Army looks to reschedule IT conference

The Army Information Technology Conference, scheduled for June 6-8 in Orlando, Fla., was canceled last week because of budget shortfalls but may be rescheduled for November.

The Army Small Computer Program, a division of Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO-EIS), sponsors the conference. The conference is the Army’s primary forum to showcase IT products and services. Conference leaders are hoping to reschedule after Congress delivers supplement funding. However, no decisions have been made about exactly when and where the rescheduled conference would be held.

“It’s not lost yet, it’s postponed,” said Dean Sprague, a PEO-EIS spokesman.

But money spent on the canceled event for hotel fees, airfare, shipping costs and other expenses is not likely to be retrieved. "It’s very frustrating," Sprague said. "There are industry folks who have shipped their stuff down to Orlando, and there’s no return on investment for them." He acknowledged that some ill will on the part of industry was an unavoidable effect of the late cancellation.

The conference’s demise was a small part of large-scale spending cutbacks instituted Army-wide last week. As Federal Computer Week reported, Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard Cody issued a May 26 memo mandating severe restrictions on all spending from Operations and Maintenance, Army accounts. The spending cuts were to be implemented in phases, with the first phase eliminating all nonessential travel, training and conferences.

Finally, senior leaders of PEO-EIS, headed by Director Kevin Carroll, concluded they were obligated to carry out Cody’s edict. PEO-EIS estimated the cost of canceling the conference to be $30,000 to $40,000. To continue with the conference, the cost would have been about $500,000, according to PEO-EIS officials.

Generally, about 700 people attend the Army IT conference, with half coming from government and half from industry. New equipment and products are shown, and government and industry collaborate to organize contracts, plan task orders and set the path going forward.

The next opportunity for industry and the government IT community to bond will be at the AFCEA Land War Net Conference, to be held in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., in late August. PEO-EIS is considering shipping its equipment from Orlando to Ft. Lauderdale directly, to save money on shipping more than 8,000 pounds of material, Sprague said.

In the long term, the real effect will be opportunity costs missed, Sprague said. The conference allows professionals who interact primarily via e-mail and telephone to make personal connections. Ideas and initiatives often flow from the conference. “Can you put a dollar figure on that?” Sprague asked, “Probably not.”

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