Archive for the ‘transparency’ Category
04.17.2012 DorobekINSIDER: Can Ping Pong helps you innovate?; Making budget transparency easy; the 411 on online training
On Today’s DorobekINSIDER for Tuesday April 17, 2012:
- The science behind innovation – and how showering, napping and ping pong fit into the process. Really…ping pong makes people more creative. You’ll learn how with a new book called Imagine: How Creativity Works. (We even talk about the bathrooms at Pixar.)
- Are there new ways to look at how government formulates budget — including making them more transparent? We’ll break them down with Matthew Hall from Open Plans.
- The GSA conference spending scandal has put training in jeopardy. So how do you train your people and still come in under budget. Advice from Steve Ressler the Founder of GovLoop.
Air and Space Museum this morning — landing at Washington’s Dulles International Airport and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center. But before it landed the shuttle made a swing past the National Mall.
Here is some footage from our own GovLoop team!
The EIGHT stories that impact your life your government world…
- Former GSA Administrator Martha Johnson has apologized for the lavish spending at the 2010 Western Regions Conference. Johnson told House lawmakers at a hearing on Capitol Hill that she regrets rewarding conference organizer Jeffrey Neely with a bonus. The Wall Street Journal says Neely who was also at the hearing declined to make a statement citing his fifth amendment rights.
- The Defense Department says there might be more military personnel involved in misconduct before President Obama’s trip to Colombia. Five additional Defense Department employees were seen on a video carousing with the 11 secret service agents at the center of the probe. The Washington Post says 11 Secret Service agents have already been placed on leave amid allegations they entertained prostitutes, potentially one of the most serious lapses at the organization in years.
- The time it takes to retire is dwindling. The Office of Personnel Management has put in extra effort to fix its long-standing pension processing backlog. OPM says they owe their success to process improvements. Federal Times says OPM’s Director John Berry outlined the new strategy last January that called for a combination of increased staffing, streamlined processes, improved information technology and better cooperation with other agencies. So far this year the agency has reduced the backlog by more than 14%.
- The Justice Department has known for years that flawed forensic work might have led to the convictions of potentially innocent people nationwide. But the Washington Post says prosecutors failed to notify defendants or their attorneys even in many cases they knew were troubled. The DOJ started reviewing cases in the 1990s after reports of sloppy work by examiners at the FBI lab. But the officials only reviewed a small portion of the cases. The Justice Department claims they’ve met their legal and constitutional obligations when they learned of specific errors, that they alerted prosecutors and were not required to inform defendants directly.
- The GSA is boosting its mileage reimbursement rate. Now federal commuters who use their own cars to drive to work can expense an additional 4.5 cents per mile. GovExec says the new law takes effect today.
- Reported military sexual assaults are on the rise. Government Executive says the Defense Department saw a total of 3,192 reported incidents, a 1 percent increase over fiscal 2010. In the last year the DoD has implemented new policies designed to combat sexual assaults, including expanded legal assistance and expedited transfers for victims, as well as a longer retention of forensic evidence and investigative reports, according to the Defense report.
- Air Force Times, “Tech. sgts. take heat after receiving medals,” by Jeff Schogol: “Within the span of a week, two female airmen who were awarded the Bronze Star have been targeted by cyber bullies who claim they do not deserve their awards, generating a wider discussion of who should be eligible for the Bronze Star Medal and whether the Air Force issues too many of the medals.”
- DARPA is looking for more power-efficient computing systems. The Pentagon’s research arm says existing computer systems don’t process data quickly enough for military operations. Next Gov reports intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems today have senSors that collect far more information than can be processed in real time.
– Emily Jarvis
03.28.2012 DorobekINSIDER: Frank’s career corner – the ‘who’ question; making diversity matter; are LinkedIn resumes honest?
Happy Wednesday… And a glamorous night ahead… Federal Computer Week’s annual Fed 100 Awards Gala… Looking forward to seeing some of you there and honoring the winners… and then tomorrow, I’m moderating a panel at the Acquisition Excellence 2012 conference… we’re talking about what doing more with less means for acquisition. And we’ll bring you highlights here on the DorobekINSIDER.
