Archive for February 2009
Editor’s note: Updated at 3:45p ET
Godspeed to GSA legend Nancy Potter
It seems to be one of those days, but… we also get news today that GSA legend Nancy Potter passed away yesterday at the age of 80. Potter was GSA’s longest serving employees when she retired on Dec. 12, 2007 after a 63-year career in federal service.
I have been getting comments coming in about Potter.
* GSA Federal Acquisition Service’s deputy commissioner Tyree Varnado: “Nancy was an “institution” at GSA. There was no one more respected nor knowledgeable of the federal budget process.”
* Former GSAer Bob Suda: “She truly bled GSA. One of the finest people you will ever meet.”
* Frank Pugliese, formerly the commissioner of GSA’s then Federal Supply Service and now with Dupont: “She was a TERRIFIC example of an exceptional civil servant. They don’t make anymore like Nancy. She helped and mentored many people along the way — including me. She will be greatly missed.”
Here is the item sent to GSA employees:
GSA Mourns the Passing of Nancy Potter
The longest-serving employee in U.S. General Services Administration history passed away on Feb 26 at 80.
Nancy Potter began her federal career in 1945 as a clerk with the Federal Works Agency, the predecessor organization that would eventually become GSA four years later. As a witness to GSA’s creation, she was a part of, and assisted in, the agency’s creation under authorities in the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949, which established the provision of services and facilities to support the needs of other federal agencies.
Throughout her career at GSA, Potter served with an unsurpassed level of distinction and dedication, receiving numerous awards and citations, including GSA’s Distinguished Service Award, the agency’s highest honor. In March 1979, Potter assumed the responsibilities of deputy director, Office of Budget, in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, from which she retired in January 2008 after having worked for every GSA administrator.
“Public service is a noble calling,” she said when asked for her advice to the next generation of public servants during an agency celebration commemorating her exemplary contributions to GSA’s history. “Whatever your role, always remember that our mission is to help our country and our fellow citizens.”
GSA has lost its living legend, but the imprint of her contributions to GSA live on. “Nancy will be greatly missed by those of us who knew her, learned from her, and held enormous respect for her knowledge of federal budget policy and appropriate law,” said Kathleen Turco, chief financial officer.
If you ever doubt the work that government employees do, read Potter’s words at her retirement party after the break — and then bookmark this page. She is representative of so many government employees who are passionate about helping government carry out its mission more effectively.
Ms. Potter — godspeed.
Again, as I get details, I will update this post with information about services and where people can make contributions.
Again… read Potter’s retirement comments and GSA’s release on her retirement after the break…
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In what I think is a very powerful step, the director of the Office of Management and Budget Peter Orszag is re-joining the blogosphere.
As I mentioned back in November, as the head of the Congressional Budget Office, Orszag posted to a public blog. (I have a link to his final CBO blog post here.) Well, he’s back.
The Office of Management and Budget has redesigned its Web site and it includes… a blog… and the first post — Discipline, Efficiency, Prosperity — is by Orszag.
One of the things Orszag was known for at his last position in the Congressional Budget Office was his ability and commitment to explaining the details of budget evaluations in a straightforward way, whether that was in a Congressional hearing or on his CBO blog. He’s showing his continued commitment on that front today by launching his own blog and the newly redesigned OMB site. He has his first post up walking through the context and the outlook on the budget — it’s worth reading in full, here’s his take on the health care provisions in the budget:
“Reforming health care. At the President’s direction, we have begun the process of doing a line-by-line review of the Budget. One of the lines we’ve started with is among the most important to the budget and to many other aspects of our economy: health care.
“As I have long said, health care is the key to our nation’s fiscal future – and there are substantial efficiency improvements that are possible to deliver better results at lower costs in the health system. In the Recovery Act and in this Budget, we begin to make the investments necessary to bring about these efficiencies over the long-term—such electronic health records and comparative effectiveness research—and also identify more immediate saving measures to slow the growth of Medicare and Medicaid spending. These savings are devoted to a health reserve fund, which will be available as we work through the legislative process on health care reform this year. This proposal is a starting point, not an ending point, for health reform as additional resources will be needed to improve and expand health care for all Americans.
At the bottom of this post from the WhiteHouse.gov, you can see Orszag talk about why he thinks blogging is worthwhile.
OMB will get poked for not enabling comments — and I hope they are working on that, but, as I’ve said before , I think that blogging can be very powerful. Having the OMB director post is a powerful toward transparency — and of opening the conversation, tapping into the idea that all of us are smarter then each of us individually.
And I’ll reiterate what some other feds said when they launched the WhiteHouse.gov blog — if the White House and OMB director are blogging, why can’t you and your agency?
