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VTC Opens New Hailing Channels Between Congress and Military Field Commanders

Amidst all the other turbulence on Capitol Hill last year, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) was renovating - on a scale not seen in over fifty years. That project brought two hearing rooms into the twenty-first century, replacing bare-bones 1960-vintage microphones and equipment with state-of-the-art audio and video systems. This new gear provided the Committee with greatly-improved capability to broadcast hearings and markups, and added new powerful features as well. The new setup includes multi-function touch screens for members at their places on the dais, which lets them follow Floor action, quickly access PowerPoint, memos and documents presented during hearings, get messages, and pull up additional reference materials. But the biggest change is the new video teleconferencing built into the system. "Tandberg CODEC gear with multipoint capabilities can be routed to these Committee rooms as required. The House of Representatives' Recording Studio coordinates all our inbound and outbound broadcast and teleconference requirements ," explained a senior committee staffer who spoke with us on background. "That now allows HASC Members to speak directly with forward-deployed military units or commanders as the situation might require." Staff are confident that use of this VTC capability will increase as a complement to Congressional Delegation (CODEL) field trips. "On a VTC, you can talk to a few people and a couple of field commanders. When members go on CODELS, they talk to hundreds of people, from generals to field specialists. VTC can't replace that spontaneous interaction, but it does mean that, in an urgent situation or on very short notice, the members can speak face-to-face with forward-deployed commanders who might not otherwise be easily accessible, or are too far away to travel easily and quickly to Capitol Hill." All 62 committee members can access the system at once, but it can also be used by just one or two at time. "The members are still getting used to new technologies, but with every election cycle the HASC - members as well as staff -- get more comfortable with using these new capabilities."

Tags: technology , Video Teleconferencing Center , telework , cisco , TANDBERG ,

Sunday - 01/23/2011, 06:36pm EST

VTC : Vital to CECOM's Everyday Support For Warfighters

CECOM Life Cycle Management Command (LCMC) is part of Army Materiel Command (AMC). Lately, it's been on the move-- and supported more than ever by video teleconferencing. Since 2008, CECOM been making a massive migration of its headquarters from Ft Monmouth, NJ to Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG). VTC is critical for CECOM to stay connected with its 8,500-strong team -- including both the 50% of that team based outside HQ or forward deployed, supporting seven regional Army field support brigades as well as warfighting units in the field. "For the last 2-3 years, video teleconferencing has enabled us to operate effectively in a 'split-based operation' during the BRAC transition," said Ed Thomas, Deputy to the Commanding General, CECOM. "And it gives us this amazing connection from APG right to the front lines of the battlefield." New location means new equipment. By the end of 2011, CECOM will have VTC conferencing hardwired into 13 conference rooms at APG. "The gear being installed by CACI will be IP based with ISDN as a backup capability. In addition, we will USE Defense Connect On-Line and Microsoft Communication Software for desktop VTC capability," said Patricia O'Connor, CIO for CECOM LCMC. "VTC supports a more effective exchange of information that means faster turnaround for mission support." CECOM participates in three major weekly VTC meetings. First, there's a CECOM worldwide operations update, to review the work we're doing in support of the warfighter, and track the supply and maintenance issues. Second, AMC holds its weekly VTC across 30-40 nodes including seven regional support commands, along with subordinate commands like CECOM and its counterparts in aviation, missiles and tanks. The third is the weekly depot maintenance production reviews -- a big part of making sure equipment get overhauled and back to the troops. "After there's an improvised explosive device (IED) attack, it's important for us to see what happened to the vehicle that was attacked and how the IED was detonated. Our engineers and scientists can get a better understanding of the operational needs and valuable information to engineer better solutions," said Thomas. "We also use VTC within CECOM for General Strong's staff calls, to connect our people at Tobyhanna, PA, Ft Monmouth, Ft Hood, Ft Huachuca, and Ft Belvoir. There's clear cost savings associated with it; often we're able to effectively conduct a meeting or conference without having to travel."