Before we get to the rest of the days news… a few items up front…
The lack of transportation bill: And we’ll go into more in the news, but… yes, there are only a few days for Congress to take action on the highway bill or it is highway Armageddon… well, that’s what The Washington Post calls it. The House again dodged efforts to move forward. Everybody keeps thinking that this will get resolved, right, because… well, really? Politico says that it is looking bleak. They say it looks eerily similar to previous struggles… we all remember the good times around the stalemate over government spending bills… or the showdown over increasing the borrowing cap… and, of course, the payroll tax holiday. We’ll see. There are only a few days left. Saturday is the big day.
Supreme Court health care arguments: And we have to mention the continuing arguments about healthcare before the U.S. Supreme Court. Today is the third and final day. And if you have some time, it is well worth your time to listen to the arguments. These days, it is difficult to find really smart discussions and debates about real issues, the arguments before the Supreme Court meet those criteria. They are smart. Yesterday, the question was about the mandates: Can the federal government require citizens to buy a good or service. Today, the discussion is about severability: if the Court rules the mandate is unconstitutional, how much of the law can survive?
- Heard the audio…also here [HT: PBS NewsHour]
- Read the transcript [PDF]
- SCOTUSblog: The ‘plain English’ summary of the arguments
- WashingtonPost.com WonkBlog: The 3 ways the Court could rule against Obamacare’s mandate
Keyboard pants: And… You may know somebody with fancy pants. Well, what about keyboard pants. That’s right — they are jeans with a built-in keyboard… and they are designed for… maybe… public works crews, police, emergency responders and the military… they have a wireless rubber keyboard that is sewn into the midsection. The idea comes from the Netherlands… They have a set of speakers, a wireless mouse and a keyboard… all integrated into the jeans… and they bring a whole new meaning to the phrase, Is that a keyboard in your pocket?
On today’s program…
- Are you happy in your career? Yes — happy and career can go together. Frank DiGiammarino will walk us through the first step of the career framework.
- Diversity in the federal workforce — does it matter? or is it just another mandate? We’ll talk to Tom Fox of the Partnership for Public Service.
- And that traditional resume… and the one people put on, say, LinkedIn. Which is more accurate? We’ll talk to the person who has actually done research to determine the answer.
All that ahead…
But after the break… we start with the stories that impact your life for Wednesday the 29 of March, 2012… your government world in 120-seconds…
03.27.2012 DorobekINSIDER: A Yelp for government healthcare; Budget transparency; using virtual worlds at work
And we have to start out with the historic debate at the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday over the health care bill — the first of three days of talks. The Washington Post notes that Monday was just the warm-up — arguments about whether the Supreme Court should take up the health-care case at all. Today, the focus is on mandates: Essentially, can the federal government require that all people buy health care. And Slate says that the arguments Monday showed the Supreme Court at its best. Slate says that arguments Monday showed that court doing what it does best: Taking complex old statutes and asking practical qauestions. Dahlia Lithwick says that while protesters outside were hollering about religion and freedom, the justices were boring those inside almost senseless with statutory construction. And, she says, “sometimes, check that, most of the time, boring is what the justices do best.”
- The SCOTUS blog has been covering the health care arguments coverage
- Read the transcript of day one [PDF from the SCOTUS]
- Hear audio from day one of the proceedings from SCOTUS blog… and on SoundCloud
And we go from talking about how benefits of being boring… Well, here is a reason to go online… You’ve probably heard of the Twitter feed… well, it is S my Dad Says… Yes, use your imagination. It is the Twitter feed that was a short-lived TV show. Well, now there is S that bureaucrats say… hat tip to GovLoop member Mike Kujawski… We have the link online… and my guess is this will go viral and be much discussed around government water coolers… and yes, it is safe for work.
On today’s program…
- They’re debating health care at the Supreme Court. What if there was something like a Yelp of Government Healthcare… something that could help veterans navigate the confusing world of healthcare with dashboards.. and sharing information. We’ll talk about that…
- Making budgets transparent. It has been the goal of the federal Web site, USAspending.gov. But state and local governments have been doing this for some time… and there are some new rankings out… grades, really… for how they are doing. We’ll talk to the people behind the budget transparency grades…
- And yesterday we told you about the virtual worlds conference. And I heard some of you roll your eyes and say that this is just game playing. Today, we’ll talk about how these tools can actually be used — and, yes, how they can save you money.
