If the slow-moving ship that is the federal government is moving into the cloud, that might be a cue to businesses to start making the leap, if they haven’t already. A new report from U.S. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra, “Federal Cloud Computing Strategy,” calls for a quarter of the federal IT budget to be spent on cloud-based systems. That’s a cool $20 billion.

Not exactly known as a trendsetter, Uncle Sam’s nod toward the cloud shows just how popular Web-based computing has become. The first paragraph of the report’s executive summary is particularly telling:

The Federal Government’s current Information Technology (IT) environment is characterized by low asset utilization, a fragmented demand for resources, duplicative systems, environments which are difficult to manage, and long procurement lead times  These inefficiencies negatively impact the Federal
Government’s ability to serve the American public.

The answer: “Cloud computing has the potential to play a major part in addressing these inefficiencies and improving government service delivery,” according to the report, a dense, 43-page document replete with supporting charts and graphs.

The federal government’s Cloud First policy will require government agencies to evaluate safe, secure cloud computing options before making any new investments. The largest portions – about $2.4 billion apiece – will go to the Department of Homeland Security and Treasury. According to the Washington Post, the General Services Administration has already taken the first step by moving its email program to a Web-based system modeled after Gmail.

This move toward Web-based computing is part of the Fed’s larger effort to consolidate is 2,100 data centers by at least 40 percent by 2015, reports the Post.

More on The SmartVan: Why Businesses Are Making the Leap Into the Cloud

ABOUT Sara Suddes

San Francisco-based contributor Sara Suddes writes frequently about small business, the economy and technology.