DOD stands out in software license management

Many government agencies struggle managing software licenses in an effective manner, overspending chunks of their million and billion dollar IT budgets on unused or redundant programs. Despite its $31 billion budget and massive inventory of software licenses, the Defense Department, however, is not one of those.

The Government Accountability Office released a report earlier in July recognizing DOD’s software license management plan as satisfactory in effectively meeting four statutory requirements set forth by the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2013.

With hundreds of software licenses purchased in 2013, the department was not only able to keep an accurate inventory of those but also others not selected for use, such as “some classified software, contractor-owned software, and handheld devices such as tablets and phones,” according to an introductory letter from Carol Cha, director of Information Technology Acquisition Management Issues at GAO.

“DOD has developed a plan to help the department manage its licenses, and the plan clearly describes, among other statutory requirements, what software the inventory is to include,” Cha wrote. “By identifying such information, DOD has laid the appropriate groundwork to analyze software license data.”


Under the 2013 NDAA, the department’s chief information officer is tasked with preparing a software management plan “that will maximize the return on investments,” the report says. Therefore, part of the CIO’s responsibility in addition to keeping track of licenses is to compare the installation of the licensed software to the number purchased, create a software procurement plan for the following two fiscal years and develop a set of best practices for greatest economies of scale and cost saving in purchasing new software, all of which the DOD satisfactorily achieved in GAO’s analysis.

“Based on our work on leading practices in licensing management, the department’s planned analyses could help achieve savings in license procurement, use, and, to a limited degree, optimization,” Cha’s letter to Congress said. “Among other things, these analyses could lead to savings through procuring volume discounts and/or moving toward enterprise-wide solutions; as well as disposing of excessive licenses.”

DOD’s software management plan, though considered a success in its infancy, will face its biggest challenge in the coming years during its full implementation, the GAO report said.

“By identifying such information, DOD has laid the appropriate groundwork to analyze software license data,” Cha wrote. “DOD is currently implementing the plan, which will likely be the most challenging aspect of this effort. The DOD CIO’s ability to effectively carry out its planned license efficiency analyses will depend largely on the completeness and accuracy of the information provided by the components.”

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