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Cloud Computing: Agencies Have Increased Usage and Realized Benefits, but Cost and Savings Data Need to Be Better Tracked

GAO-19-58 Published: Apr 04, 2019. Publicly Released: May 06, 2019.
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Fast Facts

Each year, federal agencies spend $90 billion on IT. Cloud computing services—on-demand access to shared resources such as networks, servers, and data storage—can help agencies deliver better IT services for less money.

For example, the Department of Homeland Security migrated its network for information sharing and collaboration to the cloud, ensuring it remains continuously available for law enforcement and emergency response.

However, agencies don't consistently track cloud-related savings, making it hard for them to make informed decisions on whether to use cloud services. We recommended that agencies improve their savings tracking.

The Homeland Security Information Network is one example of a federal system using cloud services.

Photo of a man working on a laptop that displays information from the Department of Homeland Security's network for information sharing and collaboration.

Photo of a man working on a laptop that displays information from the Department of Homeland Security's network for information sharing and collaboration.

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Highlights

What GAO Found

The 16 agencies GAO reviewed made progress in implementing cloud computing services (cloud services)—namely, they established assessment guidance, performed assessments, and implemented these services—but the extent of their progress varied. To encourage cloud service acquisition, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) began requiring agencies to assess all information technology (IT) investments for cloud services. However, only 10 of the 16 agencies reviewed had established assessment guidance. In addition, while the agencies assessed the majority of their planned fiscal year 2019 IT investments for cloud services, 12 agencies had not completed an assessment of 10 or more investments. Nevertheless, 10 of the agencies reported increasing their use of cloud services between fiscal years 2016 through 2019 (see figure). Six agencies noted that inconsistent reporting of cloud investments and investment consolidation impacted their reported percentage.

Agency Information Technology (IT) Investments That Used Cloud Services, as Reported on the IT Dashboard for Fiscal Years 2016-2019 (projected)

Agency Information Technology (IT) Investments That Used Cloud Services, as Reported on the IT Dashboard for Fiscal Years 2016-2019 (projected)

Further, the 16 agencies reported that they had increased their cloud service spending since 2015 and 13 of the 16 agencies had saved $291 million to date from these services. However, these agencies identified issues in tracking and reporting cloud spending and savings data, including not having consistent processes in place to do so. Agencies also noted that OMB guidance did not require them to explicitly report savings from cloud implementations and, therefore, they had to specifically collect this data to meet GAO's request. As a result of these identified issues, it is likely that agency-reported cloud spending and savings figures were underreported.

Officials from 15 of the 16 agencies reported that they had identified significant benefits from acquiring cloud services, including improved customer service and the acquisition of more cost-effective options for managing IT services. In addition, these agencies identified nine cloud investments that, among other things, enhanced the availability of weather-related information, facilitated collaboration and information sharing among federal, state, and local agencies related to homeland security, and provided benefits information to veterans, as examples of systems that realized these benefits. One agency reported that it had not realized benefits because it did not have any completed migration efforts.

Why GAO Did This Study

Cloud computing enables on-demand access to shared computing resources providing services more quickly and at a lower cost than having agencies maintain these resources themselves. In 2012, OMB began requiring agencies to assess all IT investments for cloud services.

GAO was asked to review agencies' reported use of cloud services. This report discusses selected agencies' progress in implementing cloud services, the extent to which those agencies increased cloud service spending and achieved savings or cost avoidances, and examples of agency-reported cloud investments with notable benefits. GAO selected 16 agencies to review based on their fiscal year 2017 IT budgets and analyzed their use of cloud services, associated spending and savings data, and guidance for assessing investments for these services. GAO interviewed agency officials in charge of cloud services and reviewed pertinent documents to identify acquisitions with notable benefits. GAO also interviewed OMB staff about their agency's role in federal cloud computing and related OMB guidance.

