Archive for the ‘Executive’ Category
07.24.2012: GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER: Feds sounding off on government innovation; and making a biz case for open data
- Government innovation — yes, I know people don’t believe those two words can go together. Insights about what YOU think about government innovation from a just released report. We’ll talk to Tom Fox from the Partnership for Public Service.
- Is there a business case for open data… for open government. And how can you make open data work. The Commerce Department is hoping to answer those questions with a new competition. We talk to Brand Niemann — a former fed who has submitted for the Commerce Department’s contest — about open data.
Also… the 7-stories that impact government — another voice sounds off about the STOCK Act and another controversial GSA conference…
And in the DorobekINSIDER watercooler fodder… AC/DC and Iranian nuclear plants.
04.10.2012 DorobekINSIDER: The STOCK Act impact on senior executives; leadership lessons from presidents; and libraries 2.0
There are so many good, interesting stories about government doing good — and those stories are out there, but… we start again today with GSA. Yet another GSA official has been put on leave. The second in command of GSA’s Public Building Service has been placed on leave in the wake of the 2010 conference. The Washington Post reports that David Foley is the fourth senior official at the agency to get swept up as a result of the incident. Desa Sealy was appointed interim deputy commissioner. Linda Chero is acting commissioner, coming in from the Mid-Atlantic region. And lawmakers in both parties are calling for hearings.
The Washington Post’s Joe Davidson says today that all feds pay the price for the GSA scandal. “Workers throughout the government will pay a price, too, and it will continue long after the news releases stop,” Davidson says, and he quotes a note from the Washington Post story that broke the news. That federal employee said:
“Unfortunately for those of us in agencies where a. we don’t have money for conferences to begin with, and b. we aren’t even allowed funds to buy coffee when we have on site meetings, the result of the GSA excesses will be increased scrutiny of all travel and training requests. So all of us, honest thrifty agencies included, will have to jump through more hoops and spend more time justifying everything we do.”
And just to further Joe Davidson’s point: Bloomberg has a story about a Justice Department event, including one in Instanbul on drug enforcement, that cost almost twice as much.
We can only hope that cooler, more rational people will make the case that it is important for government employees get out of their office — to learn, to speak to people. But it is also a reminder that almost every action you take is going to be assessed, analyzed, and yes, critiqued, so these events are going to have to be tied to the mission in some way, shape or form.
One final GSA note before we move on: A blast from GSA’s past, and yes, we mean a blast, in every sense of that word: Former GSA Administrator Lurita Doan appeared on Fox and Friends to offer her thoughts on the GSA situation. And Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson credited Doan for running a tight ship.
One has to remember Doan was fired by the Bush administration not for a contract that she tried to give to her friend that was never awarded, as Fox News suggested. Nor was she fired for allegations that she used her position in the administration to help Republican candidates. She was fired for her mismanagement of the agency. There are many things that can be said about Lurita Doan — and many of the things that were said were unfair. But she did not help GSA — and she did not run a tight ship.
And we all remember this…
GSA aside, we have a good program for you today…
- The STOCK Act… We mentioned this yesterday. This is the law signed by President Obama last week. http://1.usa.gov/HZVlEA Did you know it has some real implications for federal senior executives? I’ve received a bunch of calls and notes about this. We’ll get insights from Bill Bransford, a partner at Bransford and Roth and the attorney for the Senior Executives Assocation.
- Leadership lessons from presidents. We’ll talk to the author of a new book that looks at five presidential leadership qualities with its author Michael Eric Siegel.
- And libraries. They have always played a unique role in communities, but that role is changing — and quickly. We’ll talk to somebody who has looked at how libraries are doing more with less… and are remaining relevant… and surviving.
All that ahead…
But after the break… we start with the stories that impact your life for Tuesday the 10 of April, 2012… your government world in 120-seconds…
He had one of those overhead projectors — yes, really. Apparently they found one in a White House closet.
Then used ASCII. Then PowerPoint. And then an iPad… to show the evolution of tech.