Tags: technology , Video Teleconferencing Center , telework , cisco , TANDBERG ,

Monday - 01/17/2011, 12:38pm EST

Seven steps to winning a government contract

We learn how to "Learn the Hidden Secrets that all Contractors Need to Know!" and how to get a running start in under a day from Summit Insight's Judy Bradt.

Tags: Federal Drive , contracting , SBA , Summit Insight , WSOB , Wounded Warrior Project , Suzanne Kubota

Monday - 01/17/2011, 09:31am EST
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How to prepare to compete for a federal contract

The U.S. Small Business Administration will begin implementation of its women-owned small business (WOSB) contracting program. Summit Insight's Judy Bradt tells us about how to be a part.

Tags: Federal Drive , contracting , SBA , Summit Insight , WSOB

Tuesday - 01/11/2011, 08:31am EST
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Patent and Trademark Office Rolls Out Nationwide Desktop VTC This March

A big move is coming in 2011 to implement more nimble, flexibly-configurable video teleconferencing solutions at the Pentagon's Warfighter Capability Demonstration Center (WarCap).

In an average month, the WarCap's VTC team supports one major exercise, and two or three demonstrations of emerging technology, and many smaller-scale events. End users and subject matter experts join in classified and unclassified briefings and conversations with top military leaders.

"Warfighters themselves can talk to the leadership. Guys on the floor of an Air Operations Center brief capability of the technology and its value -- or lack thereof." Anna Santos de Dios, Director of the Air Force's Warfighter Capability Demonstration Center told us more. "Using VTC for exercises lets us bring the field experience right into the Pentagon. Senior decision-makers based here, who may lack the time or budget travel to event, can get in one room or on the same call, and bounce ideas around about what they've just seen."

The WarCap has three VTC options.

  • DISN VIDEO SERVICES GLOBAL (DVSG) uses Tandberg systems to link multiple sites but each participating site is a fixed conference room and must be equipped with DSVG-specific hardware. AT&T schedules the VTC and allocates bandwidth.
  • Internet-Protocol (IP)-Based VTC is about to get a lot more popular. This approach connects two points theirusing a Tandberg MXP-IP coder/decoder (cCodec) or similar gear (like the Polycom VSE-7000) on the exercise network. 

"Even some guy in the field with a webcam and internet access can be on the call," said Santos de Dios. "We've had guys doing VTC's standing next to their HUMVEE's talking about how systems perform, and that's much more powerful and memorable, than someone briefing from a PowerPoint."

    But the WarCap wanted the flexibility to arrange those calls itself, to multiple points, and do it more quickly. The WarCap's senior NCO colloborated with the office's SAIC support team to come up with the solution. By 2011, General Dynamics IT and its subcontractor, PPI, will have installed a Multipoint Control Unit (MCU), the Tandberg MCU-4150 to improve service by decreasing scheduling lead times.
  • Defense Connect Online (DCO), a web-based VTC system, is the low end: just an invitation via URL weblink plus a USB-plug-in web cam, and you're good to go. It's a good solution for informal meetings and document sharing, or linking sites without higher resolution options.
"The people we support -- those running exercises, and those advocating more resources for work in the field -- feel that VTC helps them reach audiences they wouldn't have access to any other way. "The senior leadership appreciates the opportunity to see exercises or evaluate technologies without disrupting their schedules with additional travel. The big challenge is that, with constant turnover in personnel that's simply part of military life, we always have to keep educating people that this resource is available, so we're always doing outreach about the WarCap's VTC capabilities."
  • Traditional two-way conference-room-based VTC, to communicate with Embassies, patent offices and other federal agencies. That's deployed via about 6 large conference rooms that hold several dozen people.
  • Today, for peer to peer interaction within PTO; later this year, PTO expects to offer applicants for patents and trademarks the option to discuss their applications with examiners via videoteleconference, too.
  • Broadcast events, both within the agency for internal meetings and education as well as for consultations and working groups with PTO's customers and the public. An auditorium that seats over 300 people and offers PTO multiple camera angles and full video production capability.
  • CISCO's hardware and software dominate PTO's VTC technology. That includes Tandberg equipment in dedicated videoteleconference rooms, and the suite of CISCO desktop software, including WEBEX, all running on CISCO's networks and expanding bandwidth.

