Initiatives Could Save Federal Agencies Billions

A new report states that government agencies could save as much as $19.7 billion a year by improving their infrastructure and deploying five key initiatives that are based on consolidation, cloud computing, diversification, remote access and virtualization.

That represents more than double the $8.5 billion savings already reported by federal agencies that have partially or fully enacted these initiatives. The additional savings would be leveraged through improved operating efficiencies, processes and services, as well as reduced capital and operating expenditures, according to the report, which was issued by MeriTalk, a public-private partnership that focuses on improving government IT outcomes.

Because the U.S. government is home to hundreds of human resource systems, supply chains and data centers, cloud computing should be the most important of these five initiatives, according to Steve O’Keeffe, founder of MeriTalk. However, he added that all the initiatives have high relevancy.

Show Me the Money: The Key to Doubling Agency Savings,” a report underwritten by enterprise and service solutions provider Brocade, was compiled from the online responses of 300 federal network managers in February 2014. The report shows that some agencies are not interested in cloud computing or are hesitant about adoption. This hesitancy is costing the federal government $3.2 billion annually. O’Keeffe attributes this to inertia in the market and an unwillingness to change, rather than to concerns about safety and security in cloud deployments.

“Yes, there are some concerns about [cloud] security, but there are also huge concerns about security in existing systems,” O’Keeffe points out.

On the other hand, the report shows that federal agencies have made the most progress with remote access, with 70 percent of all respondents indicating that they have achieved partial or full deployment. O’Keeffe describes this as a consumer-driven initiative, which he anticipates will continue to grow. “If you look at the telework initiative, [it’s clear that] people want to work from home,” he says.

He points to the “Snowmageddon” of February 2010, which shut down the federal government for several days in Washington, D.C., and the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, which was passed later that year. The act required all federal agencies to create telework policies within six months, and for each agency to appoint a telework managing officer.

Federal agencies have already captured $2.3 billion in savings by providing remote access. However, a potential saving of $1 billion has not been realized due to hesitancy on the part of some federal agencies that either have expressed no interest in this initiative or are indecisive about deployment.

Diversification was one of the key initiatives, with agency network managers reporting 50 percent full or partial deployment. Twenty-eight percent of respondents reported adding a minimum of one hardware manufacturer in the past year, while 26 percent reported diversifying their network, and 18 percent reported diversifying their data center. “The more options, the better value,” O’Keeffe notes.

He adds that diversity is also essential to the government’s Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) program, which offers various Continuous Monitoring as a Service (CMaaS) products and services to combat cyber-threats to .gov networks. Established through the Department of Homeland Security, blanket purchase agreements were awarded to 17 partners (including IBM, Lockheed-Martin, MicroTech and Northrop-Grumman) to carry out the CDM program.

The MeriTalk report shows that $1.5 billion has been saved through infrastructure diversification, but that another $1.5 billion remains to be realized.

The report concludes with two recommendations for federal agencies: expanding cloud efforts and establishing strong networks built on improved capacities, connections and reliability. The report also mentions as a site that can help agencies investigate ways to double their savings.