GAO: OMB's IT dashboard used crusty data

Wednesday - 7/21/2010, 9:22am EDT

David Powner, Director, Information Technology Management Issues, GAO

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

When the federal IT dashboard was launched last June, it was "intended to provide visibility into the $80 billion spent on information technology across the federal government," David Powner, Director of Information Technology Management Issues for the Government Accountability Office explained to Federal News Radio.

So it wasn't much of a surprise, said Powner, that the GAO found a few problems under the dash. Specifically, a few timing problems.

One of the calculations being used "calculates costs and schedule ratings based on the last completed milestone." Powner said the span of time between milestones "can be rather significant, so what happened was the dashboard did not take into consideration performance of on-going milestones." Ratings weren't considering current performance.

Essentially, said Powner, "what we found was not all the information on there is current and up to date, but to OMB's credit, they did release a new version of the dashboard just last week and we expect that some of that data will be more current going forward." Now, with the new dashboard, ratings will consider on-going milestones "so that should fix that portion of the data quality issue."

Powner sounded neither surprised or disappointed to find tweaks needed to be made to the IT dashboard. In fact, he said that across government, "it is common to have data quality issues, whether it's input issues, whether the data that's feeding it isn't the right data because sometimes there's multiple sources of data, this is something I think that OMB even acknowledges."

The important thing to know, said Powner, is that data quality will always be an issue.

Although Powner said the dashboard had been "rushed out," that wasn't really a problem.

"I would actually give (Federal Chief Information Officer) Vivek Kundra a lot of credit for moving quickly. Often times in the federal government we don't move quick enough."

While there was room for improvement, said Powner, there's a CIO assessment on the dashboard so while there was some crusty data on the dashboard, "there was other information that should be timely and up to date."

GAO will review the IT dashboard every six months going forward.

Not that GAO expects to find more problems. It's just another day at the office for Powner. "That's why we do our many reviews across the federal government."

While it wasn't perfect when it was rolled out, Powner notes the dashboard was essentially a beta version. "The important thing going forward is it's improved over time, (and) there's some additional guidance being issued by OMB on how agencies should be reporting to clarify that."