Federal government officials and a member of Congress influential in government IT spending debates said late last month that billions of additional savings look to be ripe for the picking through elimination of duplicative services, and that Congress is working on ways to beef up the pursuit of those savings.

The Government Accountability Office on April 26 released its annual Duplication Report, aimed at slashing excess spending across government. Since the onset of the reports in 2011, GAO said the Federal government has saved a whopping $178 billion. Much progress has been made on IT initiatives, the agency said.

Data Center Dividends

On the data center consolidation effort led by the Office of Management and Budget, the 24 participating agencies closed 5,800 data centers as of August 2017. That effort counts for $3.9 billion in savings, including nearly $350 million expected this year.

“By the end of this year, hopefully over 7,000 will be closed,” U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee at an April 26 hearing. “It’s billions of dollars of savings. But even on the existing data centers, they’re not fully utilized.”

“When you really look at data center consolidation, there’s a lot more on the table,” said Dave Powner, GAO’s Director of IT Management Issues. “DoD alone had an estimate of $4.8 billion in savings. They’ve only saved a couple hundred million. So, there’s a huge opportunity there.”

Powner said the Federal government also has seen about $2 billion in savings from reducing duplicative email and HR systems.

And Congress is backing the push to make further cuts in IT spending.

“We’re going to do more,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., at the hearing. “We’re drafting a bill right now on FedRAMP and we want to make sure the FITARA scorecard captures progress or lack thereof.”

Software Savings Stalled

Dodaro and Powner touched on another area of FITARA (Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act) where agencies could be printing money: software inventories.

“OMB and multiple agencies could help the Federal government realize billions of dollars in savings by taking steps to better implement PortfolioStat,” GAO said in the Duplication Report.

“I think this is a target-rich area for the Congress and we’re poised to work with you to try to identify more opportunities for savings,” Dodaro said at the hearing.

GAO has added new recommendations for software application inventories, one of 68 new actions identified in 2018.  While it offered no firm figure, GAO said tens of billions of dollars in savings are still out there for the taking across 365 open actions.

Agency Aid Required

Finally, GAO reported that two agencies are in relative IT peril, and calls for help need to be answered soon.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) continues to dominate the discussion, with GAO saying that billions in fraudulent refunds are slipping through the cracks, and better online services could yield hundreds of millions in increased revenue. After the big Tax Day gaffe, help for the IRS might finally to be on its way.

The report called out Veterans Affairs (VA) over its handling of major IT investments. “There needs to be more urgency to deal with the problems over there,” Dodaro said, specifically mentioning the vacant CIO post. “I think Congress should be very concerned and focus on getting proper leadership over there.”

Across the board, tackling the urgent gaps in IT could make the government piggy bank a whole lot heavier.

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Joe Franco
Joe Franco
Joe Franco is a Program Manager, covering IT modernization, cyber, and government IT policy for MeriTalk.com.