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GAO: Progress on IT reform overstated

May. 24, 2012 - 04:31PM   |  

The White House is overstating the progress agencies are making in overhauling their information technology operations, federal auditors said Thursday.

With a month to go left in the White House’s 18-month federal IT reform plan, agencies are far from reaching their goals to consolidate data centers, migrate operations to the cloud, and empower their chief information officers, among other things, according to the Government Accountability Office.

GAO official David Powner said at a Senate hearing Thursday that agencies have completed only three of 10 key action items in the plan released December 2010 by then-Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra. OMB calls the reform plan the 25-Point Plan.

“Our review shows less progress than what OMB reports,” said Powner, GAO’s director of information technology management issues.

“In prematurely declaring the action items to be completed, OMB risks losing momentum on the progress it has made to date,” he said. He recommended that the federal chief information officer hold agencies accountable for completing reform goals by June and that agencies provide clear timeframes for addressing their shortfalls.

Some agencies, such as the Justice Department, have not completed their data center consolidation plans. Many agencies said they need more time to detail milestones, including how they will reduce the number of servers, Powner said. Plans need to have clear cost saving targets so the administration can track progress in meeting its goal of $3 billion in savings by 2015.

Even the projected savings has been inconsistent.

Instead of saving $3 billion by eliminating more than 800 data centers by 2015, as OMB had projected, agencies said they expect savings of only $630 million and $5 billion over a longer period, according to an OMB estimate based on agencies’ latest data consolidation plans, which were made available last year.

GAO also found that agencies have not identified needed resources for migrating IT operations to the cloud, nor have they completed migration schedules or plans for shutting down legacy systems, Powner noted. The biggest barrier for agencies has been the complexity of the initiatives.

“At the end of the day, that [reform] strategy was really about shocking the system,” federal CIO Steven VanRoekel, said during the hearing.

Agencies have consolidated 267 data centers since 2010, and they plan to close a total of 429 by year’s end. The goal is to close 962 data centers through 2015, up from 800 centers.

“Federal IT reform doesn’t begin or end with the 25-Point Plan,” VanRoekel said. “We’re taking a very broad approach and going above and beyond most of the elements of the 25-Point Plan.”

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