Green Government

From clean-fuel fleets to eco-friendly offices, agencies face myriad challenges in their newest mission-saving the environment.

Green is indeed the new black, as senior correspondent Katherine McIntire Peters notes in this month's special issue on green government.

From the macro (climate change and oil prices) to the micro (ceiling fans and solar panels), energy efficiency is in vogue. Federal agencies, however, didn't just stumble onto the trend at the height of its popularity. They've promoted environmentally friendly and cost-efficient energy initiatives for more than a decade; in some instances the government is actually ahead of the curve.

But Uncle Sam hasn't received much credit from the 2008 presumptive presidential nominees for previous forays into green territory. Both candidates have vowed to make the federal government a green leader. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona wants government buildings to use less electricity and a federal fleet of fuel- efficient cars. Democratic Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois wants to create a federal investment program that would teach manufacturers how to make green products. He also would mandate that 25 percent of U.S. electricity be drawn from alternative energy sources, including solar, wind and geothermal power.

These and other goals are similar to policies already under way at many agencies. Our package of stories looks at several, ranging from the integral role of the General Services Administration in reducing energy use and water consumption in federal buildings-a daunting task considering the agency owns or leases more than 352 million square feet of office space in more than 8,600 facilities nationwide-to an innovative partnership between the Air Force and industry to save an estimated $1 million annually in electricity costs at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. On the procurement front, agencies already contract with companies to buy green goods and services-everything from bed linens to grease removers.

Being green hasn't been easy for a government that spends $400 billion annually on goods and services and is the nation's largest consumer of energy. Managers must navigate a complex web of executive orders, regulations and laws, each one directing them to achieve energy goals that are often too ambitious for agencies' shrinking budgets and workforces. Complicated legal restrictions govern contracts with public utilities, and politics often trumps the execution of well-crafted and cost-effective federal programs. Meanwhile, tracking contract dollars and data-green or otherwise-in a central database might sound simple, but for a bureaucracy as vast as the U.S. government, it's an undertaking of colossal proportions.

Agencies are tasked with finding alternative sources of energy while saving money, protecting the environment and its citizens, and working with Congress. It's a mission that's practically set up for failure. But success is usually a mixed bag, particularly in public policy. Perhaps it's more useful to take some risks to find the right fit instead of cautiously aiming for perfection.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.