WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Susan Collins, R-Me., Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, on Thursday welcomed news of a federal data center consolidation initiative to manage and coordinate the government’s ever-expanding technology systems.

The Feb. 26 announcement follows Senator Collins’s request in December that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) study the feasibility of consolidating federal data centers.

“There is much merit to the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative, which would require that federal agencies consolidate a burgeoning IT infrastructure that is growing out of control,” Senator Collins said Thursday.

“In 1995, the Office of Management and Budget called for consolidation of these centers. Just the opposite occurred — there were 432 data centers in 1998 and more than 1,100 today, a 154 percent increase. We need aggressive oversight and strong management now to ward off ‘data center sprawl.’

“Such unchecked growth is expensive, adding significant costs to hardware, software, cooling and energy use and other overhead expenses,” she said. “Further, hundreds of separate data centers are not an efficient or effective way to store and access information. This initiative comes two months after I asked the GAO to study federal data center consolidation and to determine baseline metrics, which we could use to gauge the current situation and to chart future progress. Clearly, we need a strategy that will accommodate data usage, ease the taxpayer burden and improve overall access.”

The goals of the newly announced initiative will be to promote the use of “green technology,” reduce the cost of data center technology, increase the overall IT security at the centers, and move toward a more uniform system of computer platforms and technologies.

The Office of Management and Budget, which issued the announcement, directed the Chief Information Officers at the Department of Homeland Security and the Treasury Department to lead the effort.

“This growth in redundant infrastructure investments is costly, inefficient, unsustainable and has a significant impact on energy consumption,” the OMB announcement said. “In 2006, Federal servers and data centers consumed over 6 billion kWh of electricity and without a fundamental shift in how we deploy technology it could exceed 12 billion kWh by 2011.”

The first step is to collect information which will inform the development of the data center consolidation plan. To that end, agencies have been directed to conduct initial and final asset inventories, develop data center consolidation plans and create ongoing monitoring systems.

Finally, federal agencies will put these consolidation plans into their 2012 fiscal year budgets by the end of August. The plans, which will include a technical roadmap and approach for achieving the targets for infrastructure utilization, energy efficiency, and cost efficiency, are expected to be approved by OMB by December 31.