The transition team's ready to lend IT hand

The transition team's ready to lend IT hand

By William Jackson

GCN Staff

'To the victor belong the spoils' is still true more than 160 years after New York Sen. William L. Marcy said it in support of President Martin Van Buren's patronage policies.

With more than 3,000 political appointments up for grabs, 'the presidential transition is a big job machine,' said David W. Riggs, deputy director of the General Services Administration's transition support team.

A lot has changed since the Van Buren administration, even since the first Clinton administration. Few government workers at the time of the 1993 transition used desktop computers. Palm OS devices did not exist, and wireless telephones were rare.

Transition workers 'were inundated with tens of thousands of pieces of snail mail,' said Riggs, chief information officer for GSA's National Capital Region. 'You don't realize the enormity of the changes in how we do business until you compare the records of how we did things in 1993.'

The transition team of the new president-elect'whoever he may be'probably will receive much of its correspondence via e-mail. The 1992-1993 team printed a staff directory every day. This year it will be posted on the GSA intranet.

Transition team workers eight years ago received their pay by paper checks. This year they will be entered in GSA's payroll system via the Web and paid by electronic funds transfer.

Only a few people had remote data connections in 1992. This year, 'we're prepared to provide as many people as necessary with remote connectivity,' Riggs said.

Under the Presidential Transition Act of 1963, GSA supplies facilities and services, including communications and information technology, to the president- and vice president-elect between election day and inauguration day. GSA received a $4.3 million appropriation for the job and has secured 90,000 square feet of office space for up to 540 people at the former Year 2000 Coordination Center in downtown Washington.

'We inherited a very robust cabling system,' Riggs said.

A skeleton staff from the new president's team was expected to move in Nov. 8, but as of last week the program was in limbo'along with election results.

'When the election results are clear and the apparent losing candidate concedes the election, [GSA Administrator] Dave Barram will sign the document that authorizes the use of transition funds,' GSA announced Nov. 9.

GSA will be ready to supply up to 500 PCs, about 85 percent of them 733-MHz Pentium III desktop systems from Dell Computer Corp. and the rest 400-MHz Dell Latitude notebooks. They will be loaded with Microsoft Windows 2000, Office Professional applications and Lotus Notes groupware.

'We're setting them up essentially as a node on the GSA WAN,' Riggs said.

The transition office will connect to the GSA network over an 11-Mbps wireless link to GSA headquarters a block away. The wireless link will be backed up by a T1 line.

'It is incredibly cost-effective,' Riggs said of the wireless link. 'It was a no-brainer to do this to provide a lot of bandwidth.'

The transition team's telephone system will have a Definity G3 private branch exchange from Avaya Inc., formerly the Enterprise Network Group of Lucent Technologies Inc. of Basking Ridge, N.J.

An AS5200 Universal Access Server from Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif., will provide 56-Kbps connections for dial-in users.

To help nominees for the new administration's political positions answer questions and to reduce duplication of entries, the Transition to Governing project of the Pew Charitable Trusts has developed a package of online forms.

In addition, the Transition to Governing Web site, at, provides password-protected information in text and video for the new administration's transition team. It covers the nomination process, staff orientation materials and lists of questions that must be answered for White House, FBI and Senate background checks.

The online forms are in a software bundle that nominees can download. A searchable, hyperlinked manual explains the nomination process.

By election day, GSA had installed about 80 PCs and telephone stations for the first wave of workers in the transition office. That wave was held up, but if past transitions are any guide, staffing will reach its peak of 400 to 500 workers in mid-December.

Although building the new administration will continue through much of 2001, GSA will end its transition work with the Jan. 20 inauguration. It will close the books on the program 30 days after that.


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