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IT Procurement and Disposal

OCTOBER 27, 2009



Good morning Chairwoman Watson, Ranking Member Bilbray, and members of the Subcommittee.  My name is Casey Coleman and I am the Chief Information Officer of the U.S. General Services Administration.  Thank you for inviting me to appear before you today to discuss the application of green policies in the life cycle management of GSA’s Information Technology (IT) assets.

GSA has taken a lifecycle approach to our sustainability program.  We buy energy efficient devices certified through the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), a program developed with a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.  We encourage our users to rely on fewer devices, such as shared multifunction printers rather than a printer on every desk.  We employ modern approaches such as virtualization to reduce the number of servers required to perform the same work.  And we have a program to ensure that assets at their end of life are recycled responsibly.

GSA’s path toward a sustainable, Green IT program began maturing in 2007. That year, GSA began a program to consolidate all agency infrastructure and operations into one program, called GSA IT Global Operations (GITGO). We consolidated 39 contracts and 15 helpdesks into a single program, under the management of the GSA CIO.  The GITGO program was critical to enabling our Green IT efforts.  Previously, our IT assets were not standardized and there was no central accountability or visibility into where we had assets deployed.  Through GITGO, the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) began to modernize, consolidate, and standardize the agency’s infrastructure.  Our goals were cost savings, improved sustainability, and equipping our workforce with modern tools, along with effective support procedures, necessary for them to perform their mission effectively.

Our infrastructure management efforts have yielded significant green benefits in several areas.

Server consolidation:  One important GSA-wide initiative was the modernization and consolidation of servers.  In this initiative we modernized all of the agency’s Local Area Network (LAN) and Citrix servers.  Some of these servers were six to eight years old.  By purchasing new, more powerful servers, virtualizing them, and centralizing operations (rather than the old model of operating every function in every region and every organization), we have shut down over 700 servers yielding green benefits in areas from lower electricity use to a smaller footprint and reduced overhead.

GSA Telework Challenge: In 2007 GSA undertook an ambitious program to increase the number of employees regularly teleworking. The benefits of telework are well known—increased employee morale and engagement, reduced roadway congestion, reduced dependence on foreign oil, and increased ability to operate in the event of a Continuity of Operations situation. Telework also has green benefits, due to employees working at home or a nearby telework center, thus forgoing a long daily commute which reduces greenhouse gases emitted from automobiles as well as reducing the amount of gasoline consumed in commuting.   The baseline from which GSA started in 2007 was less than 20% of its employees teleworking.  We set ambitious goals for percentages of employees teleworking:  20% in 2008, 40% in 2009, and 50% in 2010.

In order to support the Telework Challenge, my office began an agencywide workstation refresh program.  We started with the organizations with the oldest and least efficient machines, and replaced them predominately with laptops, which are 20% more energy efficient than the machines they replaced.  We implemented a telework training program and rolled out aids to help our employees make a successful migration to telework.  After two years of this refresh, we are ahead of our goal.  At last count, 46% of eligible GSA employees were teleworking.

Printer consolidation:  Upon reviewing the deployment and use of printers within GSA, my office discovered that we had a ratio of almost one printer to every two employees, far greater than industry best practices of one printer for every 10 to 12 employees.  We also had hundreds of different models, creating a very difficult support environment.  To address this situation, I implemented a policy that encourages employees to rely on fewer devices, such as shared high-speed printers instead of personal printers on the desktop.  The average printer is used less than 15 minutes per day, yet is powered on 24/7.  In the past year under the initiative, GSA’s number of printers has dropped 7%, which indicates that we are on the right track.  We are also moving towards digital document management, which will ultimately reduce the number of printouts and paper that we consume.  Both of these efforts have very tangible and immediate green benefits by reducing both electricity use as well as the amount of waste generated.

GSA has also implemented a strong series of initiatives to ensure that our IT assets are disposed of in an environmentally friendly and green manner.  First, this is done by ensuring that no IT assets are simply thrown away.  Instead, IT asset are disposed of through programs that allow for continuing use of the devices where possible.  IT assets are first offered to other federal agencies, where the agency requests the items.   Next, a large percentage of IT assets for which GSA no longer has a need are given to schools and other non-profits through programs such as Computers for Learning.  Finally, IT assets are put up for public auction, allowing the general public to bid on, and reuse, these devices.  All these processes result in fewer IT assets going into landfills and help meet community needs.

Another area where GSA is ensuring environmentally friendly disposal of IT assets is with toner cartridges.  We ensure that used printer toner cartridges are recycled, rather than ending up going to landfills.  GSA’s contract for printer services requires the contractor to provide prepaid return services and to ensure that toner cartridges are recycled and remaining toner is recycled or disposed of in a manner that complies with all environmental and human health and safety laws.

In addition to the major initiatives I have discussed, GSA has implemented more mundane, but very important, procedures to green our IT operations.  For example, we have implemented power settings on all of our laptop and desktop computers which switch those devices into standby or sleep mode when not in use.  This simple change saves a large amount of electricity when multiplied across a large organization like GSA.  We are also putting into place smart power strips that can be used to end electricity drain by so-called “vampire” devices, those devices that continue to use electricity even when turned off.  On the broader scale, we are investigating new technologies, such as cloud computing and green data center advances, which offer the promise of further significant reductions in energy consumption.

Chairwoman Watson, Ranking Member Bilbray and members of the committee, thank you again for the opportunity to appear before you to discuss this important subject.  GSA is committed to environmentally friendly policies and procedures throughout the IT lifecycle.  We will continue our current initiatives and are constantly on the lookout for new and innovative ways to get even greener.  This concludes my testimony, I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.