Recommendations

GAO is making one recommendation to OMB on cloud savings reporting, and 34 recommendations to the 16 agencies on cloud assessments and savings. Fourteen agencies agreed with all recommendations, OMB and one agency neither agreed nor disagreed, and one (Defense) agreed with one recommendation but not the other. GAO continues to believe its recommendation to the department is appropriate.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of Management and Budget The Director of the Office of Management and Budget should require agencies to explicitly report, at least on a quarterly basis, the savings and cost avoidance associated with cloud computing investments. (Recommendation 1)
Open
As of April 2022, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has not yet taken any actions to implement our recommendation. We will continue to monitor OMB's progress in implementing this recommendation.
Department of Agriculture The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the chief information officer (CIO) of Agriculture completes an assessment of all IT investments for suitability for migration to a cloud computing service, in accordance with OMB guidance. (Recommendation 2)
Closed – Implemented
The Department of Agriculture (Agriculture) concurred with, and has taken steps to address, our recommendation. In April 2020, a review of the IT Dashboard found that the department had completed an assessment of all IT investments for suitability for migration to cloud computing services, in accordance with OMB guidance. By implementing our recommendation, Agriculture has increased insight into which investments are likely candidates for cloud service migration and is better positioned to take advantage of operational efficiencies, cost savings, and other benefits from the use of cloud services.
Department of Agriculture The Secretary of Agriculture should ensure that the CIO of Agriculture establishes a consistent and repeatable mechanism to track savings and cost avoidances from the migration and deployment of cloud services. (Recommendation 3)
Closed – Implemented
The Department of Agriculture (Agriculture) concurred with, and has taken steps to address, our recommendation. Specifically, in March 2022, an official from Agriculture's Office of the Chief Information Officer reported that the department had established a Cloud Broker Office that managed Agriculture's investments leveraging cloud services. The office uses a dashboard, which tracks the costs for using cloud services and captures any savings and cost avoidances from the migration and development of each investment to cloud services over each fiscal year. By implementing our recommendation, Agriculture will be able to help ensure that the department has sufficient information on the results of cloud acquisitions to data and the data necessary to make decisions regarding future cloud acquisitions.
Department of Commerce The Secretary of Commerce should ensure that the CIO of Commerce establishes a consistent and repeatable mechanism to track savings and cost avoidances from the migration and deployment of cloud services. (Recommendation 4)
Closed – Implemented
Commerce agreed with and has addressed GAO's April 2019 recommendation. In December 2022, an official from Commerce's Office of the Chief Financial Officer reported and provided documentation that the department CIO began requiring bureau CIOs to identify projected savings or avoidances on initiatives planned for cloud migration as part of annual budget formulation process starting in fiscal year 2024. In addition, bureau CIOs were required to report on actual cost savings or avoidance as part of the annual FITARA portfolio review process. By establishing a mechanism to track savings and cost avoidances, Commerce should be able to help ensure that it has sufficient information on the results of cloud acquisitions to date and the data necessary to make decisions regarding future cloud acquisitions.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the CIO of Defense completes an assessment of all IT investments for suitability for migration to a cloud computing service, in accordance with OMB guidance. (Recommendation 5)
Closed – Not Implemented
Since fiscal year 2014, the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) capital planning guidance has required agencies to evaluate each investment for cloud services and report the status of this evaluation as part of the annual budget submission. However, starting in fiscal year 2023, OMB will no longer require agencies to report this information. While the Department of Defense (Defense) concurred with our recommendation and stated that the department planned to implement it, as of February 2022, Defense had not yet completed implementation. We have closed this recommendation and will no longer track implementation.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the CIO of Defense establishes a consistent and repeatable mechanism to track savings and cost avoidances from the migration and deployment of cloud services. (Recommendation 6)
Open
DOD disagreed with GAO's April 2019 recommendation and as of October 2022, an official from DOD's Office of the Chief Information Officer reported that DOD did not intend to take action to address the recommendation. However, GAO continues to believe that tracking savings and cost avoidances for cloud initiatives is necessary in order to ensure that DOD is effectively managing and overseeing its cloud initiatives, and so that the Office of Management and Budget and Congress have sufficient data to see the results of these initiatives and understand whether DOD is achieving savings using cloud services.
Department of Education The Secretary of Education should ensure that the CIO of Education establishes guidance on assessing new and existing IT investments for suitability for cloud computing services, in accordance with OMB guidance. (Recommendation 7)
Closed – Implemented
