OMB silence slows outsourcing

Agencies have less than a year to meet the Office of Management and Budget's June 1998 deadline for consolidating or outsourcing many of the 200 or so federal data centers. While it is not uncommon to wait until the 11th hour to begin work on a project the feet-dragging also shows the age-old political problem of how turf battles and reducing the work force keeps the government from following through on a common-sense idea.

In October 1995 OMB directed agencies operating small and midsize data centers to begin developing plans to consolidate or outsource the work. But agencies and OMB have done virtually nothing as illustrated by the lack of buying on the General Services Administration's $6 billion Virtual Data Center Services program. The silence is not because OMB's order doesn't make good economic sense. The Defense Department reported last year that it would save $2 billion a year by merging data centers.There are indications of sporadic consolidation. And understandably agencies have resisted outsourcing and consolidation since the beginning giving up control over data processing and laying off workers is not popular.

But where is the strong arm of OMB? Top information technology managers are now wondering aloud about the teeth in OMB's directive.

When OMB issued its directive it acknowledged that the June 1998 deadline was an ambitious one but what is needed is an ambitious effort from OMB to convince agencies to outsource small data centers. Only then will taxpayers realize true savings.

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