- And later in the program… What do Conan O’Brien, Cory Booker, Sesame Street’s Grover, Suze Orman, Ted Leo, Neil Patrick Harris and NASA have in common? We will tell you about an award that NASA has won…
All that ahead…
But as we do each day, after the break… we start with the stories that impact your life for Tuesday the 27 of March, 2012… your government world in 120-seconds…
03.07.2012 DorobekINSIDER: Leading the Recovery Board; our information diet; and bosses trading places
Today on GovLoop INsights’ DorobekINSIDER:
- There is a new chief watchdog at the Recovery, Accountability and Transparency Board. It’s a visible job. She takes over from Earl Devaney. And she has a tough task leading an organization that could sunset is a little over a year. We’ll introduce you to Kathleen Tighe later in the program.
- You watch what you eat, but do you watch what you read? and watch? and listen to, for that matter? and click on? We’ll talk about OUR role in defining the meadia culture out there… we’re going to talk to Clay Johnson, author of the book The Information Diet.
- And have you seen the TV show Undercover Boss? We’ll talk to a professor about the advantages of walking in somebody else’s shoes.
After the break… the stories that impact your life for Wednesday March 7th, 2012… your government world in 120-seconds…
For the past several years, I have been hosting something I call the DorobekINSIDER Book Club — it is something like the Oprah Book Club but more wonky. Essentially, we select a book that is tied to my favorite words: It helps the government do its job better. We invite the author… and then we invite a fed — or feds — to talk about how that book impacts how you do your job.
And, in fact, the books we have selected are usually chosen by government people themselves.
I’ve been very lucky — I’ve hosted some great authors and remarkable books… and we’ve had amazon people from the government world join in the discussion. (Previous meetings are in the liner notes below.)
This week, we held the latest ‘meeting’ of the book club — the book is by Peter Sims — Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries.
I used to hold the book club discussions on the radio. But now, we get to do them the way book clubs are supposed to be held: In person. I got to lead a discussion at the 2012 Adobe Government Assembly hosted by 1105 Media. And it was a great discussion. We had Peter Sims and we were joined by Dave McClure, the Associate Administrator of GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, who is one of the brightest people I know.
I mentioned earlier, “Little Bets” was recommended by Peter Levin, the chief technology officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs — an agency which has historically been bogged down in projects that were over budget and way beyond the schedule. And Levin has tried to institute “lay-ups” to get some momentum within the agency. Levin and VA CIO Roger Baker have made remarkable progress, by all accounts.
The book club conversation is wide ranging — and we talk about challenges that agencies face.
But we’d love to get your thoughts. We’ve created a page on GovLoop, and I hope you’ll add your thoughts and ideas about the conversation… and I hope you’ll read the book and suggest ideas for how to make little bets work within your agency or organization… what works… and what doesn’t? How do you make ‘little bets’ actually happen?
Meanwhile… the full discussion…
After the break, the liner notes:
The Office of Management and Budget has just issued a new policy for dealing with Internet “cookies” — these are text files that a Web site can put on your computer to track how you traverse the site.
Cookies enable Web site personalization — for example, the allow a Web site to remember you and, maybe, the items you put in your online shopping cart. But they have always been watched by some privacy advocates because of the potential implications — for example, they could track a visitor’s travels to other sites. [Read how cookies work here... and how to delete them here.]
The federal government has been all but banned from using persistent Internet cookies because of those privacy concerns. OMB has just issued new policy guidance would enable agencies to use this tool. And Federal News Radio’s Max Cacas reported on the new policies on the Dorobek Insider on Friday. You can find his report here.
This is an issue I’ve followed for a long time (here is the FCW editorial I wrote on the subject back in 2006) — and, to be honest, I’m suspicious of the new policy. That being said, I have just started reading them.
The new OMB policy seeks to re-balance the privacy considerations given that the ban was instituted more than a decade ago. The idea: Times have changed and people are more accepting of these tools.