VanRoekel says the aim of his office is to cut down the amount of money agencies spend on technology operations and maintenance so that they can plow that money back into new initiatives.
Since 2009 the federal tech budget has flattened out to roughly $80 billion. So now agencies need to innovate without expanding their budgets. VanRoekel outlined how they can achieve that goal.
- Root out duplication and implement Share First
- Strengthen the role of the CIO
- Data center consolidation – goal is to go down by 40%
- Cloud — implement FedRamp across government this year
VanRoekel says agencies also need to focus on the mission — Focus on Service Delivery
- Maximize investments — growing profit is easier than growing costs
- Address the productivity gap
- Improve business and citizen interactions
- Cybersecurity needs to be incorporated into everything tech
Government cannot work in a silo. VanRoekel compared the data overload to the music industry.
- “Right now government couples data and presentations together. But they need to break it up and find relatedness across platforms. Think of government data like the music industry. You used to buy a whole album from the store. Now you go on iTunes and you can buy one song at a time, not the whole package.”
- “And with iTunes Genius and Pandora similar content is sent directly to you. Government needs to do that with data.”
– Emily Jarvis
03.12.2012: DorobekINSIDER: New media matures – and changes the VA; how to take responsibility; and having good conflicts
The start of our second week… thanks for being here.
And there was some significant news on Friday — a new nominee to be the Obama administration’s chief technology officer — Todd Park. Park has been serving as the chief technology officer at the Department of Health and Human Services. He is an awesome guy… and he has done some remarkable things. We’ll chat about that more later… And HHS has also named Frank Baitman as the new chief information officer at the HHS. Baitman has served most recently at FDA and SSA. That post has been filled in an acting capacity for some time.
We have a great show for you today…
- Remember when everybody was talking about NEW media — you needed a new media person to change how you get information out to the public? Well, that term is becoming passe. But new media — whatever you want to call it — it is more that just messaging. It has really changed the very nature of how organizations work and operate. And we’re going to talk to the person who has led new media at the Department of Veterans Affairs about their challenges in 2012…
- Accountability — we’re always talking about accountability in government, right? As if there isn’t enough accountability… but sometimes people don’t feel really responsible for the agency’s goals and mission. We’re going to talk to a professor who has studied this subject — and he’s written a new book… Stepping Up: How Taking Responsibility Changes Everything. We’ll talk to him about responsibility.
- Ever have a big of a fight with somebody at work? Nothing physical, but… is there a way to have happy conflicts? Seem too good to be true? We’ll talk to an expert about how you can turn a negative into a positive.
All that ahead… but after the break, we start off with the stories that impact your life for Monday 12 March, 2012… your government world in 120-seconds…
Each week, our goal is to where each week, our goal is to find an issue — a person — an idea — then helped define the past 7-days… and we work to find an issue that will also will have an impact on the days, weeks and months ahead. And, as always, we focus on six words: helping you do your job better.
This week, we’re going to get geeky… we’re going to embrace our inner nerd. This week was the annual gadget-a-thon known as CES — the Consumer Electronics Show out in Las Vegas. I got to attend for the first time this year — both to CES and CES Government. One of the key speakers was Steve VanRoekel, the federal chief information officer. And later on, we’ll have highlights of his speech, and talk about what it means for you.
Also later on, we’ll have our weekend reading list — the weekends are a good time to rejuvenate — but also some time to take a step back and ponder. And we’ll have some reading that may guide you as you work to think outside of the box.
But after the break, we’ll have our look at the week that was for the second week of January 2012… plus the full Week in Review…
But first… a quick review of the other stories that were news for the last week of October…
We start with the technology story of the week… which was… the first speech [PDF] by the new federal CIO, Steve VanRoekel. Unfortunately he didn’t speak to an audience of government executives — the 21st annual Executive Leadership Conference was going on this week. VanRoekel decided to speak to an audience in California — specifically, at Palo Alto’s storied PARC headquarters.
That aside, it was the federal CIO’s first speech since he took that post nearly three months ago. And he stressed that his focus will be to drive innovation in government and make investments in technology that better serve the American people.
