Federal data center consolidation still a futile effort

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Witnesses called to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on July 25 were grasping at straws in an effort to defend their agencies, after relentless berating by committee members.

Thursday’s hearing, “Data Centers and the Cloud, Part II: The Federal Government’s Take on Optimizing New Information Technologies Opportunities to Save Taxpayers’ Money,” heard from David McClure, associate administrator for Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies at the General Services Administration; David Powner, director of IT management issues at the Government Accountability Office; and U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel.

The three of them shared the hot seat, or in this case, the hot panel.

Committee members expressed frustration and confusion about the frequently changing information around existing data centers and data center closures provided by GSA, OMB and GAO.

An initial report identified around 3,000 non-core data centers, but new research shows, in fact, there are up to 7,100 non-core data centers. This discrepancy is due to the redefinition of what a data center actually is, according to VanRoekel.

Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., also provided a glimpse into other areas of waste and overlap in federal IT. So far, $10 billion has been lost on wasted projects, and there is currently $102 billion in troubled IT investments that are at risk.

Moreover, there are currently 580 financial systems, costing $2.7 billion, and 777 supply chain systems, costing $3.3 billion. These systems, according to Mica, are a redundancy and essentially performing the same functions.

This assertion was reinforced by Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who called this update very troubling.

“Essentially, only four agencies are playing in the game, if you look at agency performance,” he said. “That’s unacceptable.”

Similar to the prior hearing on data center consolidation, panelists blamed the waste and mismanagement on the lack of power given to CIOs.

“CIOs and the federal government often don’t have complete control of data centers,” according to McClure.

Connolly, a co-sponsor of the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, said the bill would change the responsibilities of agency CIOs. FITARA is the “friendliest and most empathetic bill you are going to get out of Congress on this,” he added.

Mica said GSA is supposed to be a leader in data consolidation for other agencies, but was perhaps the worst example of all.

“They set a poor example over 109 non-core data centers,” Connolly said. “They’ve actually only closed one to date—it has failed itself.”

Much of the hearing was spent with committee members and witnesses going back and forth on specific numbers, disagreeing on dates and failing to reach any real consensus.

The hearing was an uphill battle for both sides, and concluded when committee members were called to vote on the floor.

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Agencies, big data, Congress, data analytics, David Powner, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Department of Defense (DOD), Departments, General Services Administration (GSA), Gerry Connolly, Government IT News, House of Representatives, John Mica, Management & Budget, National Security Agency, Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Steven VanRoekel, Tech, White House
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