As I say, I’m reading the policies now, but… It is important to be very clear — agencies were absolutely not banned from using cookies. They had been banned from using PERSISTENT cookies — cookies that can track you long term. I didn’t get a chance to read all the comments that came in — and unfortunately OMB has not kept those comments online. And I still have to read the policies, but… I have year to hear a convincing argument why agencies must have persistent cookies. Some argue that the private sector does it, but that argument is specious — the government is not the private sector. In the end, it doesn’t matter what the private sector does. (Should government follow the Facebook privacy model?)
I’m reading the new policies with an open mind, but… I’m very suspicious.
The 2010 cookie/federal Web privacy policies:
* OMB policy M-10-22: Guidance for Online Use of Web Measurement and Customization Technologies [PDF] [Scribd]
* OMB policy M-10-23: Guidance for Agency Use of Third-Party Websites and Applications [PDF] [Scribd]
How these came about…
Giving OMB credit, they tried to evolve these policies in a relatively public way. As I seem to say a lot these days, I think they could have developed it in a public way. That being said, it would be nice if the comments were still available.
Here were some of the discussion:
By federal CIO Vivek Kundra and Michael Fitzpatrick, associate administrator of OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Policy
In June 2000, the OMB Director issued a memorandum (M-00-13, later updated by M-03-22) that prohibited Federal agencies from using certain web-tracking technologies, primarily persistent cookies, due to privacy concerns, unless the agency head approved of these technologies because of a compelling need. That was more than nine years ago. In the ensuing time, cookies have become a staple of most commercial websites with widespread public acceptance of their use. For example, every time you use a “shopping cart” at an online store, or have a website remember customized settings and preferences, cookies are being used.
* WhiteHouse.gov blog post: Enhancing Online Citizen Participation Through Policy [June 16, 2009]
By Kundra and Fitzpatrick
Last week, Vivek Kundra and Katie Stanton talked about the efforts underway to introduce more Web 2.0 technologies to the federal government sites and to open more back-and-forth communication between the American people and the government. Some of this naturally requires the adoption of new approaches and innovative technologies. But another big part of this is updating existing practices and how these tools can be used to break down barriers to communication and information.
We continue to ask for your feedback, but the best feedback is informed feedback. So what follows is background on current policies and some examples of what we’ve heard from you during the Brainstorming phase of our outreach.
Here is the specific section on cookies:
* WhiteHouse.gov blog: Cookies Anyone (the http kind)? [July 24, 2009]
By Bev Godwin, who was on assignment to the White House at the time. She is currently GSA’s Director of USA.gov and the Office of Citizen Service’s Web Best Practices Office
Nine years ago – a lifetime in Internet time – the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a policy commonly referred to as “the cookies policy. “This policy prohibited federal agencies from using certain web-tracking technologies, primarily persistent cookies, unless the agency head provided a waiver. This may sound like arcane, boring policy – but it is really important in the online world.
Unfortunately in this post, Godwin points to a site where people could post comments — http://blog.ostp.gov/2009/07/24/cookiepolicy. Unfortunately that page doesn’t seem to exist. It would be great to see the comments now.content is important to our citizens. We can use that data to improve the content and navigation of our sites.”
* WhiteHouse.gov blog post: On Cookies [August 11, 2009]
By Kundra and Fitzpatrick
Our main goal in revisiting the ban on using persistent cookies on Federal websites is to bring the federal government into the 21st century. Consistent with this Administration’s commitment to making government more open and participatory, we want federal agencies to be able to provide the same user- friendly, dynamic, and citizen-centric websites that people have grown accustomed to using when they shop or get news online or communicate through social media networks, while also protecting people’s privacy.
It is clear that protecting the privacy of citizens who visit government websites must be one of the top considerations in any new policy. This is why we’ve taken such a cautious approach going forward and why we felt it so important to get feedback and hear from people on this. While we wanted to get people’s ideas for improving our policy, we also needed to hear any concerns so that we could understand better where potential pitfalls might lie.
Going back a decade… some of the discussion that led to the persistent cookie ban.
[The CIO Council] strongly support the requirement that the use of any technology, including persistent cookies, to track the activities of users on web sites be approved personally by the head of the executive department (for the 14 executive departments) or agency.