He detailed specific initiatives inside each of the administration’s focus areas — maximizing IT return on investment, improving citizen and business interaction with agencies, closing the so-called productivity gap and cybersecurity.
I’ll have a round-up of stories about the speech soon on DorobekINSIDER.
Staying in technology… what are the challenges facing state technology executives? The National Association of State CIOs has just published its annual list of the strategies, management processes and solutions [PDF]. Topping the list — it will be no surprise to you: consolidation — and I would add, doing more with less. Number two is budget and cost controls. Security comes in at number six… and mobile comes in at number 10.
The top tech priority for state CIOs, according to NASCIO: virtualization.
Read full list [PDF]… GovLoop is also asking you for your thoughts about the priorities and technologies that will help you do your job.
Our management story of the week… well, it also involves technology… it’s the ongoing troubles with the government’s job site: USAJobs.gov. We’ve told you over the weeks that the Office of Personnel Management rolled out a brand new version of USA-Jobs, but the new site has been plagued with problems. The Washington Post reports that the site would crash repeatedly, error messages popped up over and over, résumés disappeared, passwords were obliterated. In some cases, it even got geography wrong. Searches for Delaware, for example, turning up jobs in Germany. And Federal Computer Week notes those problems were having an impact. An analysis indicates that the number of resumes coming in through the new site is at least 60 percent less than the earlier version. And now lawmakers are asking the federal CIO to step in to help.
In gov 2.0 news… The Department of Veterans Affairs named RelayHealth as the winner of its “Blue Button for All Americans” contest. The Blue Button allows veterans across the country to download their health data. Even better: McKesson’s RelayHealth announced that it is donating the $50,000 prize to the Wounded Warrior Project, which supports programs that assist injured Servicemembers, Veterans and their families. Awesome — all the way around!
Our budget story of the week… is, of course, the super-committee, which is facing a deadline just before Thanksgiving to make its recommendations on cuts. And there is a lot of back-and-fourth fighting going on. At the Executive Leadership Conference this week, a congressional staffer suggested that agencies should expect significant budget cuts. We’ll continue to watch it, of course.
And four recommendations for some reading this weekend…
One from the Harvard Business Review about government start-ups… Government “start-ups” — new agencies, offices, or initiatives — have the potential to be a powerful tool for solving critical policy problems at the local, state, and federal levels. But while creating the “new and the nimble” within an established bureaucracy is a well-known art form in the private sector, governments are still struggling to do it effectively. Read more — we have the link online.
FastCompany has the story about the Silicon Valley’s new hiring strategy for IT: NOT hiring PhDs.
And are you having trouble finding the right person for the right job? In the Wall Street Journal, this week, a piece on why companies are facing the same challenge.
Finally, social media experts… some feel uncomfortable with that title. The EPA’s Jeffrey Levey explains on GovLoop.
But the GovLoop Issue of the Week… the end of October also marks the end of cyber-security awareness month… and this week, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told the Washington Post that she spends a considerable amount of time dealing with cybersecurity threats, including potential attacks on the nation’s infrastructure. (Video)
This week, the Security Innovation Network was holding a conference in Washington assessing ways to help solve the challenges facing government — and there are many of them, and they have been evolving quickly. Robert Rodriguez is the chairman and Managing Principal of the Security Innovation Network. He tells me that things are changing in the age of austerity…
Our issue of the week is about you doing your job better.But, before we get to that… our round-up of the stories that made news for the third week of October 2011…
And we start with your money… where there were were a number of stories. We lead, of course, with the talk — and the likelihood — that pay for feds will be frozen for the third year. The Washington Post says that Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), the chairman of and ranking member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, are also suggesting that the way that feds retirement befits are calculated should be recalculated. And Federal Times notes that the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), and other Republican members on the panel called on the budget supercommittee to extend the federal pay freeze through 2015. They also called on the supercommittee to permanently end “non-performance-based” step increases.
