Fast Facts

Federal agencies operate thousands of data centers and since 2010 have been required to close unneeded facilities and improve the performance of the remaining centers. Across the government, agencies have closed 6,250 centers to date and saved $2.7 billion.

However, only 2 agencies in our review planned to meet September 2018 government-wide optimization goals that include, for example, a target for how much time data servers sit unused.

We recommended that agencies improve data centers' operational efficiency and identify further savings.

 

Racks of black servers in a windowless white room at a Social Security Administration data center.

Racks of black servers in a windowless white room at a Social Security Administration data center.

Skip to Highlights
Highlights

What GAO Found

The 24 agencies participating in the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) reported mixed progress toward achieving OMB's goals for closing data centers and realizing the associated savings by September 2018. As of August 2018, 13 agencies reported that they had met, or had plans to meet, all of their OMB-assigned closure goals by the deadline. However, 11 agencies reported that they did not have plans to meet their goals. Further, 16 agencies reported that, as of August 2018, they had met, or planned to meet, their cost savings targets, for a total of $2.36 billion in cost savings for fiscal years 2016 through 2018. This is about $0.38 billion less than OMB's DCOI savings goal of $2.7 billion. This shortfall is the result of 5 agencies reporting less in planned cost savings and avoidances in their DCOI strategic plans, as compared to their savings targets established for them by OMB. Three agencies did not have a cost savings target and did not report any achieved savings.

In addition, the 24 agencies reported limited progress against OMB's five data center optimization targets for server utilization and automated monitoring, energy metering, power usage effectiveness, facility utilization, and virtualization. As of August 2018, the agencies reported that 3 had met three targets, 9 had met one target, and 10 met none of the targets. Two agencies did not have a basis to report on progress as they do not own any data centers. Further, as of August 2018, 20 agencies did not plan to meet all of OMB's fiscal year 2018 optimization goals. Specifically, only 2 agencies reported plans to meet all applicable targets; 6 reported that they did not plan to meet any of the targets (see figure).

Agencies' Planned Fiscal Year 2018 Progress against OMB's Five Data Center Optimization Metrics, as of August 2018

Agencies' Planned Fiscal Year 2018 Progress against OMB's Five Data Center Optimization Metrics, as of August 2018

We selected 6 agencies that had demonstrated success towards meeting their DCOI goals and those agencies reported a number of key practices that contributed to their efforts. The officials noted the importance of, among other things, obtaining executive leadership support for consolidation and optimization activities, employing an organization-wide communications plan, and focusing on data center closures. The officials also cited the use of past experience and lessons learned to inform improvements to future consolidation plans and processes.

Why GAO Did This Study

In December 2014, Congress enacted federal IT acquisition reform legislation that included provisions related to ongoing federal data center consolidation efforts. OMB's Federal Chief Information Officer launched DCOI to build on prior data center consolidation efforts; improve federal data centers' performance; and establish goals for inventory closures, cost savings and avoidances, and optimizing performance.

The 2014 legislation included a provision for GAO to annually review agencies' data center inventories and strategies. Accordingly, GAO's objectives were to (1) evaluate agencies' progress and plans for data center closures and cost savings; (2) assess agencies' progress against OMB's data center optimization targets; (3) and identify effective agency practices for achieving data center closures, cost savings, and optimization progress. To do so, GAO assessed the 24 DCOI agencies' data center inventories as of August 2018; reviewed their reported cost savings documentation; evaluated their data center optimization strategic plans; and assessed their progress against OMB's established optimization targets. GAO also solicited practices that selected agencies reported to be effective in meeting DCOI goals.

