The Department of Interior needs to do more to share data across several systems that it uses to oversee oil and gas development on leased Federal lands, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a new report.

Currently, Interior uses three data systems to oversee energy development on leased Federal property, and is developing replacement data systems to use with them, but has yet to finalize a plan to share data across them, GAO said.

“The systems are aging and create oversight challenges for the department. For example, they don’t fully connect or communicate with each other,” GAO said. “As a result, one agency uses more than 22,000 staff hours per year to reconcile data among the systems— the equivalent of about 10 full-time employees.”

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The three data systems that Interior uses to oversee oil and gas development— the Automated Fluid Minerals Support System (AFMSS), Legacy Rehost 2000 (LR2000), and the Minerals Revenue Management Support System—are relied on by Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR).

According to GAO, limited automated sharing of data among the three data systems is one of four existing challenges. Even though Interior is developing replacement systems, without a finalized plan to facilitate data sharing, the agency risks spending staff time that could be better spent on other priorities.

“Interior has not fully implemented leading practices in developing requirements to ensure the replacement systems meet user needs,” said GAO. “Such practices have been found to improve development of federal data systems.”

GAO made six recommendations – all of which Interior concurred with:

  1. BLM should “consistently designate data stewards at relevant levels to ensure data are of known and sufficient quality”;
  2. Interior should direct the CIO to develop a plan to address data-sharing challenges while updating and modernizing key oil and gas data systems;
  3. BLM should develop training plans for key data systems that identify users and how they will be trained;
  4. Interior should direct the CIO to “develop a process to ensure that program offices maintain requirement-related documentation supporting the development and management of requirements for future IT and data systems at BLM and ONRR”;
  5. BLM should define and document processes for developing and managing requirements for AFMSS II and Mineral and Land Records System consistent with existing or updated IT policies and guidance; and
  6. Interior should direct the CIO to update its Solution Development Lifecycle Guide or other relevant IT policies and guidance to address how program offices are to implement agile methodologies for software development.
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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.
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