Feds could save $1 trillion with smarter tech and practices

Technology CEO Council pitches cloud computing and virtualization among initiatives to help slash spending and waste

The federal government could save as much as a cool $1 trillion by 2020 by embracing several IT efforts such as virtualization and cloud computing, according to newly released report from the Technology CEO Council. Though the projects themselves would likely prove ambitious, the larger challenge -- predictably -- will be the short-sighted, bureaucratic nature of the federal beast.

In a report titled "One Trillion Reasons" [PDF], the IT industry advocacy group outlines seven broad initiatives that it says would be better suited to address the country's mounting deficit than "draconian, across-the-board spending reductions -- or equally sweeping tax hikes."

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"Our government has an opportunity to dramatically reduce spending and cut the deficit, while also improving its level of service to citizens. By harnessing major technological shifts and adopting best business practices, we can not only make our government far more productive, but also foster greater innovation in areas ranging from healthcare to education and energy -- innovation that will generate economic growth and job creation."

Not surprisingly, recurring themes in the report include "consolidate, eliminate redundancies, and reduce waste." Some of the proposed initiatives include specific technologies that would be central to achieving those goals, such as massive data center consolidation efforts, smart business analytics to uncover payments errors, and electronic collaboration tools.

For other projects, however, the technology is more supplementary to the necessary organizational and cultural changes to shake up stale practices -- such as moving toward shared support services so that each individual government agency doesn't have its own HR, travel, and legal department, or separate supply chain.

Among the group's suggestions is to consolidate the government's widespread IT infrastructure. "The Federal government currently spends approximately $76 billion to support its widely dispersed IT assets," says the report. "We estimate that at least 20 to 30 percent of that spending could be eliminated by reducing IT overhead, consolidating datacenters, eliminating redundant networks, and standardizing applications."

Technologies such as virtualization and cloud computing could help the feds reduce the number of data centers they run. Combine the reduction in facilities with techniques such as boosting CPU utilization (the current average for the government is 25 percent) and using smarter, more efficient cooling, and the federal government would see a significant drop in operational costs -- including a significant chunk from energy savings -- to the tune of as much as $200 billion over the next 10 years.

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