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Information Technology Cost Savings

May 9, 1996

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Information Technology Cost Savings

Audit Report No. 236
May 9, 1996


We recommend that the Commission consider closing the headquarters mainframe computer facility, to save money, ensure an adequate disaster recovery capability, and comply with Office of Management and Budget guidance. In addition, we are making several other recommendations to enhance the efficiency of computer operations.

The Office of Information Technology (OIT) and the Office of the Executive Director commented on the draft report (see Appendix). While OIT has started an internal review of the need for the headquarters facility, it questioned the methodology of cost estimates in the draft report. After further analysis, we have deleted these estimates because of the difficulty in allocating costs to the headquarters mainframe facility.


Our objective was to evaluate several possible cost saving measures we identified during a prior survey of the Office of Information Technology (OIT). During the audit, we interviewed Commission and contractor staff, and analyzed relevant documentation.

The audit was performed from September to December 1995 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.


Consider Closing Headquarters Mainframe Facility

Besides its primary facility in Alexandria, Virginia (the Operations Center), the Commission has an IBM 3090 mainframe computer at headquarters which provides a limited disaster recovery capability. A contractor operates the headquarters facility.

During the audit, we obtained cost data pertaining to the Commission's mainframe operations. We also obtained cost quotations from commercial vendors for a "warm site" mainframe recovery capability.

Our preliminary analysis indicated that closing the headquarters facility and contracting for a disaster recovery capability could provide substantial cost savings. In addition, the headquarters mainframe has a very small processing capacity (9-10.6 MIPS, or millions of instructions per second). In the event of a disaster, this mainframe might not provide adequate capacity for all of the Commission's critical applications.

Recommendation A

OIT, in consultation with the Office of the Executive Director, should consider closing the headquarters mainframe facility and contracting with a Federal or commercial vendor for a disaster recovery capability. It should prepare an appropriate written justification for this decision. The justification should describe the extent of its market search for a suitable disaster recovery capability, and the rationale for selecting either a warm or hot site.

OIT indicated that in November 1995 it started an internal review of the need for the headquarters facility.

Comply with OMB Bulletin No. 96-02

To save money, the Office of Management and Budget is requiring agencies to close or consolidate small and mid-size data centers by mid-1998. OMB Bulletin No. 96-02 specifies that IBM-compatible data centers must have a processing capacity of at least 325 millions of instructions per second (MIPS).

By June 3, 1996, agencies with data centers below this standard are required to develop a plan for outsourcing to other Federal or commercial data centers. OMB will consider exceptions to the 325 MIPS standard on a case-by-case basis.

The Operations Center facility has a capacity of about 110-120 MIPS. We understand that OIT wishes to keep this facility open past 1998.

Recommendation B

The Office of Information Technology and the Office of the Executive Director should comply with OMB Bulletin 96-02 by, among other actions, developing an outsourcing plan, or submitting an exception request to OMB. The two offices should assign this issue a high priority, and establish internal deadlines for taking actions.

OIT indicated that it is working on this issue, and will comply with Bulletin 96-02.

Software Licenses Reviewed

Software licenses frequently allow the software to be used as a back-up without additional charge. Since the headquarters mainframe facility is primarily used as a back-up to the Operations Center, these licenses need to be periodically reviewed for cost effectiveness.

OIT indicated that it performs these reviews. In November of 1995, it sent letters to several software suppliers to ensure the Commission was not billed for copies of systems software installed on its back-up system, the headquarters IBM 3090 computer. OIT indicated that the results were very successful and eliminated all software costs on the back-up system.

Use Automated Attendants

Automated attendants (software packages) are commercially available which can perform routine work currently handled by computer operators. Several operators could be reassigned, saving money on computer operations.

Recommendation C

OIT should consider obtaining automated attendants for the mainframe facilities, and then reassigning operators, as appropriate.

OIT indicated that it began a review of this issue within the first week after the November 1995 OIT reorganization.

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