Fleet Management

GAO Slams FMSCA for Sluggish IT Effort

July 17, 2017

By David Cullen

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Image: FMCSA
Image: FMCSA

The watchdog agency of Congress has roundly criticized the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for not yet modernizing its information technology systems and for failing to fully establish an “investment management framework” for IT.

A blistering report just issued by the General Accountability Office also points up the difficulty FMCSA has fulfilling its mission while its chief posts — including that of administrator — remain unfilled by the Trump Administration. Since earlier this year, FMCSA has been led by Deputy Administrator Daphne Jefferson, a career civil-service executive, after prior Administrator Scott Darling, an Obama appointee, stepped down after President Trump took office.

The GAO report states that FMCSA “lacks complete plans to guide its systems modernization efforts. Specifically, the agency’s IT strategic plan lacks key elements. While the agency has an IT strategic plan that describes the technical strategy, vision, mission, and direction for managing its IT modernization programs, and defines the strategic goals and objectives to support its mission, the plan lacks timelines to guide its goals and strategies related to integrated project planning and execution, IT security, and innovative IT business solutions, among others.”

According to GAO, the FMCSA’s chief information officer is charged with overseeing the “development, implementation, and maintenance of the IT systems and infrastructure that serve as the key enabler in executing FMCSA’s mission.” However, the report notes, currently the agency’s Office of Information Technology is “undergoing a reorganization to establish an Office of the CIO. While a revised structure has been proposed, it has not yet been approved.” And that of course means it has not been staffed.

GAO, which undertook the report as requried in the FAST Act highway bill of 2015, said FMCSA began an IT “modernization effort” back in 2013 that includes both developing new systems and retiring legacy systems for each of its four key safety process areas—registration, inspection, compliance, and enforcement.

One of the efforts the report zeroes in on is the development of the Unified Registration System, which stalled out at the top of this year. “When fully implemented,” GAO pointed out, “URS is intended to replace the current registration systems with a single, online federal system.” Upon rolling out URS, several other systems and functions would be retired to streamline the process. That is not happening soon, says the report, which notes that FMCSA’s acting CIO “stated that the agency has not determined when URS will be fully deployed.”

The report charges that the agency "lacks adequate visibility into and oversight of IT investment decisions and activities, and cannot ensure that its investments are meeting cost and schedule expectations and that appropriate actions are taken if these expectations are not being met.”

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