The government IT community this week lost one of the greats: Valerie Wallick.
I don’t have many details, but she passed away this week after a battle with cancer. Wallick worked at the Department of Navy and on the Information Technology Resources Board, which was a organization of feds who worked together on improving government performance. They worked behind the scenes — and were interested in making things better. And it is good to remember how long performance has been a challenge for government — this isn’t a new challenge. (Want an interesting read — ITRB’s report, Project Management for Mission Critical Systems . It could have been written today but it is more than a decade old.)
Wallick also served as a senior senior adviser to the John Koskinen, the chairman of the President’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion… and she worked at SAIC for a period after retiring from government.
I will post additional details as I get them. If you get details before I do, pass then along and we will make sure people hear about them.
Wallick was a remarkable and dedicated public servant who worked tireless for better government and for the American people. I know you will join me in honoring her, wishing her godspeed, and offering peace to her family and friends.
The Industry Advisory Council and the American Council for Technology have asked me to moderate a panel on government 2.0 — it’s free at FOSE and you can register by following this link… and, as these things always work, it needed to be done ASAP. But if you want to sound off on what we call this session…
You can read the line-up after the break — it’s a good group — and there seems to be interest. In the first 14-hours after e-mail message went out, they had more than 50 people register. If you’re interested, just follow this link and it will take you to the FOSE registration — the appropriate pass code has been filled out. (And it’s free, so…)
I’ve already received some notes asking what we will talk about — and particularly people asking if this is going to be another “what is this Web 2.0 stuff” session. We are working on the details — and I’d certainly like to hear what people want to talk about.
We may actually poll the audience as we start to get a sense as the levels of Web 2.0 knowledge. That being said, if you want to contribute to the questions, we’d love to tap your insights. We are working on it all here… add questions there… or add it right here…
Again — the details… March 11, 2009 at FOSE at the Washington Convention Center. Full details after the break…
The joke going around the Office of Management and Budget these days is referring to Vivek Kundra as “Voldemort” Kunda — and no, not because he is evil but because he can only be referred to as “You-Know-Who” or “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.”
Kundra, the DC CTO, has all but been appointed to be the OMB administrator of e-government and information technology. But that happened weeks ago but is still not yet official. But there is a curious Kundra conundrum. I was talking to one former OMBers who told me that he could not collect a federal paycheck until he was officially appointed. That lead some to speculate that he was still on the DCpayroll. But insiders are saying that, in fact, Kundra has been sworn in and is on the OMB payroll — yet still not announced?
There is another significant appointment that apparently falls in the “She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” category: Beth Simone Noveck. Noveck is a law professor at New York Law School and is apparently working in the Office of Science and Technology Policy. I have posted her bio after the break, but… Noveck worked on the Patent and Trademark Office’s “Community Patent Review project in collaboration with the United States patent and Trademark Office (www.peertopatent.org). Peer-to-Patent is the legal, policy and software framework to open patent examination for public participation for the first time.”
The White House has made some key appointments. For example, the White House named Macon Phillips as the White House director of new media — again, something that everybody knew. There are a number of other people in the new media team including, of course, Katie Jacobs Stanton.
Read Noveck’s full bio and some of the other senior agency appointments… after the break
On Wednesday, literally during Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, we had a sudden read alert — had the CTO been named?
It came in the form of a press release with this headline: “CONNOLLY & MORAN URGE OBAMA TO CHOOSE CHOPRA FOR TECH POST”
Yes, now we see the key word there — “urge.” But we’re all on the edge of our seat for an announcement — everybody is still shocked that there are all these backed-up announcements. More on that in a moment. But first, more on the release itself…
The above mentioned release comes from Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Jim Moran (D-VA) — a release that neither have posted on their Web sites, I might add — who had sent a letter to President Obama earlier this week urging the administration to select Anish Chopra, the Virginia Secretary of Technology and a person widely beleived to be on the Obama CTO short list.
One of the interesting things is that we’re getting a glimps about what transparency means to Team Obama — data gets shared in some areas but not in others. For example, everybody knows that Vivek Kundra, the CTO for the Washington, DC government, has been named the OMB administrator of e-government and information technology — the former Mark Foreman-Karen Evans job. In fact, Kundra has meet with the federal CIO Council — twice. Yet everybody walks around as if it isn’t the case like something out of the Emperor’s New Clothes.
That being said, I have posted Connolly and Moran’s release after the break… and the Feb. 19 letter that they sent to President Obama.
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Collaborators collaborating around collaboration — what a concept. That is essentially what the newly created Government 2.0 Club is — and the Government 2.0 Club is holding an event — the Government 2.0 Camp. The marvelous thing about the event is that it is being created by people who care about this stuff — by the attendees. People refer to it as an un-conference.
