

Internet Info

Additional Actions and Oversight Urgently Needed to Reduce Waste and Improve Performance in Acquisitions and Operations,” Government Accountability Office: