Green Building Upgrades Mean New IT Spending

"Green" Money

The 2012 budget as finally passed by Congress just before Christmas leaves IT requests mostly intact. Not that the administration had total control over all of the line items as they went through the grinder of Congress. But one insider told me that Steve Van Roekel predicated his taking the federal CIO job on general maintenance of a sufficient IT budget.

When you wipe away all of the Democrat-Republican rhetoric surrounding the 2012 budget, the simple fact remains that the federal government will spend slightly more in fiscal 2012 than it did in 2011. Congress eliminated only a few, very minor programs.

A potential new opportunity for contractors and a new area of responsibility for federal IT managers is emerging – has emerged, really. The drive to reduce energy consumption in federal buildings represents a multi-billion-dollar opportunity. It’s more a potential than a sure thing for this community not because the money and projects won’t be there, but because no consensus has emerged on whether the greening effort will be owned by facilities and building management, or by the CIO chain of command.

This means IT contractors must start following the federal construction budget. It’s a more complicated picture than you might have thought. Year-end reports focused on Congress’s decision to suspend construction of the Homeland Security headquarters. GSA did get funds to finish the Coast Guard building on the same site. Federal Times accurately reported the General Services Administration will get only $50 million for new construction out of a request of $840 million. Still unclear is what happens to, for example, a contract worth up to $867 million that General Dynamics won earlier this year to build the IT infrastructure at the DHS headquarters.

A summary from the Associated General Contractors shows all federal construction. The federal government will in fact spend $117 billion in 2012 as enacted. That’s down about 6 from 2011 levels. You must back out transportation projects, EPA superfund cleanup, Housing and Urban Development block grants and so forth to get to building construction as understood in the GSA context. The budget includes:

  • Military construction of more than $16 billion.
  • FAA facilities and equipment spending of $6 billion. Some of this will be airport and other building work.
  • GSA maintenance and upgrades of $500 million
  • $125 million for National Institutes of Health construction
  • $175 million for the Smithsonian Institution.

Couple this with an early December OMB directive for agencies to commit to $2 billion in Energy Savings Performance Contracts over the next two years. It adds up to a kind of extension of IT into the energy domain. Or conversely, the business of energy savings contains a large component of information technology.

To be sure, the biggest dollar volume in energy programs goes to equipment such as solar panels or new HVAC gear. But the capacity to measure and process information about the performance of the energy component of a facility enables that spending. To bring it full circle, expect a portion of construction, upgrade and maintenance dollars the federal government spends in 2012 to be devoted to energy reduction. And a portion of those dollars will be IT.

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About the author

Tom Temin has written 486 posts for Fedinsider.com

Thomas R. Temin - Editor in chief of FedInsider and brings 30 years of publishing experience in media and information technology. Tom is also co-host of The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris, a weekday morning news and talk program on WFED AM 1500 in Washington D.C.

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