Speaking of that budget supercommittee: Many eyes still watching the work that is going on behind closed doors on Capitol Hill. The Washington Post says there is growing unease that the supercommittee might not do much of anything.
Meanwhile the U-S intelligence agencies are bracing for big budget cuts, Wired’s Danger Room blog reports. The intelligence community is facing a “double digit” percentage cut to its $80 billion annual budget, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said at a conference this week.
And the age of austerity is getting increasingly real for feds. This week, the Justice Department said it may shut down some offices around the country. That angered attorneys working in those cities… and the Government Accountability Office said it may have to consider ferloughs if proposed budget cuts pass.
Very serious issues, but could there be austerity hype? For government tech, maybe, at least according to immixGroup’s Market Intelligence organization. It presented it’s assessment of the budget this week. They said that while continuing resolutions and ongoing budget cuts will have an impact, most federal IT spending requests are slightly ahead of 2011 levels, with buying trends expected to emphasize telework/mobile computing, cloud computing/virtualization, and cybersecurity.
A few other quick money items:
* The unemployment rate for veterans is outpacing the rate for civilians. The Washington Post has the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that showed the unemployement rate for veterans at nearly 12 percent, well above the overall jobless rate of about 9.1 percent.
* And we told you last week about Moneyball managers. Politico this week has the story about Moneyball economics. And they quote White House Office of Management and Budget Associate Director for Performance and Personnel Management Shelley Metzenbaum, who wrote an OMB blog post talking about the Moneyball book and film. Moneyball is about the baseball manager who uses… atypical data to make decisions… Metzenbaum says that could be a model for government agencies. (NOTE: Updated 10.23 to include Metzenbaum’s OMB blog post on the topic.)
The defense story of the week… from the New York Times, which reported that the Obama administration considered using cyber-attacks on Lybian leaders to disrupt and disable the Qaddafi government, but eventually decided to use traditional air strikes. (Last week, we spoke to Mark Bowden – the author and journalist. His most famous work is Black Hawk Down, but his most recent book is Worm: The First Digital World War. Hear that conversation here.)
Our procurement story of the week… The Government Accountability Office sustained a protest of the General Services Administration’s cloud computing contract. GAO essentially recommended a do over. We have a link to Washington Technology’s story and the GAO decision — read it for yourself.
A few big management stories this week…
The 7,000 memmbers of the Senior Executive Service — you’re going to be getting a new performance management system… and soon. Federal Times reports the new system, being finalized by the Office of Management and Budget, aims to evaluate SES members on how well they demonstrate the SES’s five “core qualifications”: leading people, leading change, business acumen, building coalitions and being results driven.
And the management of government technology… specifically… the role of the CIO…
GAO put out its assessment on the role of the federal chief information officer. What is probably little shock to anybody: GAO found that CIOs don’t fully have a full seat at the leadership table in many agencies. (AFFIRM will be holding it’s own assessment on the changing role of the CIO at it’s lunch on November 16.)
Meanwhile, the Federal CIO Council put out it’s thoughts on the critically of what are called integrated program teams. We’ll have more on this later, but you can read why the Federal CIO Council believe they are important online… dorobek insider dot com… and insights.govloop.com.
And just in case you think managing technology is easy, a story out of Canada where that government’s CIO said that it could take a decade to remake that country’s IT structure.
Finally, the Wall Street Journal had a story this week about ways of updating the suggestion box. And we’ve seen that across government. TSA — and now DHS — have their Idea Factory. But here is a way to have your say on waste. the National Academy of Public Administration and the Recovery, Accountability and Transparency Board are looking for your insights on how to find waste, fraud and abuse. You can have your say at fedaccountabilitydialogue.net.
I should mention that the Journal also had a story about the trials and tribulations of having these kinds of open forums. The Journal notes that a White House promised to answer questions raised in an online petition. One petition wants to legalize raw milk sales. Others seek to mandate the spaying and neutering of pets, abolish the Transportation Security Administration and even to “formally acknowledge an extraterrestrial presence engaging the human race.” There is even one to save the Postal Service. There you go.
