Welcome to the forum.
Can you tell us all about your Project and Assets? This ARTICLE will give you some tips.
Next, there might well be something useful in this ARTICLE, but for much, you will probably need to cordinate with your IT department. Down that article are links to others, and many address Memory & Resource issues.
This is a government issued computer, meaning it is routinely updated and taken care of
Hmmm. Probably means that you have big name antivirus software installed. McAfee is well known in these forums for crippling PRE. If you can try and disable realtime scanning during your use of PRE and see if that helps.
Insanity is hereditary, you get it from your children
Unless this is a SPECIALTY laptop designed for video editing, such as this Laptop Video Editing PC http://www.sagernotebook.com/ or equal, that means you will BARELY be able to edit SD video... but no HD at all
Trying to use only ONE Hard Drive for Video Editing
You are a music conductor, with a baton that you use to point to various parts of the orchestra... this is like Windows pointing to various parts of the hard drive to do Windows housekeeping or to load program segments for various functions
Now, at the same time and with the same hand... while still using the baton to conduct the orchestra... pick up a bow and play a fiddle... this would be doing something with your video file at the same time as all the other work
You as a person cannot do both at the same time with the same hand
A computer is a LITTLE better, in that it can switch from one kind of task to another very quickly... but not quickly enough for EASY video editing
You need AT LEAST two hard drives (separate drives, never a partition http://forums.adobe.com/thread/650708?tstart=0 for more) with Windows (or Mac OS) and software on your boot drive, and video files on a 2nd drive so the boot drive is not slowed down by trying to do everything
I find that the three drives I use work very well for me, for editing AVCHD video... some people use a 4th drive, so video INPUT files are on drive three and all OUTPUT files are on drive four... I only bought a mid-tower case instead of a full tower case (my bad... but had to fit in the space available on my office desk!) so I use the three drives that will fit
Depending on your exact hardware (motherboard brand & model AND USB2 enclosure brand & model AND external hard drive brand & model) AND the type of video file, you may... or may NOT... be able to use an external USB2 hard drive for video editing
Steve Grisetti in the Premiere Elements forum http://forums.adobe.com/thread/856208?tstart=0 and Jim Simon in the Premiere Pro forum http://forums.adobe.com/thread/856433?tstart=0 use USB externals for editing
A USB3 hard drive connected to a motherboard with USB3 is supposed to be fast enough for video editing (I don't have such, so don't know) but eSata DOES have a fast enough data transfer for video editing... I have not used this eSata Dock... for reference only, YMMV and all the usual disclaimers
Does your computer have at least 30 gigabytes of free, freshly defragmented space on its C drive?
When was the last time it had its spyware and tmp files cleared off?
What kind of camcorder is your video coming from? As noted in the earlier post, you've barely got the power to edit standard miniDV with that laptop. You will not likely to be able to edit hi-def or, especially, Flip or AVCHD video on that machine without a lot of lugging and slow performance. Especially with version 7.