Data Center Optimization:

Agencies Need to Complete Plans to Address Inconsistencies in Reported Savings

GAO-17-388: Published: May 18, 2017. Publicly Released: May 18, 2017.

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What GAO Found

The 24 agencies participating in the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) have made progress on their data center closure efforts. As of August 2016, the agencies collectively had identified a total of 9,995 data centers, of which they reported having closed 4,388 and having plans to close a total of 5,597 through fiscal year 2019. The Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Interior, and Treasury accounted for 84 percent of the completed closures.

In addition, 18 of the 24 agencies reported achieving about $2.3 billion collectively in cost savings and avoidances from their data center consolidation and optimization efforts from fiscal year 2012 through August 2016. The Departments of Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, and Treasury accounted for approximately $2.0 billion (or 87 percent) of the total. Further, 23 agencies reported about $656 million collectively in planned savings for fiscal years 2016 through 2018. This is about $3.3 billion less than the estimated $4.0 billion in planned savings for fiscal years 2016 through 2018 that agencies reported to GAO in November 2015. (See figure.)

Comparison of Fiscal Years 2016-2018 Planned Cost Savings and Avoidances Reported to GAO in November 2015 to Publicly Available Agency DCOI Strategic Plans in April 2017

Comparison of Fiscal Years 2016-2018 Planned Cost Savings and Avoidances Reported to GAO in November 2015 to Publicly Available Agency DCOI Strategic Plans in April 2017

This reduction in planned savings is the result of eight agencies reporting less in planned cost savings and avoidances in their annual DCOI strategic plans, which are required by December 2014 information technology (IT) acquisition reform legislation, as compared to the savings these agencies previously reported to GAO in November 2015. The reduction also does not include cost savings information for one agency that had not submitted its strategic plan in time for our review. GAO has previously recommended that agencies fully report these savings.

Additionally, as of April 2017, 23 of the 24 agencies had submitted a strategic plan. Of the 23 plans, only 7 included all required information. The remaining plans either partially met or did not meet the requirements. Until agencies submit plans that address all required elements, they may be challenged in implementing the data center consolidation and optimization provisions of the legislation. GAO also identified inconsistencies in how 11 agencies reported historical cost savings in their DCOI strategic plans, as compared to a separate required quarterly report to OMB. These inconsistencies, due in part to weaknesses in OMB's oversight of agencies' savings information and their DCOI strategic plan, resulted in a reporting discrepancy of approximately $1.5 billion between the two sources. Until OMB improves its oversight of agencies' reporting of cost savings, and until agencies address inconsistencies in their reporting, the likelihood of further reporting errors is increased.

Why GAO Did This Study

In December 2014, IT acquisition reform legislation was enacted that included a series of provisions related to ongoing federal data center consolidation efforts. The legislation required covered agencies to develop data center consolidation strategic plans and report cost savings to OMB. It also included a provision for GAO to annually review agencies' data center inventories and strategies. OMB's Federal Chief Information Officer (CIO) subsequently launched DCOI to build on prior data center consolidation efforts and improve federal data centers' performance.

GAO reviewed agencies' data center closure plans and consolidation savings progress and plans; and evaluated the extent to which agencies' annual consolidation strategic plans are complete. To do so, GAO assessed DCOI agencies' data center inventories, reviewed agencies' reported cost savings documentation, and evaluated their data center optimization strategic plans. GAO also updated its assessments in April 2017 in response to agency comments on its draft report.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is recommending that OMB ensure that agencies complete their DCOI strategic plans and report achieved data center cost savings consistently across all reporting mechanisms. GAO is also recommending that 17 agencies complete their DCOI strategic plans and that 11 agencies ensure the amounts of achieved cost savings are consistent across reporting mechanisms. Twelve agencies agreed with GAO's recommendations, 2 disagreed, and 11 did not state whether they agreed or disagreed, as discussed in the report.

For more information, contact David Powner at (202) 512-9286 or pownerd@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To better ensure that federal data center optimization efforts improve governmental efficiency and achieve cost savings, the Director of OMB should direct the Federal CIO to provide the necessary oversight to ensure that each agency completes their DCOI strategic plan in accordance with OMB's guidance implementing Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform provisions (FITARA).

