STATEMENT OF KAREN S. EVANS BEFORE THE COMMITTEE ON HOMELAND SECURITY AND GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS†
Good morning Chairman Carper, Ranking Member Coburn, and Members of the Committee. I am pleased to be invited back to share my views on, “Identifying Critical Factors for Success in Information Technology Acquisitions.” My remarks today will describe best practices and success factors for managing information technology (IT) systems that the government can learn from industry.
The federal government will spend over $80 billion on information technology (IT) this year. Despite guidance and oversight by Congress, General Accountability Office (GAO), and Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Federal IT projects too frequently incur cost overruns and schedule delays, and end-up contributing little to agency mission outcomes. Frequently these failures resulted from well know hazards that experienced practitioners have learned to avoid by adopting specific procedures – best practices – that circumnavigate these pitfalls. Other times the project failure could be traced to someone not doing what they were supposed to do. The technology did not play a trick on them. There was not an unforeseen outside force dooming the project. No, in every case, someone missed their block and let a defender sack the quarterback. The reflexive response is to add another layer of rules to prevent someone from making that bad decision again. This is the wrong way to go, as it adds layer upon layer of bureaucracy that eventually grinds the process to a halt.
One cannot mandate good outcomes, nor can Congress legislate to preclude failure. Rather, the IT acquisition system must foster a culture that allows and tolerates a continuing learning cycle to improve overall performance. Results, whether they are good or bad, provide important feedback that needs to be integrated into the overall management framework. The goal must be to enable success, not to preclude failure.