All of that aside, our issue of the week… is about innovation.
There were a few stories this week about different agencies seeking different ways to be innovative. The New York Times reports that the postal union representing letter carriers’ has hired a former investment banker, and a the financial firm to help craft a plan to breathe some life into the ailing postal service.
There has been a lot of discussion in recent years about how the government can be innovative. Next week, at the Industry Advisory Council’s Executive Leadership Conference, a big focus will be on innovation. And, in fact, we are going to try something a big different — maybe even innovative. As part of that discussion, there will be an UN-session. You have have heard of an un-conference. These are where you don’t have a panel — or even an agenda. You have… well, the people in the room. You tap the wisdom of crowds. At ELC, we are doing an UN-session. When I say we, the UN-session is going to be guided by me… and Kathy Conrad… she is the principal deputy associate administrator of GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies.
I asked her to join me this week to talk about government and innovation… and she says that the government isn’t given enough credit for its innovation — even by government employees…
Kathy Conrad… she is the principal deputy associate administrator of GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies.
Now there are ways that YOU can participate. I’ll post some of our thoughts this weekend on on DorobekINSIDER… and we are creating a GovLoop discussion where you can offer your thoughts… and we are giving people at ELC homework — what are they going to do to be… innovative. And we’re going to follow up and see what works — and what doesn’t. And we hope you will join us for all of that.
And that is our question of the week — what are the biggest challenges to innovation in your organization?
It’s GovLoop — so we’d love to get your thoughts.
Schlosser has been at the Environmental Protection Agency since 2008, initial overseeing the Office of Information Collection and most recently as the principal deputy associate administrator for EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education. Before that, she was the CIO at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. (NOTE: This information has been updated at of 06.02.2011.)
Schlosser is widely respected within the CIO community and she has an impressive resume having experience across a wide variety of issues, including cyber-security. She also served as a military intelligence officer for the Army. Her efforts have also been recognized with Federal Computer Week’s 2008 Fed 100 award and the Laureate Award by the Computerworld Honors Program.
Before HUD, she was the associate CIO and chief information security officer at Transportation Department and she served as the vice-president for Business Operations and Response Services for Global Integrity and a a senior manager for Ernst & Young.
Schlosser is a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves and did a tour of duty in the Middle East during the Iraq war.
Read her full bio after the break:
The Obama administration’s chief performance officer self-assessment of how the federal government is doing so far: “I believe we are off to a good start, and that we are developing the momentum required for meaningful, sustained improvements in how the government works for the American people.”
In a memo to the Senior Executive Service from Jeff Zients, OMB’s Federal Chief Performance Officer and Deputy Director for Management, titled, “The Accountable Government Initiative – an Update on Our Performance Management Agenda,” Zients lays out the administration’s management plan — and how the administration is doing so far.
Here is the memo:
An open letter to OMB Director Peter Orszag:
Dear Mr. Orszag,
I write this with a certain regret. I have tremendous amount of respect for you and the work you have done over the years. And I appreciate the Office of Management and Budget’s initiative to cut waste across government — and improve the use of IT. I have been covering government IT for nearly 20 years — and, as I wrote in Federal Computer Week years ago, I firmly believe that the government can use technology to accomplish its mission more effectively.
And I think the administration has taken a number of positive steps in its first 18 months.
And therefore, I was pleased with Monday’s OMB announcement about the initiative to cut waste by reforming government IT. Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller reported on the policy memos — he has been out in front covering this issue.
There are three steps to the plan:
- Fix federal financial systems — a critical step
- Stepped up and detailed reviews of troubled IT systems
- A plan for improving the federal government’s overall IT procurement and management practices. That plan will come within by October.