Skip to Recommendations

Recommendations

GAO is making 36 recommendations to 22 agencies to improve performance against established DCOI goals. Eleven agencies agreed with the recommendations, three did not fully agree, one disagreed, and seven neither agreed nor disagreed, as discussed in the report.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Agriculture The Secretary of Agriculture should take action to meet the data center optimization metric targets established by OMB under DCOI. (Recommendation 1)
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Agriculture took action to implement this recommendation. After the Office of Management and Budget released the updated Data Center Optimization Initiative policy in June 2019, the department established new data center optimization targets. As of December 2020, the department reported that it had met its fiscal year 2020 targets for all four of their data center optimization metrics tracked by OMB. By meeting its data center optimization metrics, the department is better able to support the Office of Management and Budget's goals for the data center optimization initiative.
Department of Commerce The Secretary of Commerce should take action to meet the data center closure targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 2)
Open
The Department of Commerce agreed with our recommendation and is working to implement it. As of February 2021, the department reported that it had closed one data center in fiscal year 2020 missing their goal of closing four data centers. We will continue to monitor the status of this recommendation.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should take action to meet the data center closure targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 3)
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Defense agreed with our recommendation and took action to implement it. As of February 2021, the department reported that it had closed 46 data centers in fiscal year 2020 to meet its goal of closing 17 data centers. By meeting its data center closure goal, the department is better able to support the Office of Management and Budget's goals for the data center optimization initiative.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should identify additional savings opportunities to achieve the targets for data center-related cost savings established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 4)
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Defense took action to implement this recommendation. As of December 2020, the department reported achieving $178.5 million in fiscal year 2020 data center-related cost savings and avoidances, which met its goal of $178.5 million. By meeting its data center savings goal, the department is better able to support the Office of Management and Budget's goals for the data center optimization initiative.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should take action to meet the data center optimization metric targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 5)
Open
The Department of Defense partially agreed with our recommendation and has taken initial steps to implement it. After the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the updated Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) policy in June 2019, the department established new data center optimization targets. As of December 2020, the department reported that it had met its fiscal year 2020 targets for all four of their data center optimization metrics tracked by OMB. However, DOD officials acknowledged new methodology that would focus their optimization efforts on their enterprise data centers and a definition that would include a specific threshold to identify an underutilized servers. The new methodology will be provided in their next DCOI strategic plan in April 2021 because of this, we will continue to monitor their performance for underutilized servers . By meeting its data center optimization metrics, the department is better able to support the Office of Management and Budget's goals for the data center optimization initiative.
Department of Energy The Secretary of Energy should take action to meet the data center closure targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 6)
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Energy agreed with our recommendation and took action to implement it. As of December 2020, the department reported that it had closed four data centers in fiscal year 2020 to meet its goal of closing three data centers. By meeting its data center closure goal, the department is better able to support the Office of Management and Budget's goals for the data center optimization initiative.
Department of Energy The Secretary of Energy should take action to meet the data center optimization metric targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 7)
Open
The Department of Energy agreed with our recommendation and has taken initial steps to implement it. As of December 2020, the department reported that it had met its fiscal year 2020 targets for three of the four data center optimization metrics tracked by OMB. However, we continue to believe that full implementation of this recommendation will require steps beyond what the department is currently reporting. Specifically, to fully implement this recommendation, Energy will need to meet all four of OMB's metrics.
Department of Health and Human Services The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should take action to meet the data center closure targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 8)
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Health and Human Services took action to implement this recommendation. As of December 2020, the department reported that it had closed three data centers in fiscal year 2020 to meet its goal of closing one data center. By meeting its data center closure goal, the department is better able to support the Office of Management and Budget's goals for the data center optimization initiative.
Department of Health and Human Services The Secretary of HHS should take action to meet the data center optimization metric targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 9)
Open
The Department of Health and Human Services has taken initial steps to implement it. As of December 2020, the department reported that it has met one of its four fiscal year 2020 data center optimization targets tracked by OMB and reports it's about 90 percent of the way towards meeting its Advance Energy Metering, Availability, and Virtualization optimization targets. We will continue to monitor the status of this recommendation.
