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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Department of Defense Implementation of the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative: Implications for Federal Information Technology Reform Management

Patricia Moloney Figliola, Coordinator
Specialist in Internet and Telecommunications Policy

Anthony Andrews
Specialist in Energy and Defense Policy

Eric A. Fischer
Senior Specialist in Science and Technology

The Department of Defense (DOD) is the single largest energy consumer in the nation. As the largest owner of federal data centers, with 772, the DOD has more than twice as many centers as any other agency. By consolidating some of its data centers, DOD could have a significant positive impact on energy savings for the federal government. DOD has instituted a number of policy directives, as have all federal agencies, that influence energy use in its data centers.

Data centers are facilities—buildings or parts of buildings—used to store, manage, and disseminate electronic information for a computer network. They house servers, which are computers used to perform network-management functions such as data storage and processing, and communications equipment and devices to connect the servers with the network. Data centers usually draw their power from the electric grid, but they may also contain specialized power conversion and backup equipment to maintain reliable power. Power consumption varies greatly among data centers but is typically many times higher than for other kinds of buildings.

Within the context of the FDCCI, DOD’s efforts are intended to address concerns about rising energy demands and costs of data centers, associated increases in carbon emissions, expanding real-estate footprints of data centers, and rising real-estate costs. According to DOD, the Department plans to reduce the number of its data centers by about 30% by 2013, and the number of servers by 25%. DOD intends to use savings generated from consolidation to pay the consolidation costs. DOD also plans to use cloud computing as part of its savings effort.

As with any endeavor being implemented across so many departments and agencies, proper management of the initiative will be crucial to its success and, in turn, to achieving the projected savings. Unlike many programs that are overseen by a single committee, implementation of the FDCCI may require oversight by any committee with legislative jurisdiction over a department or agency. Understanding the management challenges and policy considerations involved with data center consolidation (e.g., balancing up-front costs with ongoing savings, maintaining data security, and maximizing energy savings through facilities design) as well as being aware of the issues specific to implementing the FDCCI are important steps to achieving effective Congressional oversight of the FDCCI. In conducting oversight, Congress may wish to

  1. conduct hearings to monitor the activities of OMB as it manages the FDCCI or the progress of individual departments and agencies as they implement the FDCCI; 
  2.  review FDCCI plans and status reports created internally by the individual department or agency, or externally by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) or the committee of jurisdiction. 

Finally, Congress may wish to examine the current “reach” of the FDCCI and consider whether expanding the initiative to include other agencies, as GAO has recommended, is appropriate.

Date of Report: April 23, 2013
Number of Pages: 25
Order Number: R42604
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