Feds Direct Agencies to Cloud Computing, Plan to Cut Data Centers by 40 Percent

Acting OMB Director Zients outlines government’s strategy to overhaul IT procurement process, program management, oversight and interaction with IT community.

November 22, 2010

D.H. Kass

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The White House, which earlier this summer vowed to change how the federal government buys and uses IT, last week disclosed plans to cut by 40 percent its number of data centers and directed agencies to opt for cloud-based technologies.

Jeffrey Zients, Acting Director and Deputy Director for Management of the Office of Management and Budget and Federal Chief Performance Officer, outlined a five-point plan to improve efficiency, cut waste and save money, in remarks made to the Northern Virginia Technology Council last Friday.

“IT has been at the center of the private sector’s productivity gains, but for too long Federal IT projects have run over budget, behind schedule, or failed to deliver what on their promise,” Zients wrote in a blog entry.

Central to the federal government’s revamped IT procurement strategy is to pare by 40 percent its number of data centers--from some 2,000 facilities down to about 1,200 by 2015--and initiate a “cloud-first policy” as part of the White House’s 2012 budget, Zients said.

“Consolidating more than 2,000 government data centers will save money, increase security and improve performance,” he wrote.

The government’s IT strategy also includes alterations to its budget and acquisition practices, program management, accountability and interaction with the IT community.

Zients said that the government intends to map its acquisition process, in which it requests funding for IT, more closely to an actual date of acquisition, what Zients called a “structural disconnect between the government’s process and the technology cycle.” The time between requests for funding and IT purchases is long enough, in some cases, as to compel the government to purchase older technology.

To test the process, the OMB will work with Congress to identify up to a dozen pilot projects to develop a blueprint for more budget flexibility and oversight, Zients said.

Accordingly, he said that the government will create a formal career path for professional program managers and only proceed with IT projects shepherded by qualified individuals. Along those lines, Zients also said that the government will overhaul its review process to ensure that senior executives are equipped with the correct information to oversee projects and intervene in meaningful ways.

In suggesting that the government’s IT procurement process has suffered from a lack of communication with the IT industry, Zients said that officials will initiate a “myth busters” campaign to encourage stronger, more frequent interaction between the IT community and government agencies.

“Changing how we invest the $80 billion we spend each year on IT and making sure what we buy is helping us deliver better results at a cheaper price is a big challenge,” he said.

“But the hard work of many people throughout the agencies shows that it can be done, and we will work with our colleagues across the government and partners in the tech and business communities to build on these successes in the months to come,” Zients said.

IT project savings total $1.6 billion so far

In late June, the government halted 30 financial system modernization projects worth some $20 billion, pending review to pare up to $3 billion in planning outlays to improve productivity and performance.

At the time, Peter Orszag, OMB director, said that a set of recommendations to improve the government's IT procurement and management practices would be forthcoming in about four months, a promise that Zients delivered on last Friday.

Zients said that so far about $1.6 billion had been saved on 20 such projects, including $230 million in budget reductions for initiatives at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency; $500 million saved in cancelled projects at the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Small Business Administration; another $680 saved from reevaluating projects scheduled with the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and Health and Human Services, and, another $200 million from budget reductions in various agencies.

TAGS: IT,federal government,Office of Management and Budget,Northern Virginia Technology Council,Jeffrey Zients

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