Report: Agencies Continue to Buck ‘Cloud First’ Policy -- And The Lack of Savings Shows It

Lukiyanova Natalia / frenta/

Consider moving legacy systems to the cloud, GAO says.

Cloud computing solutions should be considered even for legacy information technology investments not up for replacement, according to a report released Thursday that found federal agencies aren’t saving as much as they could.

Together, seven agencies reviewed by the Government Accountability Office have spent $222 million on cloud services since GAO last examined the issue in a 2012 report. That brings their total combined cloud spending to $529 million.

But these agencies together only increased spending on cloud services by a total of 1 percent since the 2012 report, and they failed to consider cloud computing services for 67 percent of their IT investments.

“With regard to why these investments had not been assessed, the agencies said it was in large part due to these being legacy investments in operations and maintenance,” the report said. “The agencies had only planned to consider cloud options for these investments when they were to be modernized or replaced.”

GAO said this rationale was inconsistent with Office of Management and Budget policy, which actually directs agencies to consider cloud solutions first, “regardless of where the investment is in its life cycle.”  

Until agencies consider cloud solutions for these investments, they won’t be saving as much as they could, auditors said. 

Together, the agencies -- Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, State and Treasury, as well as the General Services Administration and the Small Business Administration -- saved about $96 million by implementing 22 cloud services.

For instance, GSA said it saved $2.6 million when it moved to a cloud-based customer service solution, and DHS reported it saved $1.2 million over two years using a cloud-based collaboration service.

Seventy-nine other cloud services did not save the agencies money, however, mostly because the goal or outcome of those migrations was improved or new services, not reduced spending.

GAO advised the agencies go back and look at the legacy systems to identify more cloud candidates. None of the agencies disagreed.

(Image via Lukiyanova Natalia / frenta/