Video conferencing has many benefits, not the least of which is economical. As travel costs rise and travel budgets tighten, many in business have moved toward online, real-time communication tools. According to The Business of Federal Technology, it appears that the U.S. government may be following suit. This July, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced legislation that would potentially cut $15 billion in travel expenses incurred annually by federal agencies through the increased use of videoconferencing.
The bill, titled "Cut the Waste, Stay in Place Act of 2013," and introduced by Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick, (R-Pa.), would call on the director of the Office of Management and Budget to develop a plan to reduce the federal government’s travel expenditures by as much as 50 percent by 2017.
Specifically, the bill calls on the use of video conferencing to achieve a significant budget cut. Writers of the bill claim the following three benefits to adopting this new measure:
- Video conferencing has been under-utilized thus far, and therefore its full potential has not been completely realized.
- The move from hardware-based software to browser-based software makes video conferencing technology less expensive and more accessible to more parties.
- Video conferencing enhances communication, improves problem-solving, reduces carbon footprints, facilitates better collaboration, and shortens project time periods, among many other benefits.
This new bill builds on previous orders issued via the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, which already calls for agencies to reduce travel expenditures by 30 percent compared to 2010 levels. Under the umbrella of previous initiatives, many agencies have already made motions toward collaborative technology.
NASA is one such agency. It saved $21 million in fiscal 2012 by replacing travel with video conferencing when it was possible. The Naval Safety & Environmental Training Center has successfully used video conferencing for better training programs--providing video-based education to over 10,000 government civilians and Navy personnel all over the world. The Center also adapted its mission-critical U.S. Navy Safety Professional Development, replacing its San Diego conference with a video broadcast. This adaptation reduced a potential $1.5 million travel tab to less than $100,000.
The budget saving advantages of video conferencing are undeniable, and the U.S. government agrees. Real-time communication benefits are realized while maintaining a responsible hold on expenditures.