Department of Homeland Security The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should take action to meet the data center closure targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 10)
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Homeland Security took action to implement this recommendation. As of August 2020, the department reported it been granted optimization exemptions by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for its data centers and had completed its data center closure targets. By taking steps to close all non-essential agency-owned data centers requirements, and getting OMB approval to exempt the remaining centers from optimization, the department is better able to support the Office of Management and Budget's goals for the data center optimization initiative.
Department of Homeland Security The Secretary of DHS should take action to meet the data center optimization metric targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 11)
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Homeland Security has took action to implement this recommendation. After the Office of Management and Budget released the updated Data Center Optimization Initiative policy in June 2019, the department established new data center optimization targets. As of December 2020, the department reported it been granted optimization exemptions by OMB for its data centers and had completed its data center optimization metric. By taking steps to close all non-essential agency-owned data centers requirements, and getting OMB approval to exempt the remaining centers from optimization, DHS has effectively implemented our recommendation. As a result, it is better able to support OMB's goals for the data center optimization initiative.
Department of the Interior The Secretary of Interior should take action to meet the data center closure targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 12)
Closed - Implemented
The Department of the Interior took action to implement this recommendation. As of December 2020, the department reported that it had closed five data centers to meet its fiscal year 2020 goal to close three data centers. By meeting its data center closure goal, the department is better able to support the Office of Management and Budget's goals for the data center optimization initiative.
Department of the Interior The Secretary of Interior should take action to meet the data center-related cost savings established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 13)
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Interior took action to implement this recommendation. As of December 2020, the department reported achieving $2 million in fiscal year 2020 data center-related cost savings and avoidances, which exceeded its goal of $0.5 million. By meeting its data center savings goal, the department is better able to support the Office of Management and Budget's goals for the data center optimization initiative.
Department of the Interior The Secretary of Interior should take action to meet the data center optimization metric targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 14)
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Interior took action to implement this recommendation. After the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the updated Data Center Optimization Initiative policy in June 2019, the department established new data center optimization targets. As of December 2020, the department reported that it had met its fiscal year 2020 targets for all four of their data center optimization metrics tracked by OMB. By meeting its data center optimization metrics, the department is better able to support the Office of Management and Budget's goals for the data center optimization initiative.
Department of Justice The Attorney General should take action to meet the data center optimization metric targets established for Justice under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 15)
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Justice agreed with our recommendation and took action to implement this recommendation. After the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the updated Data Center Optimization Initiative policy in June 2019, the department established new data center optimization targets. As of December 2020, the department reported that it had met its fiscal year 2020 targets for all four of their data center optimization metrics tracked by OMB. By meeting its data center optimization metrics, the department is better able to support the Office of Management and Budget's goals for the data center optimization initiative.
Department of Labor The Secretary of the Department of Labor (Labor) should take action to meet the data center optimization metric targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 16)
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Labor took action to implement this recommendation. After the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the updated Data Center Optimization Initiative policy in June 2019, the department established new data center optimization targets. As of December 2020, the department reported that it had met its fiscal year 2020 targets for all four of their data center optimization metrics tracked by OMB. By meeting its data center optimization metrics, the department is better able to support the Office of Management and Budget's goals for the data center optimization initiative.
Department of State The Secretary of State should take action to meet the data center closure targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 17)
Open
The Department of State (State) agreed with our recommendation. As of December 2020, the department reported that its goal for fiscal year 2020 was closing zero data centers. However, they plan to close an additional two data centers in fiscal year 2021. We will continue to monitor the department's implementation of this recommendation.
Department of State The Secretary of State should take action to meet the data center optimization metric targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 18)
Open
The Department of State (State) agreed with our recommendation and has taken initial steps to implement our recommendation. As of December 2020, the agency reported that it had met its fiscal year 2020 targets for two of the four data center optimization metrics tracked by OMB. However, we continue to believe that full implementation of this recommendation will require steps beyond what the agency is currently reporting. Specifically, to fully implement this recommendation, State will need to meet all four of OMB's metrics. .
Department of Transportation The Secretary of Transportation should take action to meet the data center closure targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 19)