The Department of Education (Education) concurred with, and has taken steps to address, our recommendation. In February 2020, Education officials reported that the department had revised its Capital Planning and Investment Control Process Guide to include a requirement that all new and existing IT investments within the department are to be assessed for suitability for cloud services. Specifically, Education's revised guidance includes a process that describes how new investments are to be evaluated for cloud services and what criteria should be utilized. The guidance also requires that the department's Enterprise Review Board evaluate existing investments. By implementing our recommendation, Education is better positioned to ensure implementation of OMB's cloud guidance and take advantage of cloud services to improve operational efficiencies and minimize costs.
Department of Education The Secretary of Education should ensure that the CIO of Education completes an assessment of all IT investments for suitability for migration to a cloud computing service, in accordance with OMB guidance. (Recommendation 8)
Closed – Not Implemented
Since fiscal year 2014, the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) capital planning guidance has required agencies to evaluate each investment for cloud services and report the status of this evaluation as part of the annual budget submission. However, starting in fiscal year 2023, OMB will no longer require agencies to report this information. While the Department of Education (Education) concurred with our recommendation and stated that the department planned to implement it, as of February 2022, Education had not yet completed implementation. We have closed this recommendation and will no longer track implementation.
Department of Education The Secretary of Education should ensure that the CIO of Education establishes a consistent and repeatable mechanism to track savings and cost avoidances from the migration and deployment of cloud services. (Recommendation 9)
Closed – Implemented
Education agreed with and has addressed GAO's April 2019 recommendation. In June 2023, Education officials in the Office of the Chief Information Officer provided documentation that demonstrated that the department had developed a Sharepoint tool that was used to track and capture cost savings and avoidances realized from the migration and deployment of cloud services. By establishing a mechanism to track savings and cost avoidances, Education should be able to help ensure that it has sufficient information on the results of cloud acquisitions to date and the data necessary to make decisions regarding future cloud acquisitions.
Department of Energy The Secretary of Energy should ensure that the CIO of Energy updates the agency's guidance on assessing IT investments for suitability for cloud computing services to include a requirement to assess new acquisitions for these services. (Recommendation 10)
Open
Since fiscal year 2014, the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) capital planning guidance has required agencies to evaluate each investment for cloud services and report the status of this evaluation as part of the annual budget submission. However, starting in fiscal year 2023, OMB will no longer require agencies to report this information. While the Department of Energy (Energy) concurred with our recommendation and stated that the department would updated its guidance to address it, as of February 2022, Energy had not yet completed implementation.
Department of Energy The Secretary of Energy should ensure that the CIO of Energy completes an assessment of all IT investments for suitability for migration to a cloud computing service, in accordance with OMB guidance. (Recommendation 11)
Closed – Not Implemented
Since fiscal year 2014, the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) capital planning guidance has required agencies to evaluate each investment for cloud services and report the status of this evaluation as part of the annual budget submission. However, starting in fiscal year 2023, OMB will no longer require agencies to report this information. While the Department of Energy (Energy) concurred with our recommendation and stated that the department would updated its guidance to address it, as of February 2022, Energy had not yet completed implementation. We have closed this recommendation and will no longer track implementation.
Department of Energy The Secretary of Energy should ensure that the CIO of Energy establishes a consistent and repeatable mechanism to track savings and cost avoidances from the migration and deployment of cloud services. (Recommendation 12)
Open
Although DOE agreed with GAO's April 2019 recommendation, as of January 2023, it had not taken action to address the recommendation. An official from DOE's Office of the Chief Information Officer reported in January 2023 that DOE did capture cost savings and avoidances for its data centers and provided the information to the Office of Management and Budget on a quarterly basis. However, as of January 2023, DOE had not taken action to establish a mechanism for tracking savings for all investments that had migrated or deployed to cloud services within the department as GAO recommended. Implementing a mechanism to track savings and cost avoidances from the use of cloud services would help DOE to ensure that it has sufficient information on the results of cloud acquisitions to date and the data necessary to make decisions regarding future cloud acquisitions.
Department of Health and Human Services The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should ensure that the CIO of HHS establishes guidance on assessing new and existing IT investments for suitability for cloud computing services, in accordance with OMB guidance. (Recommendation 13)
Closed – Implemented