    Big changes are afoot. Starting in March, Owens and his team roll out a massive technology upgrade to 10,000 employees and about 5,000 contractors that includes desktop video teleconferencing capability no matter where they work, from headquarters to home offices. The contractor who'll support the implementation has been selected; watch for an announcement of the award soon.

    What will they get? "Brand new secure metal-jacketed HP laptop with Voice-Over-IP, plus a handset and headset. The laptop, telephone, and WEBEX all launch together in March, running Windows 7...it's in Beta, and the people that have it in their hands now cannot believe the improvement in quality they experience in their daily work." VTC is a critical capability for communication among PTO's increasingly dispersed workforce. Owens says he's been told to expect the agency's 3,000-strong teleworkforce to grow by over 15% this year.

    What three things would Owens like PTO employees to keep in mind about the new desktop VTC capability?
    • "Be patient and learn to use the technology for what it is.
    • "Provide constructive and timely feedback through the appropriate channels; and
    • "Remember that desktop VTC isn't broadcast television. We have plans to increase our capability and use better tools as they become available, but you're getting the cream of the crop of what's available today."

    Tags: technology , Video Teleconferencing Center , telework , cisco , TANDBERG ,

    Sunday - 01/09/2011, 11:26pm EST

    Pentagon's WARCAP Upgrades To New Multipoint VTC Capability in 2011

    The Pentagon's Warfighter Capability Demonstration Center (WARCAP) is making a big move in 2011 to implement more nimble, flexibly-configurable video teleconferencing solutions. In an average month, WARCAP's VTC team supports one major exercise and two or three demonstrations of emerging technology. End users and subject matter experts join in classified and unclassified briefings and conversations with top military leaders.

    "Warfighters themselves can talk to the leadership. Guys on the floor of an Air Operations Center brief capability of the technology and its value -- or lack thereof." Anna Santos de Dios, Director of the Air Force's Warfighter Capability Demonstration Center (WarCap) told us more. "Using VTC for exercises lets us bring the field experience right into the Pentagon. Senior decision-makers based here, who often lack the time or budget travel to event, can get in one room or on the same call, and bounce ideas around about what they've just seen."

    WARCAP offers its clients three VTC options.

    1. DISN VIDEO SERVICES GLOBAL (DVSG) uses Tandberg systems to link multiple sites but each participating site is a fixed conference room and must be equipped with DSVG-specific hardware. AT&T schedules the VTC and allocates bandwidth.


    2. Internet-Protocol (IP)-Based VTC is about to get a lot more popular. This approach is used between two points that each connects their Tandberg MXP-IP coder/decoder (Codec) or similar gear (like the Polycom VSE-7000 IP-based Codec) to connect to the network used to conduct the military exercises and demos.

      "Even some guy in the field with a webcam and internet access can be on the call," said Santos de Dios. "We've had guys doing VTC's standing next to their HUMVEE's talking about how systems perform, and that's much more powerful and memorable than someone briefing from a PowerPoint."

      But WARCAP wanted the flexibility to arrange those calls itself, to multiple points, and do it more quickly. So, WARCAP's NCO's collaborated with team from SAIC to come up with the solution. By April of 2011, General Dynamics IT and its subcontractor, PPI, will have installed a Multipoint Control Unit (MCU), the Tandberg MCU-4150 to improve service by bridging multiple locations.