As we make progress towards electronic government, personalization of web sites, typically done through persistent cookies, may become necessary in order to serve our customer’s requirements. At that time, it would be appropriate for OMB to review the “no delegation” policy in light of the then-current “state-of-the-art” in privacy protections. For example, OMB may decide to relax this policy when customers are given a choice of selecting either a personalized (i.e., with persistent cookie) or non-personalized (no persistent cookie) web experience.
* Letter from Spotila to Baker, clarification of OMB Cookies Policy (September 5, 2000)
We are concerned about persistent cookies even if they do not themselves contain personally identifiable information. Such cookies can often be linked to a person after the fact, even where that was not the original intent of the web site operator. For instance, a person using the computer later may give his or her name or e-mail address to the agency. It may then be technically easy for the agency to learn the complete history of the browsing previously done by users of that computer, raising privacy concerns even when the agency did not originally know the names of the users.
* M-00-13, Privacy Policies and Data Collection on Federal Web Sites (June 22, 2000)
* M-99-18, Privacy Policies on Federal Web Sites (June 2, 1999)
DorobekINSIDER: The blog becomes a radio show… and programming changes at Federal News Radio 1500 AM
There will be some changes coming to Federal News Radio 1500 AM.
We told you last week that Jane Norris, who has been one of the anchors on Federal News Radio 1500 AM for the four years, is moving into private industry joining Deloitte. We got to talk to her about her tenure here.
Federal News Radio Program Director Lisa Wolfe will join us next week to talk about some of the changes she is making to the station. Needless to say, Norris’s departure is leading a number of other changes. (And this is a bit of a preview — the official announcement comes early next week… and we will walk to Wolfe next week, but… )
Here is what will be happening starting Monday, May 17:
My co-anchor, friend and my “work wife,” Amy Morris, will join the Federal Drive working with Tom Temin… And the afternoon drive program will change — the Daily Debrief will go and, on May 17, it becomes the DorobekINSIDER… on the radio.
We are still working on what exactly the DorobekINSIDER radio show will be — and thoughts are more than welcome.
The way that I have been describing the show is Charlie Rose, but on caffeine… and/or ‘the federal water cooler — but on the radio.’ The thing I love about PBS’s Charlie Rose Show is that it is almost always thought provoking. It is smart people having a discussion about important issues — and about issues that matter.
So we have gone through an exercise of coming up with the words that would describe the DorobekINSIDER on the radio. Among the words I’ve come up with: buzz… news… connected… innovative… thoughtful… helpful… celebrate success… embrace failure… curious… collaborative… information sharing… helpful… fun… 2.0 (or whatever)… assessing conventional wisdom… challenging conventional wisdom… community… and did I mention fun? Well, it is worth mentioning again.
Turning those words into a radio program is going to be an evolution. The DorobekINSIDER that airs on May 17 will probably be a different program a month later… six months later…
One of the remarkable aspects of Federal News Radio 1500 AM is that we are an ongoing evolution — in some ways, I think the station is really an experiment in radio. It is the first radio station in the world (as far as we know) to move from the dot-com world, to a relatively small frequency, to now blasting on one of the biggest AM frequencies in the Mid-Atlantic. And we are using that booming broadcast voice to reach a community — to you.
We want to continue to push those boundaries — while always keeping our eye on OUR mission: To help the government operate better.
There are a number of questions remaining… for example, I’d love for you to be involved. How do you WANT to be involved?
Yet I have always tried to operate in an open and transparent way. We will address those questions here as they arise… and I hope you will help create the show that accomplishes that mission: To help government operate better.
As we say in radio… stay tuned.
Regular listeners to Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris got a preview of the announcement by the World Bank that they are opening up its treasure trove of data.
The World Bank has posted its data at http://data.worldbank.org.
From the World Bank’s release:
Recognizing that transparency and accountability are essential to development, the World Bank Group is now providing free, open, and easy access to its comprehensive set of data on living standards around the globe — some 2,000 indicators, including hundreds that go back 50 years. The data will be available in Arabic, French and Spanish in addition to English.
