IT Spending: Interior Plans To Slash $500 Million

Cloud computing and data-center consolidation are central to the department’s plans for cutting technology spending over the next decade.
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The Department of Interior plans to save half a billion dollars over the next 10 years in a drastic plan to cut its IT spending as part of an Obama administration-wide effort to eliminate wasteful use of government money.

Through an IT Transformation Strategic Plan unveiled last week, the department said it will enact some of the biggest IT reform in the federal government, which already is working on ways to cut out unnecessary spending and create IT improvements. In December, the administration revealed a 25-point IT reform plan, which it followed up six months later with the Campaign to Cut Waste.

The way Interior IT leaders see it, maintaining old systems is costing the agency more money than using new, cost-effective ones, such as cloud computing, according to the report.

"In recent years, our spending on maintenance has continued to increase at the expense of investment in innovation," according to the report. "Moreover, in a climate of fiscal austerity, IT spending for its own sake is no longer justifiable."

Indeed, adopting the cloud is one aspect of the department's IT reform plan. The plan includes a move to cloud-based electronic forms, records, and content-management systems.

The department also plans to reduce its number of data centers and servers by up to 50%, as well as move to a single email system that will cost half of what the agency's current network of 14 systems cost, according to the plan.

In a White House blog post, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the planned cuts and others the agency already has taken are meant to improve the Interior's service to its constituents.

The department already cut its contracting expenses by more than a quarter of a billion dollars, he said. It also reduced administrative expenses by nearly a hundred million dollars in the last year with plans to cut another hundred million dollars in the coming year.

"We are making these cuts--smart cuts--so that we can make the type of investments our nation needs to win the future, from the new energy frontier to the national parks and public lands that are economic engines for local communities," Salazar said in his post.

While this may be true, Interior's efforts aren't purely altruistic or merely in the interest of the American people. The department is facing a 5% reduction in its fiscal 2012 IT budget compared with what it actually spent in IT in 2010. The proposed budget for 2012 is $924 million, while the agency spent $969 million in IT in 2010, according to U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra.

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