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To better ensure that federal data center optimization efforts improve governmental efficiency and achieve cost savings, the Director of OMB should direct the Federal CIO to provide the necessary oversight to ensure that agency reporting of achieved data center consolidation and optimization cost savings and avoidances is consistent across all reporting mechanisms, including quarterly data submissions and agency DCOI strategic plans.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The following 17 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; the Attorney General; and the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Small Business Administration, and U.S. Agency for International Development; the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration) should each take action to complete the missing elements in their respective DCOI strategic plan, including addressing any identified challenges, and submit their completed strategic plan to OMB.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The following 17 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; the Attorney General; and the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Small Business Administration, and U.S. Agency for International Development; the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration) should each take action to complete the missing elements in their respective DCOI strategic plan, including addressing any identified challenges, and submit their completed strategic plan to OMB.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The following 17 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; the Attorney General; and the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Small Business Administration, and U.S. Agency for International Development; the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration) should each take action to complete the missing elements in their respective DCOI strategic plan, including addressing any identified challenges, and submit their completed strategic plan to OMB.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  6. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The following 17 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; the Attorney General; and the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Small Business Administration, and U.S. Agency for International Development; the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration) should each take action to complete the missing elements in their respective DCOI strategic plan, including addressing any identified challenges, and submit their completed strategic plan to OMB.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  7. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The following 17 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; the Attorney General; and the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Small Business Administration, and U.S. Agency for International Development; the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration) should each take action to complete the missing elements in their respective DCOI strategic plan, including addressing any identified challenges, and submit their completed strategic plan to OMB.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

  8. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The following 17 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; the Attorney General; and the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Small Business Administration, and U.S. Agency for International Development; the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration) should each take action to complete the missing elements in their respective DCOI strategic plan, including addressing any identified challenges, and submit their completed strategic plan to OMB.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  9. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The following 17 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; the Attorney General; and the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Small Business Administration, and U.S. Agency for International Development; the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration) should each take action to complete the missing elements in their respective DCOI strategic plan, including addressing any identified challenges, and submit their completed strategic plan to OMB.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  10. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The following 17 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; the Attorney General; and the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Small Business Administration, and U.S. Agency for International Development; the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration) should each take action to complete the missing elements in their respective DCOI strategic plan, including addressing any identified challenges, and submit their completed strategic plan to OMB.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  11. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The following 17 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; the Attorney General; and the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Small Business Administration, and U.S. Agency for International Development; the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration) should each take action to complete the missing elements in their respective DCOI strategic plan, including addressing any identified challenges, and submit their completed strategic plan to OMB.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  12. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The following 17 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; the Attorney General; and the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Small Business Administration, and U.S. Agency for International Development; the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration) should each take action to complete the missing elements in their respective DCOI strategic plan, including addressing any identified challenges, and submit their completed strategic plan to OMB.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury

  13. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The following 17 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; the Attorney General; and the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Small Business Administration, and U.S. Agency for International Development; the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration) should each take action to complete the missing elements in their respective DCOI strategic plan, including addressing any identified challenges, and submit their completed strategic plan to OMB.

    Agency Affected: Department of Veterans Affairs

  14. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The following 17 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; the Attorney General; and the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Small Business Administration, and U.S. Agency for International Development; the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration) should each take action to complete the missing elements in their respective DCOI strategic plan, including addressing any identified challenges, and submit their completed strategic plan to OMB.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  15. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The following 17 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; the Attorney General; and the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Small Business Administration, and U.S. Agency for International Development; the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration) should each take action to complete the missing elements in their respective DCOI strategic plan, including addressing any identified challenges, and submit their completed strategic plan to OMB.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  16. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The following 17 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; the Attorney General; and the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Small Business Administration, and U.S. Agency for International Development; the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration) should each take action to complete the missing elements in their respective DCOI strategic plan, including addressing any identified challenges, and submit their completed strategic plan to OMB.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  17. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The following 17 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; the Attorney General; and the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Small Business Administration, and U.S. Agency for International Development; the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration) should each take action to complete the missing elements in their respective DCOI strategic plan, including addressing any identified challenges, and submit their completed strategic plan to OMB.

