Report calls out US federal agencies for inefficient tracking of software licences

Report calls out US federal agencies for inefficient tracking of software licences

Of nine agencies examined closely because of their large IT budgets, none had a good grasp of whether licences were under, or over, purchased.

Published on 2nd February 2024

Federal agencies do not have a good grasp on either the numbers or the value of their software licenses, leaving uncertainty over whether they are getting the best deals possible, the GAO has said.

In a review of the 24 Cabinet Departments and largest independent agencies, the GAO found that about three dozen software providers account for nearly all of the licenses and spending. However, “The most widely used and highest amounts paid for software products cannot be identified across the 24 agencies because agencies’ license data for products were inconsistent and incomplete. For example, multiple software products within license agreements were not separately priced.”

It said that key steps to managing software licensing include tracking licenses currently in use and regularly comparing the inventory to purchase records. “Conducting such activities can help avoid purchasing too many licenses—referred to as over-purchasing—or purchasing too few licenses that may result in additional fees—referred to as under-purchasing,” a report said.

Of nine agencies examined closely because of the size of their IT budgets, though, none “fully determined that their five most widely used software licenses were over- or under-purchased.”

The GAO noted that it first raised concerns about managing of software licenses in 2014 and first put IT acquisitions and operations on its high-risk list the following year, and that several laws and sets of OMB guidance afterward directed agencies to take specific actions to better manage their licenses.

Those steps have resulted in savings estimated at $2.1 billion in that time, but just since 2021, IGs of agencies including EPA, Energy and NASA nonetheless “have reported on millions of dollars of wasteful spending related to software licenses including licenses that were underreported or unused.”

Eight of the agencies agreed with new GAO recommendations to consistently track software license usage and one neither agreed nor disagreed.


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