Agriculture, Interior combine campsite reservation systems

'Multiple government reservation systems make it difficult for the public to find and make reservations,' Mitchell E. Daniels says.

Tom Fedor

The Office of Management and Budget has ordered the government by October to consolidate its two major campsite reservation systems.

OMB director Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. sent a memorandum earlier this month ordering the Interior Department to blend its National Park Service reservation system with USDA's National Recreation Reservation Service. The Agriculture Department's Forest Service and the Army Corps of Engineers run the online NRRS site, at www.ReserveUSA.com.

'Multiple government reservation systems make it difficult for the public to find and make reservations,' Daniels said in his memo. 'Consolidating reservation systems will benefit the taxpayers because maintaining a single recreation reservation system is more efficient and cost-effective than having multiple agencies operate their own reservation systems.'

By combining the systems, it's a 'long-term win for the consumer,' said Lynne R. Beeson, NRRS interagency program manager. The NRSS site, which USDA relaunched this month, is easily expandable and can handle whatever additional reservation services need to be included, she said.

Happy campers

An OMB official said the USDA and Park Service systems handle practically all park reservations, but that the Interior's Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the Fish and Wildlife Service do have a handful of smaller systems that also will be consolidated.

Daniels' memo makes NRRS the executive agent for IT acquisitions related to the project. The online reservation services are a key component of the Recreation One Stop e-government initiative.

OMB is setting up a Cross-Agency Project Management Office to examine other recreation systems that could be included and linked via a portal at www.recreation.gov.

Employees are happy because the memo does not affect the budgets of the three agencies. But 'anytime there's simplifying and unifying, people feel bad,' the OMB official said.

Interior funds its reservation systems through fees for services such as cabin rentals. The fees will now fund the joint system. Spending on both systems totals $12 million.

The letter formalizes an interagency decision, said Scott J. Cameron, deputy assistant secretary for performance and management in Interior's Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget. 'It actually helps us do what we need to do, so it's a positive thing.'
The consolidation does not come without challenges, Beeson said.

This month, the three agencies began to develop an implementation strategy to integrate the two reservation services.

Beeson said it was 'premature to speculate' what technology changes might be needed.

'It is recognized that there will need to be changes on the part of all the agencies involved to provide a true customer-focused interagency reservation service by next fall,' Beeson said.

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