IG Slams Coast Guard’s IT Investment Tracking

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The Coast Guard doesn’t know if about 400 of its tech projects have adequate oversight.

The Coast Guard has invested about $1.8 billion in information technology over the past two years, but doesn’t know if about 400 IT systems have adequate oversight, a watchdog report found.

The Homeland Security Department’s IG audited the Coast Guard’s efforts to modernize its information technology, concluding the agency’s operational controls “lack synergy and create weaknesses that affect its ability to adequately identify, designate, and oversee” the buying of IT.

The report focused on non-major investments—the ones that don’t require department-level scrutiny—that still often involve “significant systems integration, high risk, or require high-performance parameters.”

Specific organizational challenges led to this problem. For instance, the IG said the Coast Guard's acquisition and IT processes don't work together, nor do they have enough controls to assess investments. The Coast Guard’s acquisition and IT manuals also haven’t been updated since 2011.

“Programs that do not receive adequate oversight are at risk of wasting money, missing milestones, and not achieving performance requirements,” the IG said.

The Coast Guard is also plagued by a lack of reliable information about IT investment, the report found. The Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Information Technology Directorate’s Enterprise System Inventory, a database about tech systems, is missing start dates, cost estimates and development life cycle statuses.

A GAO report found that DHS has historically not prioritized non-major IT acquisitions, so the Coast Guard's struggles may be a symptom of a longer-term cultural issue, the IG noted.

The IG made four recommendations, including that the agency do a comprehensive review of their acquisition and IT review processes to ensure they work together and that C4IT come up with a better way to manage information about IT systems. The Coast Guard agreed with all of them.