I discovered a good example of a “known unknown” today. The GAO report entitled: Multiple DOD Organizations are Developing Numerous Initiatives gives a good example.
From the summary:
We identified 1,340 potential, separate initiatives that DOD funded from fiscal year 2008 through the first quarter of fiscal year 2012 that, in DOD officials’ opinion, met the above definition for C-IED initiatives. We relied on our survey, in part, to determine this number because DOD has not determined, and does not have a ready means for determining, the universe of C-IED initiatives. Of the 1,340 initiatives, we received detailed survey responses confirming that 711 initiatives met our C-IED definition. Of the remaining 629 initiatives for which we did not receive survey responses, 481 were JIEDDO initiatives. JIEDDO officials attribute their low survey returns for reasons including that C-IED initiatives are currently not fully identified, catalogued, and retrievable; however, they expect updates to their information technology system will correct this deficiency. Our survey also identified 45 different organizations that DOD is funding to undertake these 1,340 identified initiatives. Some of these organizations receive JIEDDO funding while others receive other DOD funding. We documented $4.8 billion of DOD funds expended in fiscal year 2011 in support of C-IED initiatives, but this amount is understated because we did not receive survey data confirming DOD funding for all initiatives. As an example, at least 94 of the 711 responses did not include funding amounts for associated C-IED initiatives. Further, the DOD agency with the greatest number of C-IED initiatives identified—JIEDDO—did not return surveys for 81 percent of its initiatives.
Our survey results showed that multiple C-IED initiatives were concentrated within some areas of development, resulting in overlap within DOD for these efforts—i.e., programs engaged in similar activities to achieve similar goals or target similar beneficiaries. For example, our survey data identified 19 organizations with 107 initiatives being developed to combat cell phone-triggered IEDs. While the concentration of initiatives in itself does not constitute duplication, this concentration taken together with the high number of different DOD organizations that are undertaking these initiatives and JIEDDO’s inability to identify and compare C-IED initiatives, demonstrates overlap and the potential for duplication of effort. According to JIEDDO officials, the organization has a robust coordinating process in place that precludes unintended overlap. However, through our survey and follow-up with relevant agency officials, we found examples of overlap in the following areas: (1) IED-related intelligence analysis: two organizations were producing and disseminating similar IED-related intelligence products to the warfighter, (2) C-IED hardware development: two organizations were developing similar robotics for detecting IEDs from a safe distance, and (3) IED detection: two organizations had developed C-IED initiatives using chemical sensors that were similar in their technologies and capabilities.
Our survey results showed that a majority of respondents said they communicated with JIEDDO regarding their C-IED initiatives; however, JIEDDO does not consistently record and track this data. Based on our prior work, JIEDDO does not have a mechanism for recording data communicated on C-IED efforts. Therefore, these data are not available for analysis by JIEDDO or others in DOD to reduce the risk of duplicating efforts and avoid repeating mistakes. (emphasis added)
As the summary points out, there is no reason to presume duplication with 1,340 initiatives to address the same problem. Why would anyone think that?
And for that matter, you have to have data from the 629 non-responding programs. BTW, 481 of those are from the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, JIEDDO. I don’t guess there is any reason to call attention to the organization responsible for defeating IEDs is busy not tracking efforts to defeat them.
Any known unknowns in your organization?