The U.S. Office of Management and Budget plans to close 137 federal data centers by the end of 2011, continuing the implementation of the government-wide 25-point IT reform plan that was released last year.

Of those 137 facilities on the chopping block, 39 have already been closed, including data centers operated by the U.S. Department of Defense, NASA and the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, according to Federal CIO Vivek Kundra, who explained the closings at an April 27 White House IT forum. Kundra said that the number of federal data centers had swelled from 432 in 1998 to more than 2,000 this year, many of which are not used efficiently.

The average utilization of [the servers] in those 2,000-plus data centers is under 27 percent,” Kundra said. “What’s worse is that storage utilization is actually under 40 percent.”

In addition, Kundra said that 15 federal agencies had identified approximately 950,000 e-mail mailboxes and more than 100 e-mail systems that will be moved to the cloud as part of the “cloud-first” strategy being adopted by the U.S. government. Further streamlining projects include:

• the Department of Justice consolidating storage for 18,000 U.S. attorneys by moving them to the cloud;

• the U.S. Department of Agriculture consolidating more than 20 document and correspondence systems into a single agency-wide cloud solution; and

• various human resource and financial management systems moving to the cloud.

In addition to Kundra, other speakers at the IT forum included Jeffrey Zients, federal chief performance officer and OMB deputy director; Daniel Poneman, deputy secretary of energy; Kathleen Merrigan, deputy secretary of agriculture; Roger Baker, assistant secretary for information and technology of the Department of Veterans Affairs; and Richard Spires, CIO of the Department of Homeland Security.

When asked by D. Craig Wolff, a partner in the Global Sourcing group with the law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, about cyber-security concerns regarding moving to the cloud too quickly, and what the federal government was doing to address those concerns, Kundra said the risks are being “overhyped.”

He said, “If you look at the current state of federal government, there are over 4,700 systems that have already been outsourced. These are systems the government isn’t operating. They are in the hands of companies like Lockheed and … Boeing and so forth.

“I think the agencies are being very mindful that they are moving to the cloud in a safe, secure manner rather than just haphazardly in that direction,” Kundra added.

Brian Heaton  |  Senior Writer

Brian Heaton is a senior writer for Government Technology. He primarily covers technology legislation and IT policy issues. Brian started his journalism career in 1999, covering sports and fitness for two trade publications based in Long Island, N.Y. He's also a member of the Professional Bowlers Association, and competes in regional tournaments throughout Northern California and Nevada.