Now five years old, the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) elicits varied reactions among Federal agency decision makers and the contractor community. While some rightly argue there is ample room for improvement in terms of how well the directive is protecting the government’s information assets, there is also no questioning it has led to tangible security improvements to date.
Beyond improving government-wide awareness and accountability, what many find extremely valuable is the fact FISMA has standardized the way information security is measured. It is this benchmarking function that some are looking to extend to Federal Green IT practices. Jill Aitoro of NextGov, the online spin-off of Government Executive Magazine, posted yesterday a summary of comments made by Raymond Cline, vice president of the infrastructure service line at IT contractor EDS, at a panel discussion at the Interagency Resources Management Conference in Cambridge, Md.
During the panel discussion, Cline made the case for Green IT benchmarks to ensure Federal agency Green IT practices can be formalized for short- and long-term reductions in energy consumption. According to NextGov, Cline pointed out that individual Agency requirements on energy efficiency will diverge to a point where benchmarks will be required.
Steps are being taken to qualify Green IT efforts in a more formalized manner. The Federal Acquisition Regulation addresses environmental assessment in the acquisition of hardware and products, while the joint EPA-Energy Department Program (Energy Star) puts forth stringent efficiency guidelines for IT systems and the energy they use.
Benchmarking, in theory, is a no-brainer. But of course there is a flip-side to every coin. There is always the danger – as some opponents of FISMA have attested – that Agencies will end up spending more time trying comply with benchmark reporting requirements than they will pursuing Green IT policies and initiatives. At the same time, the drum-roll of organizations touting Green IT efforts will soon – if it hasn’t already – muddy the waters on what qualifies as tangible energy efficient efforts versus fluff. Either way, this will not be the last we hear of benchmarking. What are your thoughts on the need for Green IT benchmarks?