Data center consolidation success not guaranteed, Sen. Tom Carper warns

The chairman of a Senate financial management subcommittee says agency officials need to do more specific planning to close their data centers, or the government will miss out on billions of dollars in potential savings.

“Agencies must do a better job of complying with [the Office of Management and Budget’s] requirements and submit critical aspects of their plans for consolidation. If not, we run the risk of not achieving the full potential savings,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Federal Financial Management Subcommittee.

The Government Accountability Office reported July 19 that only three of 24 agencies it reviewed submitted complete inventories of their data centers. Furthermore, only one agency submitted a complete consolidation plan, which OMB required agencies to file by September 2011.

“As the saying goes, ‘if you’re not planning, you’re planning to fail,’ which is why it is imperative that all federal agencies not only plan for data consolidation efforts but submit completed and well thought out plans,” Carper said. Without those plans, he said, the government can’t realize its progress in the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative.

GAO also found critical aspects of the consolidation plans blank. Nine of 24 agencies completed a master program schedule and only five agencies provided a cost-benefit analysis. A program schedule is a road map for carrying out the project, and the cost-benefit analysis provides the estimated annual cost and savings related to the consolidation.

Agencies have made some progress though. As of the most recent agency data submitted in September 2011, the 24 agencies selected almost 2,900 total centers, and created plans, to close 1,186 of them by 2015. So far though, agencies have reported closing 286 data centers by the end of 2011. They also plan to close 346 more centers by the end of this year. Officials estimate $2.4 billion in savings through 2015 because of the initiative.

However, GAO said the 24 agencies need to quickly complete their consolidation inventories and plans to move the initiative ahead, if the government wants those savings.

“Data centers have been bleeding energy and money throughout the federal government and are a perfect example of inefficient IT spending,” Carper said. “But while the government is making progress on closing unnecessary data centers, there’s clearly more work to do.”

Carper also warned that Capitol Hill is watching how the initiative goes forward.

“Those of us in Congress will be paying close attention to how closely agencies comply and stick to their consolidation plans,” he said.

About the Author

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

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