US department overspends on software

The U.S. Department of Energy spent US$4.1 million more than necessary during the past five years to acquire and maintain desktop software, according to the agency's inspector general.

In a report submitted to the department last month, Inspector General Gregory Friedman was critical of the DOE's policies for licensing and administering software in its various units.

The DOE and its contractors operate more than 110,000 desktop computers that run commercial off-the-shelf software, including office automation, records management, document imaging and anti-virus products, Friedman said.

The report found that the DOE has "not adequately managed the acquisition and maintenance of desktop software computer licenses."

In particular, Friedman said that seven of 16 organizations in the department bought software through locally established agreements or contracts, with prices up to 300 percent higher than those available through department-level agreements.

In addition, despite the potential for savings, the DOE has not entered into enterprise agreements for common products, such as security and antivirus software, the report said.

"Generally, if you're going to make a departmentwide purchase, you would probably qualify for a higher level of volume discount," said Amy Konary, an analyst at IDC.

Lack of Tracking System

Most DOE units also did not effectively track their software licenses and related use, Friedman said. For instance, officials at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico acknowledged that they could have saved US$800,000 by more effectively managing software acquisition and maintenance.

Konary noted that enterprise licenses could solve such management problems. "It gets everybody on the same renewal schedule, which makes administration easier," she said. "There's definitely a cost of administration when you've got lots of different license contracts."

Friedman also said that various agencies bought encryption software licenses and paid annual maintenance fees but never used the products.

DOE officials couldn't be reached for comment, but in a written response to the inspector general, Adrian Gardner, the DOE's deputy CIO, concurred with Friedman's findings and indicated that steps have been taken to address the problems, including efforts to renegotiate and consolidate license agreements for a common office automation suite.

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