    3. Finally, WARCAP uses Defense Connect Online (DCO), a software-based VTC system, for informal meetings and document sharing that doesn't require high bandwidth or ultra-high resolution video that the military exercises do. Once a computer has the software installed, plug in a USB web cam, and they're good to go.

      "The people we support -- those running exercises, and those advocating more resources for work in the field -- feel that VTC helps them reach audiences they wouldn't have access to any other way," said Santos de Dios. "The senior leaderships appreciates the opportunity to see exercises or evaluate technologies without disrupting their schedules with additional travel.

      "The big challenge is that, with constant turnover in personnel that simply part of military life, we always have to keep educating people that this resource is available, so we're always doing outreach about WARCAP's VTC capabilities."

    Tags: technology , Video Teleconferencing Center , telework , cisco , TANDBERG , DoD , defense ,

    Monday - 01/03/2011, 04:20pm EST

    NASA explores new uses for video teleconferencing

    NASA is one of the federal pioneers of video teleconferencing systems (remember the first broadcasts from space?)ůso it's no surprise that this agency's program managers continue to rely on video conference technology to meet its daily demands for high-quality audio and visual communication among diverse public and private sector communities. "At NASA, teams at varied locations need a way to engage in timely, technical conversations and collaborate remotely to meet mission-critical goals," said NASA's Deputy Chief Information Officer Deborah Diaz. NASA -- both Headquarters and its major centers around the country -- uses video teleconferencing for everything from meetings, seminars, major international conferences and face-to-face meetings to quick conversations on pressing issues. The payoff is obvious: more cost-efficient and -effective operations, with savings on facilities as well as meeting planning and logistics. At an Open Government Summit hosted by NASA in the fall of 2010, nearly 60 percent of the participants used electronic tools to "virtually attend" the summit. Organizers faced twin challenges of being efficient but also inclusive, while juggling video streaming, cooperative note-taking, online teleconferencing and adapting conversational practices in the room, to bridge the gap between physical and virtual participants. What are they using? NASA Headquarters maintains video teleconferencing systems (ViTS) in multiple configurations, with equipment from vendors including Tandberg, Polycom and LifeSize. The typical ViTS stack includes the ViTS components themselves, additional recording units, PCs and in some cases SmartBoard capability. NASA is in the process of migrating all of its ViTS to have High Definition, digital sign control, and MP3 audio recording capabilities Latest capability improvements include Flash and Windows Media Video streaming via the Web. Users who have a small portable streaming system can view transmissions via computer from anywhere in the world. Some configurations offer MP3 recording capability that lets NASA burn CDs to distribute audio recordings; in others, NASA can use full audiovisual recording capability to capture entire events on Digital Video Disc (DVD) or Blu-Ray. NASA has begun implementing a Voice-Over-IP (VOIP) phone system, too. That will speed the delivery of IP-based desktop video conferencing as the agency phases out ISDN-based systems and will increase ViTS availability to NASA employees while reducing overall costs associated with equipment maintenance, operations, and logistics typical of larger ViTS facilities. "Technology enables and supports one to thousands of conversations," said NASA's Chief Technology Officer for IT, Chris Kemp. "We're finding that if we don't stand in the way of that conversation, incredible things can happen."

    Tags: technology , Video Teleconferencing Center , telework , cisco , TANDBERG , NASA , Deborah Diaz , Chris Kemp ,

    Monday - 12/27/2010, 10:47am EST

    How to break into the government market

    Host Mark Amtower interviews Julie Weeks, CEO, WomenAble, and Judy Bradt, CEO, SummitInsight (pictured), on the three-part American Express open study, Victory in Procurement.
    December 20, 2010 (Encore Presentation December 27, 2010)

    Tags: small business , contracting , Julie Weeks , Womenable , SummitInsight , American Express , minority-owned businesses , women-owned businesses , Mark Amtower , Amtower Off Center

    Monday - 12/20/2010, 04:12pm EST
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