Video Conferencing – Obama’s Answer to Efficient Federal Spending

by Doug Miller, Federal Sales Director, LifeSize

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

On November 9, President Barack Obama put forth an executive order – “Promoting Efficient Spending”. This order takes direct aim at government-wide waste and requires agencies to look to video conferencing and other communications alternatives for costly travel arrangements. The concise yet far-reaching memo gives direct suggestions as to how federal officials and agencies can go about accomplishing these new cost-cutting goals.

Right off the bat, Obama requested that agencies stop buying pens and T-shirts to hand out at industry (or government-related) trade shows. And while cutting out conference swag landed most of the headlines after the order was signed and released, he also wants public employees, in so many words, to make better use of video conferencing technologies.

From the Executive Order:

“Agency travel is important to the effective functioning of Government and certain activities can be performed only by traveling to a different location. However, to ensure efficient travel spending, agencies are encouraged to devise strategic alternatives to Government travel, including local or technological alternatives, such as teleconferencing and video conferencing.“

Cutting out travel is an important aspect of President Obama’s recent executive order. (Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia)

To make sure the best and most effective strategic alternatives are put in place, Obama is asking that all federal agencies and the “Office of Inspector General should designate a senior-level official to be responsible for developing and implementing policies and controls to ensure efficient spending on travel and conference related activities.”

Additionally, the President is asking federal workers to do more, not less. For example, cutting out travel and replacing all that time wasted in airports with high-definition video conferencing translates into more productivity.

What’s more, this is a government-wide initiative. All government agencies are tasked to find ways to use video conferencing in their own organizations. Best-in-class video conferencing technologies help create the natural collaborative environment most dedicated professionals want and need to do the best work possible. This means, however, that the telepresence centers established by the GSA are not a sufficient response to this directive. Access to a telepresence room far away from agency offices does little to reduce travel locally. In fact, such centers may not be any less expensive to the government than HD video conferencing and collaboration solutions now available for smartphones, tablets and desktop workstations.

The government understands how video conferencing and teleworking can help improve the work being done by agencies. Agencies have already been directed as to how to put telework programs in place. (See Office of Budget and Management Director Jacob Lew’s memo from earlier this year regarding the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 for the latest on security issues.) It is now time for the government agencies to act and put these systems in place.

This executive order makes it essential that chief information officers and procurement officers at all federal agencies invest time and money into technologies that enhance communications.

High-definition video conferencing gives managers, staffers, partners, potential partners and even presidents a face-to-face alternative to long-distance travel or fuzzy phone calls. The OMB can calculate how much money will be saved over the years by replacing airfare with video conferencing technologies. Even though the primary push behind Obama’s executive order is saving money, the result of widespread implementation of video conferencing within the federal government will ultimately be a better federal government.

One Response to “Video Conferencing – Obama’s Answer to Efficient Federal Spending”

  1. Karla Williams

    Great article. It’s about time that the government join the rest of the world and harness technology. In agencies I support, I have better ability to access telecommunications protocols in my home through using face time on my iPhone and Skype on my computer, than the government gives to their employees. To me, this is a disgrace and shows how out of touch the government is with the rest of the business world. The excuse is that it “compromises” network security. I find it very difficult to believe that with all the cybersecurity pros out there, there is no way to take advantage of good quality tools in the federal workplace. As always I remain skeptical that this initiative will be effectively implemented, but I applaud the effort which is long overdue.


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