I even read the policies [PDF]:
- M-10-27, Information Technology Investment Baseline Management Policy (June 28, 2010)
- M-10-26, Immediate Review of Financial Systems IT Projects (June 28, 2010)
- M-10-25, Reforming the Federal Government’s Efforts to Manage Information Technology Projects (June 28, 2010)
Unfortunately, I was disappointed with your post on the subject. It included this line:
While a productivity boom has transformed private sector performance over the past two decades, the federal government has almost entirely missed this transformation and now lags far behind on efficiency and service quality. We are wasting billions of dollars a year, and more importantly are missing out on the huge productively improvements other sectors have benefited from.
Quite simply, we can’t significantly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the federal government without fixing IT.
The emphasis is mine, not yours. But, to be honest, I found the wording unfair… and disappointing.
A few points:
It is utterly untrue to say that the federal government has “almost entirely missed this transformation.” I have been covering government technology for nearly 20 years. During that time, there have been remarkable strides. Today, IT touches just about every facet of every part of every business in government — and has utterly transformed certain parts of government. In fact, I would argue you would be hard pressed to find a part of government that hasn’t been transformed by IT.
Is there more to be done? Absolutely, and I give you and your team credit for your IT initiative… but it leads to the second point…
Please oh please retire the tired, tedious comparison between the public and private sectors. I would argue that it simply isn’t true because it isn’t a fair comparison. The challenges facing government agencies are, in many ways, larger in scope — and they are more complex — than those faced by most private sector organizations. And there are scores of cases that make this point. The one I often use are Homeland Security’s efforts to secure ports from potential terrorism. That mission can be accomplished: We can enlist resources to stop anything from coming into or out of the country. That would bring trade to a screeching halt — and having the same result on the U.S. economy… clearly not an option. And opening for any and all trade is also not an option. So the federal government has the unenviable task of finding the mix of those black-and-white options — essentially, they have to determine what is the right shade of gray.
That task is even more complex because those decisions are subject to constant hindsight review — sometimes years later. And then layer a complex management structure… within agencies… within the executive branch itself… and within Congress.
And none of this even touches on a almost utterly broken budget process where agencies are assigned money months into the fiscal year — and then told that they must spend it before the end of that fiscal year.
But even beyond that, the public-private comparison is specious because it is overly broad. What are you talking about when you highlight the private sector? Is the model General Motors? AIG?
We all have worked for private sector organizations where we have been amazed by what we deem as inefficiencies — or organizations that have terrible service quality. I now no longer use my United Visa card — put out by Chase Bank — because just about every third charge is rejected. Even worse — try to find a Chase official in their credit card division to contact.
And what are you talking about when you lambaste the public sector? There aren’t any examples of government agencies that use technology effectively?
Last year in AFCEA’s Signal magazine, I pleaded for a stop to this public-private comparison. What is most insidious about this private sector envy like the one in your post is that it feeds the false notion that government cannot do anything right, and that public employees — and public service — are somehow inept. It infers that somehow the problems agencies face are intractable… that government cannot — and does not — change… and that somehow government performance and government innovation are oxymorons.
To be blunt, it is unfair.
And even beyond that, it does something that I know you abhor: It adds no value. It adds nothing to the discussion.
You raise important issues — ones faced by both the public and private sectors — at what point to you cut off a troubled system by making the determination that continuing would be throwing good money after bad. It is a tough decision to make.
But some of the troubled programs mentioned — the Department of Veterans Affair’s financial management system and FBI’s Sentential program — are complex.
In the end, the issues you are facing are not new. I’d point to Raines Rules, published in 1996 by then OMB Director Franklin Raines to get a handle on IT systems.That OMB memo, issued under the title, “Funding Information Systems Investments,” was quickly renamed Raines’ Rules. And it became a seminal document for guiding IT management. The rules issued guidance for complying with the Information Technology Management Reform Act, which eventually became part of the Clinger-Cohen Act. It essentially set the criteria for evaluating major information system investments — and they read as if they could have been issued today.
There are issues — and I think even feds will give you credit for working to fix problems.
Again, I’m not taking away from this initiative — and the work that you and your OMB management team are doing is very important. But the slams against government are unwarranted — and unnecessary. That rhetoric simply is… not helpful, to be kind.
Christopher J. Dorobek