While cloud computing has the potential to significantly drive down costs at the Department of Health and Human Services, so far HHS is not putting its money where its mouth is to achieve greater efficiencies.

Though HHS has developed a cloud computing strategy designed to progressively minimize cost and maximize compute capacity, a new Government Accountability Office report finds that in 2014 the department only allocated 1 percent of its overall IT budget to cloud services—the lowest percentage compared to six other agencies in the GAO’s review.

Under the Federal Cloud First policy issued by the Office of Management and Budget in 2011, agencies are required to implement a cloud-based service whenever there is a secure, reliable and cost-effective option. The last year GAO reported on HHS investment in the cloud was 2012. At that time, government auditors found that HHS spent zero percent of its IT budget on cloud services.

The good news, according to the GAO, is that between July 2012 and July 2014 the number of cloud computing services HHS implemented has grown from just 3 to 36. But government auditors also revealed that of the 36 cloud computing services at HHS, only 4 resulted in cost savings.

HHS has a Cloud Computing Strategic Implementation and Transition Plan that is meant to provide a “phased approach” to incrementally implement the department’s cloud computing strategy. Last year, HHS Chief Information Officer Frank Baitman testified before a Senate hearing on reducing duplication and improving outcomes in federal IT that the department continues to consider cloud solutions as it evaluates new investments and the modernization and enhancement of existing systems.

“Decisions to move our systems to the cloud are generally motivated by cost savings, better performance, and more efficient maintenance, but the move also provides a path to keep our systems continuously modernized,” said Baitman.

Originally published by Health Data Management.



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