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Estimated Expenditures for Internet Increased Significantly While BBS Expenditures Remained Relatively Constant

Federal organizations responding to our data collection efforts estimated spending about $349 million during fiscal years 1994 through 1996 for Internet and BBS activities. Of this amount an estimated $325 million was for Internet activities, and an estimated $23 million was for BBS activities. As shown in table 1, expenditures for Internet activities increased significantly over this period, while BBS expenditures remained relatively constant. Appendixes III and IV provide estimated Internet and BBS expenditures for each of the 42 federal organizations.

Table 1
Total Estimated Expenditures for Internet and BBS Activities for 42 Federal Organizations, Fiscal Years 1994-1996a
(Dollars in millions)
Activity FY 1994 FY 1995 FY 1996 Total
Internetb $50.9 $92.2 $182.3 $325.4
Electronic dial-up BBS 7.8 8.0 7.3 23.1
Total $58.7 $100.2 $189.6 $348.5
a Estimated expenditures include both capital and operating expenditures. Capital expenditures are for items that are generally depreciated or amortized over more than one accounting period. We did not ask organizations to depreciate or amortize the capital expenditures, but to report the expenditure in the year it was made. Operating expenditures are expensed in the year in which they were made.
b Includes expenditures for providing Internet access to employees and for establishing and maintaining WWW sites.
Source: GAO analysis of data provided by 42 federal organizations.

All 42 federal organizations reported increases in Internet expenditures from fiscal year 1994 to fiscal year 1996. Within federal organizations, Internet expenditures of some major components increased while those of others decreased.

BBS expenditures, however, showed more variations. Of the 29 federal organizations that reported BBS expenditures, 15 estimated spending less in fiscal year 1996 than in fiscal year 1994, and 14 estimated spending more. For example, SSA reported that BBS expenditures increased primarily as a result of system improvements to its Online Wage Reporting BBS. In contrast, the Environmental Protection Agency reported that BBS expenditures were decreasing because of increased use of the WWW as a means of disseminating information.

The expenditure data provided by federal organizations were largely based on estimates. Some reporting officials told us that they do not typically account for Internet and BBS expenditures separately from other information technology expenditures, and they had difficulty making reasonable estimates. For example, expenditures for the portion of personnel time and for connections associated with the Internet were difficult to estimate.

Furthermore, some federal organizations told us that they did not report all expenditures. For example, the information reported by the Executive Office of the President did not include personnel expenditures for White House and OMB Internet activities. The organization reported that personnel expenditures for Internet activities were not tracked, and there was no reasonable basis upon which to make an estimate. Furthermore, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) did not provide information for three of its components--the Administration for Children and Families, the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, and the Health Research and Services Administration.

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