“I believe it’s important to make the data and knowledge of the World Bank available to everyone,” said World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick. “Statistics tell the story of people in developing and emerging countries and can play an important part in helping to overcome poverty. They are now easily accessible on the Web for all users, and can be used to create new apps for development. ”
Drawing from numerous data sources and working with statistical partners, the Bank Group has worked intensively to modernize its storehouse of statistics to create data.worldbank.org, a new, user-friendly data access site.
In the coming months, the World Bank will also launch an “Apps for Development” competition, challenging the developer community to create tools, applications, and ”mash-ups” using World Bank data with the goal of producing better tools for understanding development.
I actually heard about this initiative at the recent Transparency Camp 2010 and there was some discussion around the initiative. In fact, there was a lot of discussion about the complexities of this: One World Bank official credited the United States with its level of transparency and said this is a big stretch for many other countries around the world. The U.S. is trying to move from 80 percent to 90 percent, this person said, while much of the rest of the world is trying to get to 50 percent.
A number of people have also said that this is a significant cultural change… for the countries… for the bank…
But this could also be a powerful tool in terms of accountability of the development money spent around the world.
This will be a transparency and open government initiative worth watching.
And, in fact, the United States is watching. Andrew McLaughlin, the U.S. deputy chief technology officer, also has a blog post about the initiative headlined, The World Bank Frees Its Data.
In an exciting advance for the global data transparency movement, the World Bank today launched its Open Data Initiative, releasing more than 2000 data sets that document human development worldwide, including health, business, finance, environment, and social welfare statistics. This is a big deal for openness in development: not only are these high-quality and often unique data sets, but until today they have been available only to paying subscribers.
The World Bank’s new Open Data site has a lot of features that impress us here at the White House Open Government Initiative. The data catalog is well-organized and easy to navigate, with breakdowns by country, topic, and statistical indicator. Some 330 of the data sets have been translated into French, Spanish, and Arabic, with more languages to come. And there are some good, lightweight, built-in visualization tools — for example, check out the charts available in the country profile for Rwanda. We especially like the URL (data.worldbank.org), which echoes our own Data.gov.
Perhaps best of all, the World Bank also released an iPhone app called DataFinder, which enables data search and charts/visualizations on the fly.
Finally, we’re impressed by the World Bank’s plan to encourage the development of applications that make innovative use of all this open data through an “Apps for Development” challenge later this year.
One of the longest running — and somewhat tedious — debates within the government IT community: Does the CIO have a ‘seat at the table.’ I say tedious, but… most people believe it is also critically important. And therefore it garners regular discussion. For example, I moderated a panel at the 2009 Management of Change conference that looked at the changing role of the CIO… NextGov executive editor Allan Holmes when he was at CIO magazine wrote one of the seminal articles on the role of the CIO back in 1996… and just earlier this month, FCW’s John Zyskowski wrote a thoughtful feature story, The CIO 14 years later: Power vs. paperwork.
Despite being around for more than a decade now — CIO posts were created by law in government agencies in 1996 as a result of the Clinger-Cohen Act — the CIO still doesn’t seem to have been fully integrated into the leadership team at most agencies. They aren’t the strategic visionaries that are pushing for an agencies use of technology to help it accomplish its mission more effectively.
There are scores of reasons for that — more of which I’ll detail below. But I think there are some systemic reasons… and things are changing — some good, and some not great.
I’d put the largely unexplained changes going on at the Agriculture Department in the “questionable” category given that, by all accounts, the USDA CIO has been downgraded within the organization. (Frustratingly, I have been unable to get somebody from USDA to explain the details of their reorganization, so it remains the subject of conjecture rather then public discussion. So much for government openness.)
But there has been a quite, fairly significant development at NASA. NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr. has changed the organization chart to give the NASA CIO direct reporting authority to the NASA administration, industry sources tell me and NASA officials have confirmed. But, almost as important, Bolden has changed the reporting authority at the NASA centers around the country report to the NASA CIO with a “dotted line” reporting authority to the individual directors at the centers.
This is a powerful step.
I haven’t been able to determine if the NASA CIO has ‘the power of the purse’ — the Holy Gail in government terms. Currently, the CIO for the Department of Veterans Affairs has spending authority by law. The Homeland Security Department CIO had that authority by policy under former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff. I have not been able to confirm if the current DHS CIO still has that authority.