HHS agreed with and has addressed GAO's April 2019 recommendation. In January 2023, an HHS official from the Office of the Chief Information Officer reported that the department had established guidance, Cloud Adoption Strategy, which included procedures for assessing new and existing IT investments for suitability for cloud computing services, in accordance with OMB guidance. Specifically, HHS's guidance included a process that described how investments were to be evaluated for cloud services and what criteria should be utilized. By implementing our recommendation, HHS is better positioned to ensure implementation of OMB's cloud guidance and take advantage of cloud services to improve operational efficiencies and minimize costs.
Department of Health and Human Services The Secretary of Health and Human Services should ensure that the CIO of HHS completes an assessment of all IT investments for suitability for migration to a cloud computing service, in accordance with OMB guidance. (Recommendation 14)
Closed – Not Implemented
Since fiscal year 2014, the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) capital planning guidance has required agencies to evaluate each investment for cloud services and report the status of this evaluation as part of the annual budget submission. However, starting in fiscal year 2023, OMB will no longer require agencies to report this information. While the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) concurred with our recommendation and stated that the department would updated its guidance to address it, as of February 2022, HHS had not yet completed implementation. We have closed this recommendation and will no longer track implementation.
Department of Health and Human Services The Secretary of Health and Human Services should ensure that the CIO of HHS establishes a consistent and repeatable mechanism to track savings and cost avoidances from the migration and deployment of cloud services. (Recommendation 15)
Closed – Implemented
HHS agreed with and has addressed GAO's April 2019 recommendation. In July 2023, HHS officials from the Office of the Chief Information Officer reported and provided supporting documentation that the department had developed a dashboard that was used to track and capture cost savings and avoidances realized from the migration and deployment of applications to cloud services over each fiscal year. By establishing a mechanism to track savings and cost avoidances, HHS should be able to help ensure that it has sufficient information on the results of cloud acquisitions to date and the data necessary to make decisions regarding future cloud acquisitions.
Department of Homeland Security The Secretary of Homeland Security should ensure that the CIO of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) completes an assessment of all IT investments for suitability for migration to a cloud computing service, in accordance with OMB guidance. (Recommendation 16)
Closed – Implemented
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) concurred with, and has taken steps to address, our recommendation. In June 2021, a review of the IT Dashboard found that the department had completed an assessment of all IT investments for suitability for migration to cloud computing services, in accordance with OMB guidance. By implementing our recommendation, DHS has increased insight into which investments are likely candidates for cloud service migration and is better positioned to take advantage of operational efficiencies, cost savings, and other benefits from the use of cloud services.
Department of Homeland Security The Secretary of Homeland Security should ensure that the CIO of DHS establishes a consistent and repeatable mechanism to track savings and cost avoidances from the migration and deployment of cloud services. (Recommendation 17)
Closed – Implemented
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) concurred with, and has taken steps to address, our recommendation. Specifically, in May 2022, DHS officials provided a memo that outlined the department's methodology for data collection to determine whether investments had accrued savings. In particular, the department was utilizing the IT costs allocated to the IT towers from the technology business management framework (required by the Office of Management and Budget since fiscal year 2019). This approach allowed the department to use previously collected cost data and continue to collect the data over time in a consistent, repeatable manner. In addition, DHS officials provided a copy of the spreadsheet that was used to track actual and planned savings and cost avoidances for each investment that has been migrated or deployed to cloud services. By implementing our recommendation, DHS will be able to help ensure that the department has sufficient information on the results of cloud acquisitions to data and the data necessary to make decisions regarding future cloud acquisitions.
Department of Justice The Attorney General of the United States should ensure that the CIO of Justice completes an assessment of all IT investments for suitability for migration to a cloud computing service, in accordance with OMB guidance. (Recommendation 18)
Closed – Not Implemented
Since fiscal year 2014, the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) capital planning guidance has required agencies to evaluate each investment for cloud services and report the status of this evaluation as part of the annual budget submission. However, starting in fiscal year 2023, OMB will no longer require agencies to report this information. While the Department of Justice (Justice) concurred with our recommendation, and stated that it would require components to complete the assessments, as of February 2022, Justice had not yet completed implementation. We have closed this recommendation and will no longer track implementation.
Department of Justice The Attorney General of the United States should ensure that the CIO of Justice establishes a consistent and repeatable mechanism to track savings and cost avoidances from the migration and deployment of cloud services. (Recommendation 19)
Open
