USDA sustainability chief targets data centers


Agencies’ plans for meeting the green government mandates outlined in President Obama’s October executive order aren’t due until June 2, but the Agriculture Department’s chief sustainability officer already has identified one of her top priorities: cutting energy consumption in data centers.

Robin Heard, a lifelong conservationist who joined Agriculture in 1976, said she had no idea how much energy is consumed by data centers until she took on her new role as the department’s deputy assistant secretary for administration about a year ago.

Speaking Tuesday on the opening day of the GSA Expo in Orlando, Heard said she wants to consolidate the department’s data centers and reduce duplication. Agriculture’s computer servers are operating at between 10 percent and 20 percent of their total capacity, according to a January 2009 strategic plan from Agriculture’s chief information officer.

Heard said she’s already getting pushback to the consolidation plan from employees worried that they’ll lose their computing power. But she seemed unfazed by the resistance, recalling a recent conversation with a consultant who had covertly taken offline one of his company’s huge data centers without anyone noticing.

I may start sneaking around to data centers and start unplugging things. I might get arrested.

So if you see Robin Heard visiting your facility anytime soon, you might want to backup whatever work you’re doing on the computer … just in case.


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  1. USDA has several different agencies which are tasked with various duties. It sounds stupid to combine all agencies’ computer centers to reduce duplications. In that case why not combine all agencies. The employees in the IT field don’t feel as if they are loosing their powers.
    Each agency runs there owe programs to serve the needs of the specific agency.
    A Conservationist protect the environment, polluted air and water, also, they protect endangered species. Conservationists protect the environment. I believe that was Robin Heard’s prior position. I believe she needs to stay out of IT. It appears she has no idea what she is talking about and merely making herself look stupid. I believe USDA wasted millions of dollars on the civil rights system which is not working correctly. That system was put in place in 2004 for all of USDA civil rights offices could in put data BIG JOKE!

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