Budget cuts force Archives to close research rooms early; Qwest’s cable-wrangling skills help Forest Service fight wildfires; Awards for going where no agency has gone before

Budget cuts force Archives to close research rooms early
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) published an interim final rule in the Federal Register July 25 that shortens the hours of operation at the research rooms in its Washington, D.C., and College Park, Md., facilities.

“In these times of fiscal restraint, NARA has determined reluctantly that it is necessary to curtail service during time frames when only a small percentage of our users are present,” the Federal Register rule states.

NARA is facing some financial troubles. “The National Archives will be facing a very austere year,” U.S. Archivist Allen Weinstein wrote in a June 19 memo to staff. “Given the congressionally mandated pay raises, higher rents in our facilities across the country and the enormous increase in energy costs for our facilities nationwide, I am considering ways to reduce our operating costs.”

Despite the crunch, NARA’s flagship Electronic Records Archives project will not suffer, NARA officials said. The project is a separate appropriation that does not count toward the operating expenses budget.

Qwest’s cable-wrangling skills help Forest Service fight wildfires
Qwest Communications International used some old-fashioned horsepower — large hoofed mammals — to wire U.S. Forest Service offices with voice-over-IP capability in Arizona’s Coconino National Forest. The company wrangled the horses to help install network connections because the area is home to endangered species and archaeological sites that trucks could have harmed. The technicians also brought in Forest Service archaeologists and biologists to help preserve those delicate resources.

The Coconino is home to a variety of terrain, including the red rocks of Sedona, Ponderosa pine forests and alpine tundra.

The Forest Service eventually got voice and data services established in an area of mountains, canyons, creeks and streams. Qwest created a 24-hour emergency response team to support communications services during the fire season.

Tom Richards, Qwest executive vice president for the business markets group, said the company uses several nontraditional methods to do its work. “Helicopters, snow cats and now horses are all part of our customer-service cavalry,” he said.

Awards for going where no agency has gone before
Nine government agencies have won FCW Events’ eighth annual Government Solutions Center (GSC) Pioneer Awards. The distinctions honor federal, state and local programs for their innovative deployments of technology.

The crème de la crème of government commercial solutions and other applications were on display at the July 26 itsGov “Technology Buying at Year-End” Showcase.

The U.S. Postal Service received the second annual Successful Public/Private Sector Partnership Award. The prize recognizes a public agency program and its industry or association partners for simplifying government operations with technology.

Conference attendees had a chance to vote on the best Government Solutions Center Award Winner. They selected the Environmental Protection Agency’s Enterprise Customer Service Solution.

Here are the 2006 GSC Pioneer Award winners.

  • The Clinical Information Technology Program Office for the Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application.

  • The EPA’s Office of Environmental Information for the Enterprise Customer Service Solution.

  • The General Services Administration for FirstGov Search.

  • The Internal Revenue Service’s Internet Development Services, Electronic Tax Administration for the Web site redesign.

  • The Joint Medical Information Office for the Theatre Medical Information Program.

  • The Kansas Highway Patrol for Online Crash Logs.

  • The Maine State Police for the Crash Reporting Online Search and Ordering Service.

  • The Social Security Administration’s Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge for the Video Hearings Project.
USPS won the 2006 Successful Public/Private Sector Partnership Award for developing a hurricane information delivery system on its Web site and intranet in collaboration with IBM. Through the Web, the USPS kept customers informed about the status of their mail delivery and local post offices. Internally, the system — called Blue — connected USPS with displaced employees and provided job-related information.

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