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Transportation took initial steps to implement our recommendation. As of February 2021, the department reported that it had closed one data center to meet its fiscal year 2020 goal to close one data center. By meeting its data center closure goal, the department is better able to support the Office of Management and Budget's goals for the data center optimization initiative.
Department of Transportation The Secretary of Transportation should take action to meet the data center optimization metric targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 20)
Open
The Department of Transportation (Transportation) has taken initial steps to implement our recommendation. As of December 2020, the agency reported that it had met its fiscal year 2020 targets for two of the four data center optimization metrics tracked by OMB. However, we continue to believe that full implementation of this recommendation will require steps beyond what the agency is currently reporting. Specifically, to fully implement this recommendation, Transportation will need to meet all four of OMB's metrics.
Department of the Treasury The Secretary of Treasury should take action to meet the data center optimization metric targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 21)
Open
The Department of Treasury (Treasury) has taken initial steps to implement our recommendation. As of December 2020, the department reported that it had met its fiscal year 2020 targets for two of the four data center optimization metrics tracked by OMB. However, we continue to believe that full implementation of this recommendation will require steps beyond what the department is currently reporting. Specifically, to fully implement this recommendation, Treasury will need to meet all four of OMB's metrics.
Department of Veterans Affairs
Priority Rec.
Priority recommendations are those that GAO believes warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies.
The Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) should take action to meet the data center closure targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 22)
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) agreed with our recommendation and took action to implement this recommendation. As of August 2020, the department reported that it had closed 13 data centers to meet its fiscal year 2020 goal of closing 12 data centers. By meeting its data center closure goal, the department is better able to support the Office of Management and Budget's goals for the data center optimization initiative.
Department of Veterans Affairs
Priority Rec.
Priority recommendations are those that GAO believes warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies.
The Secretary of VA should take action to meet the data center-related cost savings established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 23)
Closed - Implemented
The Department of Veteran Affairs agreed with our recommendation and took action to implement this recommendation. As of December 2020, the department reported achieving $3.38 million in fiscal year 2020 data center-related cost savings and avoidances, which exceeded its goal of $3.1 million. By meeting its data center savings goal, the department is better able to support the Office of Management and Budget's goals for the data center optimization initiative.
Department of Veterans Affairs
Priority Rec.
Priority recommendations are those that GAO believes warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies.
The Secretary of VA should take action to meet the data center optimization metric targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 24)
Open
The Department of Veteran Affairs agreed with our recommendation and reported steps toward implementing this recommendation in its fiscal year 2021 budget justification. As of December 2020, the department reported that it had met its fiscal year 2020 targets for two of the four data center optimization metrics tracked by OMB. However, we continue to believe that full implementation of this recommendation will require steps beyond what the department is currently reporting. Specifically, to fully implement this recommendation, VA will need to meet all four of OMB's metrics.
Environmental Protection Agency The Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should take action to meet the data center closure targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 25)
Closed - Implemented
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken action to implement this recommendation. As of August 2020, the agency reported it been granted optimization exemptions for its three remaining data centers by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). By taking steps to close all non-essential agency-owned data centers requirements, and getting OMB approval to exempt the remaining centers from optimization, the department is better able to support OMB's goals for the data center optimization initiative.
Environmental Protection Agency The Administrator of EPA should take action to meet the data center optimization metric targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 26)
Closed - Implemented
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken steps to implement our recommendation. After the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the updated Data Center Optimization Initiative policy in June 2019, the agency established new data center optimization targets. In August 2020, we found that the agency reported that it had no agency-owned data centers and therefore no basis to report progress against OMB's optimization metrics. The IT Dashboard also reports that the agency's progress against these metrics is complete and no further work will be required in the optimization metric area. By taking steps to close all agency-owned data centers, EPA has effectively implemented our recommendation and is better able to support OMB's goals for the data center optimization initiative.
General Services Administration The Administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA) should take action to meet the data center optimization metric targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 27)
Closed - Implemented