    Agency Affected: Small Business Administration

  18. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The following 17 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; the Attorney General; and the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Small Business Administration, and U.S. Agency for International Development; the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration) should each take action to complete the missing elements in their respective DCOI strategic plan, including addressing any identified challenges, and submit their completed strategic plan to OMB.

    Agency Affected: Nuclear Regulatory Commission

  19. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The following 17 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs; the Attorney General; and the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Small Business Administration, and U.S. Agency for International Development; the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; and the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration) should each take action to complete the missing elements in their respective DCOI strategic plan, including addressing any identified challenges, and submit their completed strategic plan to OMB.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

  20. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: Finally, the following 11 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, and Treasury; the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration, and the U.S. Agency for International Development) should also each take action to ensure that the amounts of achieved data center cost savings and avoidances are consistent across all reporting mechanisms, including the quarterly data submissions and DCOI strategic plans.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

  21. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: Finally, the following 11 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, and Treasury; the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration, and the U.S. Agency for International Development) should also each take action to ensure that the amounts of achieved data center cost savings and avoidances are consistent across all reporting mechanisms, including the quarterly data submissions and DCOI strategic plans.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  22. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: Finally, the following 11 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, and Treasury; the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration, and the U.S. Agency for International Development) should also each take action to ensure that the amounts of achieved data center cost savings and avoidances are consistent across all reporting mechanisms, including the quarterly data submissions and DCOI strategic plans.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  23. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: Finally, the following 11 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, and Treasury; the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration, and the U.S. Agency for International Development) should also each take action to ensure that the amounts of achieved data center cost savings and avoidances are consistent across all reporting mechanisms, including the quarterly data submissions and DCOI strategic plans.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  24. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: Finally, the following 11 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, and Treasury; the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration, and the U.S. Agency for International Development) should also each take action to ensure that the amounts of achieved data center cost savings and avoidances are consistent across all reporting mechanisms, including the quarterly data submissions and DCOI strategic plans.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  25. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: Finally, the following 11 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, and Treasury; the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration, and the U.S. Agency for International Development) should also each take action to ensure that the amounts of achieved data center cost savings and avoidances are consistent across all reporting mechanisms, including the quarterly data submissions and DCOI strategic plans.

    Agency Affected: Department of Labor

  26. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: Finally, the following 11 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, and Treasury; the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration, and the U.S. Agency for International Development) should also each take action to ensure that the amounts of achieved data center cost savings and avoidances are consistent across all reporting mechanisms, including the quarterly data submissions and DCOI strategic plans.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury

  27. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: Finally, the following 11 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, and Treasury; the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration, and the U.S. Agency for International Development) should also each take action to ensure that the amounts of achieved data center cost savings and avoidances are consistent across all reporting mechanisms, including the quarterly data submissions and DCOI strategic plans.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  28. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: Finally, the following 11 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, and Treasury; the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration, and the U.S. Agency for International Development) should also each take action to ensure that the amounts of achieved data center cost savings and avoidances are consistent across all reporting mechanisms, including the quarterly data submissions and DCOI strategic plans.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  29. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: Finally, the following 11 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, and Treasury; the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration, and the U.S. Agency for International Development) should also each take action to ensure that the amounts of achieved data center cost savings and avoidances are consistent across all reporting mechanisms, including the quarterly data submissions and DCOI strategic plans.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  30. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: Finally, the following 11 agencies (the Secretaries of the Departments of Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, and Treasury; the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration, and the U.S. Agency for International Development) should also each take action to ensure that the amounts of achieved data center cost savings and avoidances are consistent across all reporting mechanisms, including the quarterly data submissions and DCOI strategic plans.

    Agency Affected: United States Agency for International Development

 

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