The Government Accountability Office said in a new report that the 24 Federal agencies participating in the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) were expected to achieve the 2019-2020 goal of closing 230 additional data centers and saving $1.1 billion as a result.

According to the GAO report on DCOI progress through August 2020, almost all of the participating agencies either met or planned to meet their closure and cost savings goals for fiscal years 2019 and 2020.

These agencies are expected to see a cumulative total savings of $6.24 billion in cost savings and avoidance from FY 2012 through 2020 through their actions under the DCOI.

GAO’s DCOI report is completed annually as a provision of FITARA, which includes a component related to ongoing Federal data center consolidation efforts. Since FITARA’s enactment in Dec. 2014, OMB’s Federal CIO “launched DCOI to build on prior data center consolidation efforts and improve Federal data centers’ performance,” the watchdog agency said.

While the savings total is notable, GAO reported the 24 agencies have excluded around 4,500 data centers from their inventories since May 2019 after “OMB narrowed the definition of a data center” in June 2019 to “exclude certain facilities it had previously identified as having potential cybersecurity risks.”

“GAO reported that each such facility provided a potential access point, and that unsecured access points could aid cyberattacks,” the report states. “Accordingly, GAO recommended that OMB require agencies to report those facilities previously reported as data centers so that visibility of the risks of these facilities was retained.”

However, this recommendation has gone unaddressed, according to GAO. In total, GAO has made 125 recommendations since 2016 to assist with DCOI goals, but 53 remain unimplemented.

GAO is recommending that the 24 agencies address the 53 remaining recommendations, and it added a new recommendation for “OMB to revise its server utilization metric to more consistently address server efficiency.” OMB had previously revised its server utilization metric to direct agencies to develop their own definitions of underutilization, which resulted in agencies adopting widely varying definitions leading them to no longer being required to report actual utilization.

OMB had no comment on the report or the recommendation. Five of the 24 DCOI agencies agreed with it, six did not state whether they agree or disagreed, and 13 had no comments.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.
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