Although DOJ agreed with GAO's April 2019 recommendation, as of January 2023, it had not yet implemented the recommendation. In November 2022, an official from DOJ's Office of the Chief Information Officer reported that DOJ was developing a process and artifacts for capturing cost savings and avoidance for cloud computing, with a targeted completion date of the end of March 2023. However, no documentation was provided to support the timeframes or activities. Implementing a mechanism to track savings and cost avoidances from the use of cloud services would help DOJ to ensure that it has sufficient information on the results of cloud acquisitions to date and the data necessary to make decisions regarding future cloud acquisitions.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should ensure that the CIO of Labor updates the agency's guidance on assessing IT investments for suitability for cloud computing services to include a requirement to assess existing investments for these services. (Recommendation 20)
Closed – Implemented
The Department of Labor (Labor) concurred with, and has taken steps to address, our recommendation. Specifically, in November 2021, Labor officials reported that the department had updated its Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) Cloud Services Guidance to include information on performing assessments of existing investments for cloud services. In addition, the guidance laid out criteria related to the assessment of how the department would determine if an application was suitable to move to the cloud. By implementing our recommendation, Labor is better positioned to ensure the implementation of OMB's cloud guidance and take advantage of cloud services to improve operational efficiencies and minimize costs.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should ensure that the CIO of Labor completes an assessment of all IT investments for suitability for migration to a cloud computing service, in accordance with OMB guidance. (Recommendation 21)
Closed – Not Implemented
Since fiscal year 2014, the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) capital planning guidance has required agencies to evaluate each investment for cloud services and report the status of this evaluation as part of the annual budget submission. However, starting in fiscal year 2023, OMB will no longer require agencies to report this information. While the Department of Labor (Labor) concurred with our recommendation and stated that the department planned to address it, as of February 2022, Labor had not yet completed implementation. We have closed this recommendation and will no longer track implementation.
Department of Labor The Secretary of Labor should ensure that the CIO of Labor establishes a consistent and repeatable mechanism to track savings and cost avoidances from the migration and deployment of cloud services. (Recommendation 22)
Open
Although DOL agreed with GAO's April 2019 recommendation, as of January 2023, it had not taken action to address the recommendation. In August 2020, an official from DOL's Office of the Chief Information Officer reported that DOL had established a cloud governance model and was focused on tracking the costs associated with each application in the cloud. Subsequently, in November 2021, DOL officials reported that the department was creating monthly reports of recommendations where cloud savings can be achieved. However, DOL did not provide a time frame for when a mechanism to track savings and cost avoidances from the migration to cloud services would be finalized. In addition, DOL has not provided any documentation of its cloud governance model or monthly reports related to cloud savings recommendations. As of January 2023, Labor has not provided a more recent update on the status of actions taken. Successfully implementing a mechanism to track savings and cost avoidances from the use of cloud services would help DOL to ensure that it has sufficient information on the results of cloud acquisitions to date and the data necessary to make decisions regarding future cloud acquisitions.
Department of State The Secretary of State should ensure that the CIO of State establishes a consistent and repeatable mechanism to track savings and cost avoidances from the migration and deployment of cloud services. (Recommendation 23)
Closed – Implemented
State agreed with and has addressed GAO's April 2019 recommendation. In February 2023, an official from the Bureau of Information Resource Management provided documentation that demonstrated that the department had developed a tool called iMatrix that was used to track and capture cost savings and avoidances realized from the migration and deployment of applications to cloud services over each fiscal year. By establishing a mechanism to track savings and cost avoidances, State should be able to help ensure that it has sufficient information on the results of cloud acquisitions to date and the data necessary to make decisions regarding future cloud acquisitions.
Department of the Treasury The Secretary of the Treasury should ensure that the CIO of Treasury completes an assessment of all IT investments for suitability for migration to a cloud computing service, in accordance with OMB guidance. (Recommendation 24)
Closed – Not Implemented
Since fiscal year 2014, the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) capital planning guidance has required agencies to evaluate each investment for cloud services and report the status of this evaluation as part of the annual budget submission. However, starting in fiscal year 2023, OMB will no longer require agencies to report this information. While the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) reported that the department would implement the recommendation, as of February 2022, Treasury had not completed implementation. We have closed this recommendation and will no longer track implementation.
Department of the Treasury The Secretary of the Treasury should ensure that the CIO of Treasury establishes a consistent and repeatable mechanism to track savings and cost avoidances from the migration and deployment of cloud services. (Recommendation 25)
Open
