The big push for Mr. Bush

From office equipment to parade-side bleachers and portable toilets, the General Services Administration must buy, borrow or lease thousands of items — and quickly — for the upcoming presidential inauguration.

Delayed from starting preparations for more than a month by presidential vote recounts and court challenges, GSA's Presidential Inaugural Committee is now scrambling to prepare for the elaborate Jan. 20 swearing-in of George W. Bush.

To get the job done, GSA is relying more than ever on information technology, according to inaugural committee procurement officials. Special software, for example, makes it possible for fewer people to process more purchases and rentals in less time.

The software manages acquisitions from the time an item or service is requested until the purchase or lease is completed. Thanks to the software, the inaugural committee's four-person procurement team plans to do more work in less time than it took a seven- member team to prepare for President Clinton's last inauguration in 1997, a GSA official said.

The inauguration procurement team also relies on the Internet, which greatly speeds the process of comparing prices and delivery times. And cellular phones and e-mail help keep inaugural committee staff members in touch — and often working — long after office hours end.

"Technology has changed tremendously since the last time," said a committee staff member who also worked on the 1997 inauguration. Back then, for example, the committee had fewer cellular phones and they had a shorter range, so reception was poorer and "we had a lot of downtime."

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