The remarkable thing is that the event — held Friday and Saturday, March 27-28, 2009 in Washington, DC — is sold out. All 500 slots are filled. The price is right — free. People can still be added to the waiting list by clicking here.
Today on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, we spoke to Peter Corbett, the CEO of iStrategy Labs, talking about the club… the event… and how it all works. Hear our conversation here.
You can get more information about how all of this works from this video.
And much more information about the Government 2.0 Club can be found at government20club.org … You can also get more information about how to follow the Government 2.0 Camp here … and after the break.
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There is all sorts of consternation right now about the stimulus bill. There is all sorts of concern about the money flow itself, which is more like a fire hose. Many agency executives are concerned that agencies simply do not have the resources to deal with it — and that it will end up being a field day for auditors. That could be balanced out by the transparency, yet most agency executives I’ve spoken to simply don’t believe that the transparency will end up being a reality in the short term.
We’ve had a number of interviews on Federal News Radio 1500 AM about the stimulus package. Find a number of them here… and Monday on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, we spoke to Washington Management Group’s Bill Gormley … and even SRA International President and CEO Stanton Sloane… and earlier we spoke to Robert Burton, the former deputy administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy who is now a partner with the Venable law firm. If you listen to those conversations carefully, you can hear a good deal of nervousness — concern about the amount of money that is going to be poured through the system with simply inadequate number of people to deal with all of thefacets of it.
The Washington Post leads with a look at how the success of the stimulus package will be determined by whether officials in all levels of government can disburse the money quickly and efficiently. Many agencies and offices will have more money than ever before to carry out their missions and are trying to figure out the best way to distribute the cash. The package is “the ultimate test of government’s ability to deliver,” declares the Post.
The concern, of course, is that this simply isn’t a fair test. Remember that there has already been a enormous increase in contractingdollars in recent years, starting under President Clinton. Yet the Clinton administration liked to boast that it actually cut the size of the federal workforce — remember the era of big government being over? There are many feds who are deeply concerned that agencies are simply going to beoverwhelmed.
Furthermore, the transparency is going to be difficult at best. Example A is the 60-plus page memo from OMB. But beyond that, the simple fact is that USASpending.gov was developed over more than a year — and it still doesn’t have the kind of near real-time functionality that the Obama administration is looking to get out of Recovery.gov.
Nobody disagrees with the goals. The question is whether it is possible in such a short period of time.
Many of the people I have spoken to recommend that the Obama administration step up hiring of procurement personnel. And then the recommend giving agencies some leeway on the transparency — make it a goal to have the fully functional site running within 6- or 12-months.
Finally, on a lighter note… talk about being at the right URL at the right time — or buying the right URL at the right time. Vice President JoeBiden last week missed it by a dot com.
This from the WP over the weekend:
For nearly two years, the Obama team made successfully using cutting-edge new media look deceptively simple. Since entering the White House, though, the truth has been laid bare: running a successful Web operation using new technologies is an exercise in successful glitch management. From e-mail outages to not posting promised information online, there have been glitches aplenty as the new administration has settled into its government quarters.
Today, a new glitch — in the form of a misstatement by Vice President Biden — arose to direct 80 mayors visiting the White House to a private-sector Web site instead of the government’s own stimulus-bill spending tracking site.
“We’ve already set up a Web site, Recovery.com, which will show where and how the money is being spent,” the vice president told the leaders of the United States Conference of Mayors during a speech in the East Room of the White House. “The public can actually go on a Web site and see how we’re spending this money.”
But the stimulus site is not Recovery.com — it’s Recovery.gov. Recovery.com and Recovery.org earlier today both redirected to the commercial Web research company Onvia, a NASDAQ-traded $20 million business that’s been tracking government spending for a decade and that’s now also in the business of helping businesses secure government contracts being doled out under the stimulus bill.
The glitch was short-lived; informed of the vice president’s statement, Onvia quickly implemented redirects on Recovery.com and Recovery.org — sites purchased by the company around the time the first House version of the stimulus bill was made public, according toOnvia senior vice president Eric Gillespie, with the goal of ultimately building them out as information sources providing even more granular documentation of how stimulus monies are being allocated than the government’s site.
Ah, what a difference a .gov makes.
I missed it late last week but it is definitely worth watching — PBS’s Charlie Rose conversation with Marc Andreessen , co-founder and chairman of Ning and an investor in several start-ups including Digg, Plazes, and Twitter.
Andreessen, of course, is best known for creating Netscape, but he has had a storied career and is simply a remarkable thinker.