The U.S. Coast Guard has failed to meet the full operational capability of its new financial management system, due in part because the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not address and remediate known issues identified in operational testing, according to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

In December 2021, the Coast Guard deployed its new financial management system as part of a $510 million modernization program and declared initial operational capability in June 2022. However, the Coast Guard did not achieve the expected full operational capability in December 2022, the GAO reported.

DHS – responsible for providing oversight of its financial systems modernization programs – identified, documented, and tracked metrics to assess the Coast Guard’s system deployment and found that the system was not achieving expected capabilities.

“This is because DHS did not address and remediate known issues identified in operational testing. DHS’s subsequent operational testing and evaluation of the system found that it was not effective, responsive, or reliable. Therefore, DHS could not proceed to the full operational capability of the system,” according to the GAO report.

The report states that DHS must remediate serious issues identified by testing or the department risks not fully achieving its goal of deploying systems that produce reliable data for management decision-making and financial reporting.

In addition, GAO reported that if DHS “resolved deficiencies identified by testing before proceeding to the next phase in the acquisition process” it could reduce the risk that future system modernization efforts will not meet mission needs or expected capabilities.

This is especially important as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) enter the planning phases of their financial systems modernization efforts.

GAO also found that corrective action plans Coast Guard developed to address its fiscal year 2021 audit findings did not always contain all the data attributes recommended in applicable guidance.

“Although DHS guidance emphasizes the importance of root cause analyses in resolving deficiencies, such analyses were often not done. Therefore, Coast Guard is at an increased risk that its corrective actions will not effectively address identified deficiencies,” the report states.

GAO made four recommendations, including that the Joint Program Management Office works with the Coast Guard, FEMA, and ICE to remediate issues identified by testing and that the Coast Guard follow applicable guidance when developing corrective action plans.

GAO did acknowledge that the Coast Guard is in the process of developing a remediation plan to address outstanding issues. DHS also concurred with the recommendations and described actions it has taken and will take to address them.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.