Uncle Sam Sucks at Database Searching

We hate to fan the flames of political mudslinging over government spending and other topics that tend to attract Internet tough guys, but even we were surprised by this one. MeriTalk, the government IT network, just published the findings of its "Uncle Sam's Lost and Found: $15.4 Billion" study that examines the Federal government's ability inability to sift through internal databases and breaks down how much time and money is spent doing so.

According to the study, Federal employees tasked with searching for internal Federal files lost on average more than a month of work time each year all because of inefficient searches for documents in internal databases. Folks, that translates into $15.4 billion of wasted funds each year in lost productivity.

"Federal agencies can go a long way toward closing the productivity gap by taking a few simple steps," said Jim Helou, vice president, DLT Solutions. "First, prioritize file search efficiency and standardize search approaches. Next, develop interagency guidelines for filing and saving Federal documents – and focus on training. These quick-turn initiatives will have an immediate and sustained impact on Federal employee productivity and service delivery."

Federal employees cited multiple reasons as to why things are so bad. For one, there's a lack of standardization. Employees say search tools vary within agencies, and more than a third of respondents said they use a combination of commercially available and/or in-house developed solutions. Another reason is simply not knowing what information is available. On average, Federal employees said they search for files five times each day without knowing where to look.

"If the IRS managed its documents like this, who’d pay their taxes?" said Steve O’Keeffe, founder, MeriTalk. "To increase productivity and cost efficiency, Federal agencies need to get to the right data right away."