( - A cloud-computing initiative was outlined Tuesday by the Obama administration. It aims to cut costs and reduce the government's environmental impact.

Vivek Kundra, the first U.S. chief information officer, said the government has been building multiple data centers, so many that about a quarter of its $76 billion IT budget goes to infrastructure. He noted that the Department of Homeland Security has 23 data centers.

As a result, he said, federal energy consumption doubled from 2000 to 2006. "We cannot continue on this trajectory," Kundra said.

Instead, he said, the Obama administration wants to change course and rely on existing systems wherever security considerations allow. He encouraged federal agencies to use online resources.

Toward that end, the administration has established the Web site as a clearinghouse for cloud services and applications. While not yet fully functional, the site gives an indication of how Kundra hopes to reduce government IT spending.

While moving to cloud computing could take as long as a decade, Kundra cited some benefits that have already been achieved.

He said a revamp of the Web site for the General Services Administration was completed in one day and the site now costs $800,000 a year, compared to six months and $2.5 million a year that would have been expected using the government's traditional approach. And, he said, with cooperation from the IRS, the government's Free Application for Federal Student Aid can now be prefilled with IRS data at the click of a button, eliminating more than 70 questions and 20 screens.

For fiscal 2010, Kundra said, the administration will be advocating cloud computing, and in 2011 it will issue guidance to government agencies. He added that data security will have high priority.