How NASA Handles Tech

Cutting costs with virtual conferencing

NASA technology can involve rockets and satellites, but the agency uses IT to innovate at all levels. Long before the sequester and tightened budgets, for example, NASA had turned to videoconferencing to cut costs.

NASA hosted its first Virtual Executive Summit in October 2012 as a series of prerecorded and live sessions, activities and interactions hosted through NASA's human resources portal and Adobe Connect. Nearly 500 NASA leaders participated in the virtual events.

According to officials, the agency saved $750,000 in travel expenses and another $250,000 in logistics and venue costs -- for a total of more than $1 million in savings.

The summit, which took place throughout the month of October, proved that communications, collaboration and learning could be delivered in a distributed virtual environment, said Erica Bovaird, NASA's chief learning officer.

Last year, the agency announced plans to reduce travel expenses by more than $20 million by using Web and videoconferencing solutions.

Virtual technology also allows agencies to host more events. NASA was able to do six times as many events in 2013 as it did in 2011. Estelle Dodson, integrative sciences and technologies manager at NASA's Astrobiology Institute, said that given current travel restrictions, cultural changes and improvements in technology, virtual conferencing is a great option for agencies.

"There's been a real change in people's receptiveness to videoconferencing," she said. "Also, improvements in videoconferencing ability itself, the reliability, the quality, all these things increased at the same time that the generation was entering the workforce about five years ago that had really spent a lot of their life online already and were really comfortable with video."

Dodson has been doing videoconferencing events since the opening of NASA's virtual institute in 1998. The institute brings together university and NASA researchers worldwide to collaborate, train others and develop best practices for efficient virtual conferencing.

Virtual conferences might not be as sexy as moon shots and Mars rovers, but Bovaird said the innovation is similar. "This human capital project...required ingenuity in technical, systems and content requirements...a dramatic change in workforce culture, and a deep curiosity and belief in the benefits that this could offer," she said.

About the Author

Colby Hochmuth is a former staff writer for FCW.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.

Featured

  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Wed, Jul 2, 2014 Reed Gusmus United States

Great article! The flexibility of this technology has made communication much more convenient and efficient. We use iMeet (www.pgi.com/imeet) and its awesome because even when I do have to travel, I can use the mobile app to participate in a video conference so that I don't get thrown out of the loop.

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group