GSA proposal pushes info swap via TV and Internet

The General Services Administration's Office of Information Technology is putting the finishing touches on a proposal to set up quarterly meetings to allow senior federal IT officials and employees throughout the government to share information.

The conferences to be held in the auditorium at GSA headquarters in Washington D.C. would be broadcast to federal offices across the country via closed circuit TV and the Internet. GSA may also set up regional meetings that would be conducted similarly.

Fred Sims chief of the Office of Information Technology said his office began work on the proposal at the request of the Office of Management and Budget and the CIO Council. The meetings will keep high-level officials informed as to what is happening at field offices and vice versa he said.

"It's hard for the IT leadership in Washington to stay in touch with the concerns of everybody in the country and even harder for everybody else to stay in touch with what we are doing in Washington " Sims said. "This is an opportunity to inform and communicate on emerging issues."

GSA plans to hold the first "quarterly information technology exchange" in mid-November Sims said. The proposal calls for a two-hour meeting every three months probably in February May August and November he said.

The agency hopes that senior officials representing all of the major IT policy-making and oversight organizations will attend each meeting. These participants would include chairs of the CIO Council the Government Information Technology Services Board the Information Technology Resources Board and the Interagency Management Council as well as representatives from OMB the National Institute of Standards and Technology the National Archives and Records Administration (for electronic records issues) congressional committees and possibly the General Accounting Office.

Each official will speak for about five minutes at each meeting followed by opportunities for audience members to ask questions and offer comments.

Sims stressed that the plans are still evolving. His office has contacted a group of four agency representatives to review the proposal and act as advisers on the effort. The four representatives are Jim Flyzik director of telecommunications management at the Treasury Department Cynthia Rand principal director of Defense information management in the Office of the Secretary of Defense Paul Wohlleben IRM director at the Environmental Protection Agency and Donald Andreotta assistant CIO for operations at NASA.

Treasury's Flyzik said the meetings present an opportunity for the government to improve information sharing between agencies and different levels of government a goal he has supported for years. But he said it remains unclear whether the meetings will be able to achieve all of GSA's objectives.

"I'm going into it with an open mind " he said. "I think the concept makes a lot of sense. It remains to be seen how well it will work in implementation." NASA's Andreotta said he and the other advisory committee members have not yet been briefed on the proposal and have not yet held any meetings.

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