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Federal agencies have taken initial steps to make their information technology more efficient and environmentally friendly, but their effectiveness cannot be evaluated because the agencies have not kept track of important performance information, according to an advance copy of a report from the Government Accountability Office.

The report recommends that the Office of Management and Budget and the Council on Environmental Quality, both White House offices, develop guidelines to help agencies measure their "green" IT performance.

Presidents Bush and Obama signed executive orders in 2007 and 2009, respectively, telling federal agencies to increase their environment sustainability.

The orders require agencies to buy electronic products that meet environment standards, adopt polices to extend the life of electronic products and dispose of old electronics in environmentally sound ways, among other requirements.

The GAO report examined six agencies – the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, and Health and Human Services; the Environmental Protection Agency; and the General Services Administration – and found they have taken steps to comply with the executive orders.

But because the agencies have not kept track of their environmental performance, it is unclear how effective their policies have been.

The report found agencies did not record baselines of their energy consumption or develop performance targets.

The GAO also identified practices used by federal, state and local governments as well as private-sector organization that could improve cost-savings. For example, the report found agencies spend about $440 million per year on unnecessary printing.

Cutting overhead, consolidating data centers, eliminating unnecessary networks and standardizing applications could save the federal government billions of dollars, according to the report.

The GAO prepared the study at the request of Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.).

"Vince Lombardi once said if you're not keeping score, you're just practicing," Carper said. "This report from the Government Accountability Office shows that while we may have a good game plan for making information technology in the federal government more environmentally sustainable, nobody is keeping score."

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