An official from Treasury's Office of the Chief Information Officer reported in November 2021 that the department had updated its templates used to collect the cost savings data to help ensure the savings associated with cloud implementation were appropriately identified. However, based on GAO's review of the provided template, additional documentation was needed to demonstrate that savings and avoidances from the migration and deployment of cloud services was being collected. As of January 2023, Treasury had not provided a more recent update on the status of actions taken. Implementing a mechanism to track savings and cost avoidances from the use of cloud services would help Treasury to ensure that it has sufficient information on the results of cloud acquisitions to date and the data necessary to make decisions regarding future cloud acquisitions.
Department of Transportation The Secretary of Transportation should ensure that the CIO of Transportation establishes guidance on assessing new and existing IT investments for suitability for cloud computing services. (Recommendation 26)
Closed – Implemented
The Department of Transportation (Transportation) concurred with, and has taken steps to address, our recommendation. Specifically, in November 2021, Transportation officials provided documentation related to the department's IT spend plan and assessment process for determining whether each investment was a candidate for cloud services. The documentation described the criteria that should be followed to assess new and existing investments for cloud services. In addition, the guidance included a template that should be used to capture information related to the migration or deployment to cloud services. By implementing our recommendation, Transportation is better positioned to ensure the implementation of OMB's cloud guidance and take advantage of cloud services to improve operational efficiencies and minimize costs.
Department of Transportation The Secretary of Transportation should ensure that the CIO of Transportation completes an assessment of all IT investments for suitability for migration to a cloud computing service, in accordance with OMB guidance. (Recommendation 27)
Closed – Implemented
The Department of Transportation (Transportation) concurred with, and has taken steps to address, our recommendation. Specifically, in November 2021, a review of the IT Dashboard found that the CIO of Transportation had completed an assessment of all IT investments for suitability to cloud services under their authority, in accordance with OMB guidance. By implementing our recommendation, Transportation has increased insight into which investments are likely candidates for cloud service migration and is better positioned to take advantage of operational efficiencies, cost savings, and other benefits from the use of cloud services.
Department of Transportation The Secretary of Transportation should ensure that the CIO of Transportation establishes a consistent and repeatable mechanism to track savings and cost avoidances from the migration and deployment of cloud services. (Recommendation 28)
Open
Although DOT agreed with GAO's April 2019 recommendation, as of January 2023, it had not yet implemented the recommendation. An official from DOT's Office of the Chief Information Officer reported in February 2022 that the department had implemented a mechanism for tracking cost savings and avoidance from cloud services as part of its annual IT spending plan process. Subsequently, in December 2022, the DOT official reported that the department was working to finalize its departmental cloud strategy and a standard operating procedure related to this recommendation, which would be finalized by the end of October 2023. However, DOT did not provide any documentation to support its timeframes or activities. Implementing a mechanism to track savings and cost avoidances from the use of cloud services should help DOT to ensure that it has sufficient information on the results of cloud acquisitions to date and the data necessary to make decisions regarding future cloud acquisitions.
Department of Veterans Affairs The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should ensure that the CIO of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) completes an assessment of all IT investments for suitability for migration to a cloud computing service, in accordance with OMB guidance. (Recommendation 29)
Closed – Not Implemented
Since fiscal year 2014, the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) capital planning guidance has required agencies to evaluate each investment for cloud services and report the status of this evaluation as part of the annual budget submission. However, starting in fiscal year 2023, OMB will no longer require agencies to report this information. While the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reported that the department would implement the recommendation, as of February 2022, VA had not completed implementation. We have closed this recommendation and will no longer track implementation.
Department of Veterans Affairs The Secretary of Veterans Affairs should ensure that the CIO of VA establishes a consistent and repeatable mechanism to track savings and cost avoidances from the migration and deployment of cloud services. (Recommendation 30)
Open
Although VA agreed with GAO's April 2019 recommendation, as of January 2023, it had not yet implemented the recommendation. An official from VA's Office of the Chief Information Officer reported in December 2022 that the department was continuing to roll out additional capabilities for its financial management application that was used to track cloud spending. In particular, the official noted that the spending data was being analyzed to understand the department's total cost of ownership for cloud services and to develop strategies for cost avoidance. The official indicated that the target completion date for addressing the recommendation would be June 2024. However, VA did not provide any documentation to support its timeframes and activities. Implementing a mechanism to track savings and cost avoidances from the use of cloud services would help VA to ensure that it has sufficient information on the results of cloud acquisitions to date and the data necessary to make decisions regarding future cloud acquisitions.
