FTS To Open 'Showcase' Site in Virginia

FTS To Open 'Showcase' Site in Virginia

Dennis Fischer

By Nick Wakeman, Staff Writer

Flat screens, laptops, smart cards and a wireless phone system are among the technologies the General Services Administration will showcase in the offices of its Federal Technology Service branch.

The new office in Fairfax, Va., will consolidate eight offices FTS now uses, including the office of FTS Commissioner Dennis Fischer, and will bring together 390 employees. The consolidation is expected to save about 15 percent over current costs, said Robert Suda, chief financial officer for FTS. Suda would not release the dollar amount expected to be saved.

The move to the new office will begin June 4 and should be completed about July 1. In addition to the FTS commissioner's office, the new facility will house the network services division of FTS, which oversees IT services contracts such as Seat Management and Millennia.

Staffers that manage the telecommunications contracts such as FTS 2001 are based in another location.

But even more important than the cost savings to be realized when the offices consolidate at the WillowWood Complex are the technologies and solutions FTS will showcase there for other agencies to see, Suda said.

Among those technologies are a smart card system by Citibank of New York and its partners, 3G International Inc. of Springfield, Va., and IBM Corp. of Armonk, N.Y. Citibank is one of five credit card companies that won contracts to provide card services to the government under GSA's SmartPay contract.

FTS employees will be issued smart cards that look like a Visa credit card on one side and a photo ID card on the other. The cards will be used for access to the building as well as for credit card purchases, access to secure computer networks and boarding airline flights. The cards will carry data for public key infrastructure, digital signatures and biometric data, such as fingerprints.

The GSA project is the first in North America using a smart card with such a broad range of capabilities, said Bruce Caswell, IBM worldwide sales manager for pervasive computing. Pervasive computing is the pushing of computer technology out into non-PC devices, such as smart cards.

The smart cards being used in the GSA project have "dynamic memory," which means that other applications can be added to them as new needs arrive, he said.

"This is the first market validation of the concept in the United States," Caswell said. "This project will provide important feedback to us."

Caswell said he expects the GSA project to be used by IBM as a reference for both government and commercial smart card projects.

"This is the next generation for employee cards," Caswell said. The smart cards will be issued to GSA employees when they start moving into the building this month.

FTS also is using a task order for desktop services that GSA awarded to Litton-PRC Inc. of McLean, Va., to bring laptop computers and docking stations with flat screens to the new facility.

GSA employees will be able to use the same laptop from home when telecommuting or when they are on travel, Suda said.

PRC's work at the new office is part of the $114 million task order the company won under the GSA Seat Management contract, which is a multibillion-dollar contract for several companies to sell desktop outsourcing services to the government.

FTS will not have the extra cost of having both desktop PCs at the office and laptops for employees to use on travel or when working from home, he said.

Flat screens take up less space and use less power, resulting in another savings for the agency, Suda said. "And there is less eye strain, because there is less glare," he said.

Mac Oxford, vice president of seat management services for PRC, had high praise for the new site. "What GSA is doing at WillowWood is an opportunity to stand out and show how technology can be made to work," he said.

GSA also is working with Lucent Technologies of Murray Hill, N.J., to install wireless local area network connections.

Using the wireless LAN, employees will be able to go meetings in the building with their laptops and connect to the network without having to worry about finding outlets to plug into, Suda said.

Also on display at the new offices is videoconferencing equipment from PictureTel Corp. of Andover, Mass., Suda said.

FTS has plans to continually update the technology being used at the offices, Suda said. "We want to show our customer what the vendors on our contracts can do," he said.

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