Federal Data Center Consolidation: Who's paying?

Consolidation projects are supposed to be funded by the money they will potentially save.

A story this week in Federal Computer Week has highlighted the issue that potential budget cuts are hampering progress that the government has been expecting in meeting the data center closure goals of the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI). The story highlights how problems with planning, getting accurate inventory assessments and projecting costs are the primary culprits in the delay in implementation of FDCCI goals, but what seems most interesting is one sentence in the story that identifies how these expected consolidation efforts are supposed to be paid for.

The comment is a simple one and just states that the OMB expects the savings from the consolidation to pay for the costs of consolidation. But what I take away from that is that these consolidation efforts are basically an unfunded mandate, that when all is said and done, the government hopes will have happened without the need to directly pay for the efforts. Which given the way consolidation projects typically work, is pretty unrealistic.

This is especially true since many of the reports on the FDCCI that have highlighted the problems with meeting the consolidation goals have been focusing on the inability of many agency to accurately predict what they can consolidate and the impact of their individual consolidation efforts. So the implication of the OMBs comment is that departments working on consolidation need to make a best guess effort at how much money will be saved by consolidation and earmark that funding for the consolidation project.

With potential budget cuts looming, this accounting abracadabra must be making Federal IT people working on these projects large consumers of heartburn medication. They are already being asked to guestimate potential savings in order to find the funds for the projects that are supposed to generate the savings (a real chicken or egg question) and now they are being told that the budgets they have been working from to generate the potential revenue to fund what they are doing right now may be cut, which will result in those funds simply not being available.

Add this to the redefining of what a “datacenter” is according to the folks at the top of the FDCCI and you aren’t building a base for the consolidation of datacenter efforts and more efficient spending in the Federal government, you’re simply setting up the chance for monumental failures that reflect well on no one.  And a lot of really frazzled IT people trying to do their jobs.