The General Services Administration (GSA) took action to implement our recommendation. After the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the updated Data Center Optimization Initiative policy in June 2019, the agency established new data center optimization targets. In March 2020, we found that the agency reported that it had no agency-owned data centers and therefore no basis to report progress against OMB's optimization metrics. The IT Dashboard also reports that the agency's progress against these metrics is complete and no further work will be required in the optimization metric area. By taking steps to close all agency-owned data centers, GSA has effectively implemented our recommendation and is better able to support OMB's goals for the data center optimization initiative.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration The Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration should take action to meet the data center optimization metric targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 28)
Closed - Implemented
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) took action to implement this recommendation. As of December 2020, the agency reported that it had met its fiscal year 2020 targets for all four of their data center optimization metrics tracked by OMB. By meeting its data center optimization metrics, the agency is better able to support the Office of Management and Budget's goals for the data center optimization initiative.
National Science Foundation The Director of the National Science Foundation should take action to meet the data center optimization metric targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 29)
Open
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has taken initial steps to implement our recommendation. As of December 2020, the agency reported that it had met its fiscal year 2020 targets for three of the four data center optimization metrics tracked by OMB. However, we continue to believe that full implementation of this recommendation will require steps beyond what the agency is currently reporting. Specifically, to fully implement this recommendation, NSF will need to meet all four of OMB's metrics.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission The Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should take action to meet the data center optimization metric targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 30)
Open
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) agreed with the report and has taken initial steps to implement our recommendation. As of December 2020, the agency reported that it had met its fiscal year 2020 targets for three of the four data center optimization metrics tracked by OMB. However, we continue to believe that full implementation of this recommendation will require steps beyond what the agency is currently reporting. Specifically, to fully implement this recommendation, NRC will need to meet all four of OMB's metrics.
Office of Personnel Management The Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) should take action to meet the data center-related cost savings established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 31)
Closed - Implemented
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) agreed with our recommendation and took action to implement this recommendation. As of December 2020, the agency reported achieving $16.62 million in fiscal year 2020 data center-related cost savings and avoidances, which exceeded its goal of $7.65 million. By meeting its data center savings goal, the agency is better able to support the Office of Management and Budget's goals for the data center optimization initiative.
Office of Personnel Management The Director of OPM should take action to meet the data center optimization metric targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 32)
Open
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) agreed with our recommendation and taken initial steps to implement our recommendation. As of December 2020, the agency reported that it had met its fiscal year 2020 targets for three of the four data center optimization metrics tracked by OMB. However, we continue to believe that full implementation of this recommendation will require steps beyond what the agency is currently reporting. Specifically, to fully implement this recommendation, OPM will need to meet all four of OMB's metrics.
Small Business Administration The Administrator of the Small Business Administration should take action to meet the data center optimization metric targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 33)
Open
The Small Business Administration (SBA) agreed with our recommendation and taken initial steps to implement our recommendation. As of December 2020, the agency reported that it had met its fiscal year 2020 targets for three of the four data center optimization metrics tracked by OMB. However, we continue to believe that full implementation of this recommendation will require steps beyond what the agency is currently reporting. Specifically, to fully implement this recommendation, SBA will need to meet all four of OMB's metrics.
Social Security Administration The Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) should take action to meet the data center-related cost savings established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 34)
Closed - Implemented
The Social Security Administration (SSA) agreed with our recommendation and took action to implement this recommendation. As of December 2020, the agency reported achieving $412.10 million in fiscal year 2020 data center-related cost savings and avoidances, which achieved its goal of $412.10 million. By meeting its data center savings goal, the agency is better able to support the Office of Management and Budget's goals for the data center optimization initiative.
Social Security Administration The Commissioner of SSA should take action to meet the data center optimization metric targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 35)
Closed - Implemented
The Social Security Administration (SSA) agreed with our recommendation and took action to implement this recommendation. As of December 2020, the agency reported that it had met its fiscal year 2020 targets for all four of their data center optimization metrics tracked by OMB. By meeting its data center optimization metrics, the agency is better able to support the Office of Management and Budget's goals for the data center optimization initiative.
United States Agency for International Development The Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development should take action to meet the data center closure targets established under DCOI by OMB. (Recommendation 36)
Closed - Implemented
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) took action to implement our recommendation. In March 2020, we found that the agency reported that it had no agency-owned data centers. By taking steps to close all agency-owned data centers, USAID has effectively implemented our recommendation and is better able to support OMB's goals for the data center optimization initiative.

Full Report

GAO Contacts