Interior should ramp up videoconferencing, IG says

The Interior Department should increase its use of videoconferencing, an Interior inspector general report has found.

The IG estimated Interior spent $42.4 million on travel in 2009 and lacks an official policy on the use of videoconferencing as an alternative to travel. Improving videoconferencing efforts would cut the department's travel costs as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to the report, which was released Dec. 20, 2011, and reported on Monday by Federal Computer Week.

Interior has 315 videoconferencing endpoints nationwide, with most concentrated in Denver; Anchorage, Alaska; and Washington. The equipment at these locations is not being used to its full potential due to low motivation and a lack of employee knowledge about its availability, according to the report.

Interior should craft an official policy for promoting videoconferencing, ensuring the equipment is compatible, and interconnecting throughout the department and aligning equipment to specific cities based on frequency of air travel, the IG recommended. The department also should post information on its internal website to increase awareness and encourage equipment sharing.

The department could save up to $22.4 million annually by videoonferencing more often, the IG estimated.

While Interior agreed with most of the recommendations, it did not concur that videoconferencing equipment should be aligned to specific cities without additional analysis. Instead, the department plans to conduct its own study to determine viable locations to focus its efforts. Interior also did not believe that increasing use of videoconferencing would reduce greenhouse gases.

Interior plans to complete all its recommendations as part of its chief information officer's IT transformation initiative by Dec. 31.

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