Federal agencies saved some $3.6 billion in cost reductions and avoidance over three years by implementing a number of IT reforms, though more than half of that was a result of efforts to optimize and consolidate the government's many data centers.

Of the cost savings and avoidances reported to the Government Accountability Office between 2011 and 2014, $2 billion (55.4 percent) can be attributed to data center consolidation efforts.

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Of the three major reform programs — the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative, PortfolioStat and the administration's Cloud First policy — data center consolidation is the big winner but has also been around the longest. The Office of Management and Budget stepped up participation in PortfolioStat in 2013 and many agencies are still feeling out the viability of moving their systems and operations to the cloud.

"The FDCCI has progressed in large part due to the government laying out clear and specific objectives, phases and reporting practices for agencies and industry alike," said Anthony Robbins, vice president of federal for Brocade. "This lesson is especially important as agencies continue consolidation efforts."

The GAO report highlighted administration and congressional support for FDCCI as a prime factor, as well, citing its inclusion in last year's passage of the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), the most substantial IT reform legislation in two decades.

Agencies are on track to hit these goals and, if they do, would bring the total savings up to around $3 billion. GAO estimates savings could reach a combined $5.3 billion or more by 2017.

However, that number is likely quite a bit higher, according to GAO, as several agencies failed to properly report savings from consolidation efforts. An April GAO report stated that accurate reporting on data center consolidation savings could add hundreds of millions of dollars to the final tally.

"While the federal government has been able to save more than $2 billion as a result of data center consolidation efforts, agencies still have an opportunity to move closer to commercial best practices and significantly increase savings," he said. "Network modernization can amplify the savings expected through consolidation and is projected to save the government an additional $7 billion over a five-year period, more than twice the number achieved through current FDCCI efforts."

To-date, the biggest saver is the Treasury Department, which recorded $1.05 billion in cost avoidances from 2011 to 2014 largely attributed to data center consolidation. By decreasing and optimizing its footprint, Treasury reduced the share of infrastructure on its overall IT spend from 46 percent to 32 percent.

Aaron Boyd is an awarding-winning journalist currently serving as editor of Federal Times — a Washington, D.C. institution covering federal workforce and contracting for more than 50 years — and Fifth Domain — a news and information hub focused on cybersecurity and cyberwar from a civilian, military and international perspective.

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