It is an enormous step if Federal CIO Vivek Kundra wants to actually carry out some of his proposed changes — or any real changes, for that matter. Last week, I got to hear Kundra speak at the Brookings Institution about cloud computing — and he discussed a “cloud first” strategy where agencies will look at the cloud as an option. The fact is that this instituting this kind of change requires changing the “clay layer” within agencies — agency leaders get it, and front line works just want to be able to do their jobs. It is the “clay layer” that blocks much of the government change. And most people like the control and power that comes with having their own server nearby them.
There are many ways to deal with the clay, but… one way in government is through spending, and that requires that CIOs to have the power of the purse. Of course, with that responsibility given to CIOs comes a responsibility to actually listen to people — to not become “CI-NOs,” as too often happens.
Some additional reading:
* OMB 2008 memo on the role of the CIO
A bit before Karen Evans left government, Karen Evans crafted a memo on the role of the CIO. You can read the draft memo for yourself.
* DHS CIO and the ‘power of the purse’ from back in 2007:
Here is FCW’s March 2007 story about the DHS CIO announcement. I also made it FCW’s Buzz of the Week for the week of March 19, 2007… and the following week, in FCW’s editorial, under the headline Show ‘em the money, I gave DHS credit for giving the DHS CIO spending authority over IT spending.
Let’s be honest — innovation in government can be difficult. It isn’t because government workers are less innovative. The the contrary — in my experience, government workers are more victims of bureaucracy then they are purveyors of it. Yet those of us who watch government closely understand the real courage that goes into significant change.
Of course, the government’s anti-innovation reputation is really proposterous. After all, it was the U.S. federal government that spurred the creation of the Internet — and there have been few innovations that have changed all of our lives more then that innovation. But the creation of the Internet, of course, grew from an effort to enable to the government to do it’s job better — the goal was to create a redundant network. Essentially, the innovation grew out of an effort to do business better.
The challenge with government innovation: There is little upside that comes from success, but the risk of failure has significant. To put it simply, the government does tolerate failure — and innovation is difficult, if not impossible, without the chance of failure. (It is one of the reasons why I appreciated Jeff Jarvis’s book, What Would Google Do? — and featured it in the Federal News Radio Book Club last year.)
More recently, there are innovations like the intelligence community’s Intellipedia… TSA’s Idea Factory, since expanded to all of the Homeland Security Department… and even blogs at TSA and the CIOs at the Navy and NASA. (See the case library at the National Academy of Public Administration’s Collaboration Project for scores of examples.)
With that as background, all of that brings me to the Better Buy Project, a marvelous, innovative — and courageous — initiative to try and improve the government procurement process. It is an attempt to tap the wisdom of crowds, openness and transparency to the government contracting and procurement process.
The initiative has had several steps — it started out as a discussion in GovLoop’s Acquisition 2.0 community. It then became a stand-alone initiative by the General Services Administration, the National Academy of Public Administration’s Collaboration Project, and the Industry Advisory Council where the groups simply asked for help by asking — very publicly — ideas about how the government procurement and contracting process can be improved.
The Better Buy Project has reached a significant new milestone — a open, public collaborative platform — a public wiki using the same software that runs Wikipedia. GSA courageously is looking for thoughts on how to build a better contract, specifically focusing on the Data.gov contract… and the effort to replace a GSA servers.
You can read more here. We featured the Better Buy Project last week on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris. We spoke to Mary Davie, Assistant Commissioners of GSA Federal Acquisition Service’s Office of Assisted Acquisition Services, and Chris Hamm is the Operations Director at the GSA Federal Acquisition Service’s Federal Systems Integration and Management Center (FEDSIM).
Some additional resources:
- The Better Buy Project wiki
- The Better Buy Project idea collection site
- The Better Buy Project blog
- Follow @BetterBuyProj on Twitter… or specific updates from @gsa_fedsim
- Federal News Radio Daily Debrief: Update: The Better Buy Project continues to engage public about acquisition [October 28, 2009]
- Federal News Radio Daily Debrief: Government agencies join together for the Better Buy Project [October 14, 2009]