Senators urge Obama to lead on green IT efforts

Agencies have improved their use of green IT, but no one can be sure how much because there aren't any real standards for success, according to a new report.

The government is trying to act responsibly, and even save money, but administration officials have not released guidance to direct agencies in the way they should go. As a result, agencies have not identified the information needed to measure the progress or results of their efforts, according to the Government Accountability Office.

“The overall effectiveness of the agencies’ efforts cannot be measured because key performance information is not available,” GAO wrote in the report.

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Agencies and oversight officials need to hear from the Obama administration and its Council on Environmental Quality to track whether environmental sustainability is happening successfully inside agencies.

The GAO report “shows that while we may have a good game plan for making information technology in the federal government more environmentally sustainable, nobody is keeping score,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security Subcommittee.

Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama signed executive orders telling agencies to increase their environmental sustainability and carry out green IT-related duties. Agencies are to buy electronic products that meet certain environmental standards and also manage federal data centers to save energy.

Six federal organizations in GAO’s review — the Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, and Health and Human Services departments and the Environmental Protection Agency and the General Services Administration — have developed sustainability performance plans and taken additional steps to implement the executive orders’ requirements, the report states.

However, GAO can’t determine the progress of these and other agencies. Agencies have generally not established starting points or decided on goals that are consistently defined in terms of quantifiable benefits, such as a reduction in energy, according to the review.

Carper and Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), the subcommittee's ranking member, urged the Obama administration to take the report to heart and redouble its efforts.

“Vince Lombardi once said if you’re not keeping score, you’re just practicing,” Carper said. “We’re just practicing if meaningful metrics and guidance are not developed to reach the ambitious environmental goals.”

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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