Three years later, the federal government is still clueless about consolidation

The five-year federal datacenter consolidation program still lacks metrics to measure actual cost savings.
Written by David Chernicoff, Contributor on

It's been three years since the glorious announcement that the US federal government would be closing and consolidating an overabundance of datacenters in order to streamline IT processes and achieve $3 billion per year in cost savings directly from the closures by the 2015 target date. According to a study released yesterday (PDF) by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), not only is the process not on track, but it still lacks mechanisms to measure the progress and dollar savings of the ongoing consolidations and closures. The report places blame for the lack of progress and the inability to accurately determine what has been done on the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

This determination was reached as a result of an audit of the process, performed over a six-month period covering the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013. With 24 governmental organizations explicitly being targeted for the consolidation and datacenter closure process, the report found that only five of them had reported progress that resulted in estimated datacenter savings. Those groups that have reported closures and estimated savings reported only general information, and the reports lack information on the size of the datacenters being shut down.

The report also highlighted the fact that despite the GAO starting in June 2011, there were no complete plans for the consolidation process submitted by any of the agencies doing the IT downsizing. There had also been little progress made in inventories being completed and plans for the process being submitted. The finding was that in June 2012, only three agencies had submitted complete inventories, and only one had submitted a consolidation plan. And even those three inventories were outdated, as the OMB had changed the reporting requirements, and none of those inventories matched the new model.

Testimony by various responsible parties in front of congress has also focused on a lack of leadership from the OMB and a certain level of concern that the efforts being made aren't targeted at achieving the highest possible level of savings. The GAO has described the level of savings currently achieved as "minimal", and the reports from the affected agencies themselves, which are likely to be optimistic, claim less than $650 million in savings, or just over 20 percent of the goal.

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