Obama Orders Federal IT To Get Greener

An Executive Order mandates that federal agencies implement green data center strategies, double-sided printing, and PC power management, as part of a broader sustainability push.

J. Nicholas Hoover, Senior Editor, InformationWeek Government

October 6, 2009

2 Min Read

An executive order signed by President Obama requires that federal agencies take further steps to ensure that their IT purchases are energy efficient or otherwise environmentally friendly.

The mandates are part of Executive Order 13514, which sets sustainability goals for the U.S. government. Within 90 days, agencies are required to set a target for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2020 and to recycle or otherwise divert 50% of their waste by 2015.

"In order to create a clean energy economy that will increase our nation's prosperity, promote energy security, protect the interests of taxpayers, and safeguard the health of our environment, the federal government must lead by example," Obama wrote in the order.

The order means that sustainability will increasingly be factored into government acquisition of IT products and services. It's "going to make all of us look at what we do with IT with a new eye," said Jeff Eagan, electronics stewardship coordinator for the Department of Energy, during a panel discussion at 1105 Media's Virtualization, Cloud Computing & Green IT Summit in Washington.

The order requires that 95% of new acquisitions be Energy Star or Federal Energy Management Program compliant, certified by the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, contain recycled content, or otherwise be more sustainable than other products. Agencies are expected to show a preference for EPEAT-registered IT equipment and to procure Energy Start or FEMP compliant equipment.

The order also touches on the energy impact of federal data centers. Worldwide, data centers are increasingly one of the largest consumers of energy. Federal agencies must now implement best practices for energy-efficient servers and data center management. That includes implementing power management policies, double-sided printing, and "other environmentally preferable" features on computer equipment.

E-recycling is another area of focus. "Environmentally sound practices" are required in the disposition of electronic products.

Agencies must disclose details about their efforts to comply with the order. That will likely force agencies to make investments in software and hardware for measuring greenhouse gas emissions and in systems for accounting and reporting.

The executive order builds on one issued by President Bush in 2007. Thirteen of 24 surveyed agencies are already 95% compliant with EPEAT for new purchases.

InformationWeek Analytics has published a guide to the Open Government Directive and what it means for federal CIOs. Download the report here (registration required).

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About the Author(s)

J. Nicholas Hoover

Senior Editor, InformationWeek Government

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