In a report released on Dec. 7, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that while Veterans Affairs (VA) has made some progress on key IT initiatives under Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) requirements, it has nonetheless fallen short of Office of Management and Budget (OMB) targets regarding consolidating and optimizing its data centers.
In a wide-ranging two-part report, GAO details the history of VA’s multiple attempts to modernize its health system and provides an update on the department’s more recent efforts to address key FITARA-related areas, including data center consolidation, incremental system-development practices, and software license management.
FITARA, which became law in 2015, is intended to improve agencies’ acquisition and management of IT and hold them accountable for reducing duplication and achieving cost savings. It advocated specific requirements relating to seven areas, including data centers, CIO authority on incremental IT investments, as well as software acquisition policies and procedures.
Pursuant to FITARA, the Federal CIO’s office last year launched a new Data Center Optimization Initiative, which required agencies develop and report on their data center strategies, transition to more efficient infrastructure–such as cloud services and interagency shared services–and leverage technology advancements to optimize infrastructure.
GAO found VA’s data center optimization efforts have lagged behind other agencies in making progress toward closing data centers and realizing associated cost savings. VA reported a total inventory of 415 data centers, 39 of which had been closed as of August 2017. The department expects to shutter another 10 data centers by the end of fiscal 2018.
But even if VA meets its planned targets, it will close only about 9 percent of its tiered data centers and about 19 percent of its non-tiered data centers by fiscal 2018. That’s well short of the targets set by OMB, 25 percent and 60 percent, respectively, GAO said.
In addition, while VA has reported $23.6 million in data center cost savings and avoidances through August 2017, the department doesn’t anticipate realizing any further savings from the additional 10 closures in the next year, according to GAO.
VA, however, isn’t alone in falling short of OMB data-center targets. GAO said that according to strategic plans submitted by the 24 agencies affected by the Data Center Optimization Initiative, most agencies did not expect to meet OMB’s optimizations goals by fiscal 2018.
VA did better on its use of incremental development practices for major IT investments. VA’s CIO certified the use of “adequate incremental development” for all 10 of its major IT investments in fiscal 2017, as required by FITARA. However, VA still needs to update its policies and processes for CIO certification of incremental IT projects, in accordance with OMB’s guidance on the implementation of FITARA.
The department also has made progress in developing and using a comprehensive inventory of software licenses under FITARA requirements. Moreover, GAO found that VA had implemented a system to analyze software license data across the agency, including usage and costs. The system should help VA identify cost-saving opportunities and inform future investment decisions, GAO said, adding that the department had also deployed software license management training for appropriate personnel.