General Services Administration The Administrator of General Services should ensure that the CIO of the General Services Administration establishes a consistent and repeatable mechanism to track savings and cost avoidances from the migration and deployment of cloud services. (Recommendation 31)
Closed – Implemented
The General Services Administration (GSA) concurred with, and has taken steps to address, our recommendation. Specifically, in February 2021, GSA finalized guidance, Cloud Investments Cost Saving and Cost Avoidance Data Collection Guidance, which establishes a process and methodology for data collection to determine the cost savings and cost avoidance for cloud migration or modernization projects. In addition, GSA has developed a spreadsheet that is used to track actual and planned cost savings and cost avoidances for each new and existing cloud project within the agency as part of the annual budget formulation process. By implementing our recommendation, GSA will be able to help ensure that the agency has sufficient information on the results of cloud acquisitions to data and the data necessary to make decisions regarding future cloud acquisitions.
Small Business Administration The Administrator of the Small Business Administration should ensure that the CIO of the Small Business Administration establishes a consistent and repeatable mechanism to track savings and cost avoidances from the migration and deployment of cloud services. (Recommendation 32)
Closed – Implemented
The Small Business Administration (SBA) concurred with, and has taken steps to address, our recommendation. Specifically, in January 2022, SBA officials provided documentation that outlined the agency's process for the collection and reporting of savings and cost avoidance data for cloud migrations and deployments. In particular, the agency developed a spreadsheet that is used to track data on all existing investments that are being migrated or deployed to the cloud and capture any savings that resulted. In addition, SBA also deployed tools provided by its cloud providers that the agency uses to track actual costs and savings for its cloud investments. By implementing our recommendation, SBA will be able to help ensure that the agency has sufficient information on the results of cloud acquisitions to data and the data necessary to make decisions regarding future cloud acquisitions.
Social Security Administration The Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should ensure that the CIO of the Social Security Administration (SSA) updates the agency's guidance on assessing IT investments for suitability for cloud computing services to include a requirement to assess existing investments for these services. (Recommendation 33)
Closed – Implemented
SSA agreed with and has addressed GAO's April 2019 recommendation. In April 2022, an SSA official reported and provided supporting documentation that the agency had updated its guidance to assessing IT investments to include new procedures for assessing these investments for technical solutions, including cloud computing services. By implementing our recommendation, SSA is better positioned to ensure implementation of OMB's cloud guidance and take advantage of cloud services to improve operational efficiencies and minimize costs.
Social Security Administration The Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should ensure that the CIO of SSA completes an assessment of all IT investments for suitability for migration to a cloud computing service, in accordance with OMB guidance. (Recommendation 34)
Closed – Implemented
The Social Security Administration (SSA) concurred with, and has taken steps to address, our recommendation. In June 2021, a review of the IT Dashboard found that the agency had completed an assessment of all IT investments for suitability for migration to cloud computing services, in accordance with OMB guidance. By implementing our recommendation, SSA has increased insight into which investments are likely candidates for cloud service migration and is better positioned to take advantage of operational efficiencies, cost savings, and other benefits from the use of cloud services.
Social Security Administration The Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should ensure that the CIO of SSA establishes a consistent and repeatable mechanism to track savings and cost avoidances from the migration and deployment of cloud services. (Recommendation 35)
Open
Although SSA agreed with GAO's April 2019 recommendation, as of January 2023, it had not yet implemented the recommendation. An official from SSA reported in January 2022 that SSA had developed an application report card that allowed the agency to evaluate an application's costs. In addition, the agency was in the process of identifying metrics to evaluate future development costs of various cloud hosting options and building a repeatable process to evaluate costs of making changes. The SSA official reported that the agency was implementing a tool and anticipated completing its plans no later than June 2023. Subsequently, in September 2022, an official from SSA reported that the agency had issued its Cloud Services Vision and Strategy in May 2022 and provided a copy of the document. As of January 2023, SSA has not provided a more recent update on the status of actions taken or any additional documentation to support its timeframes and activities. Implementing a mechanism to track savings and cost avoidances from the use of cloud services would help SSA to ensure that it has sufficient information on the results of cloud acquisitions to date and the data necessary to make decisions regarding future cloud acquisitions.

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