Focusing on six words: Helping government do its job better

Archive for April 2009 Another Obama weekend address, and news on government reform

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Last weekend, President Obama used his weekend address to announce the chief performance officer and the Obama chief technology officer. This week, he was talking government reform. (BTW, reporters just love it when they find out news is breaking over the weekend.) Read the AP story here.

The president offered up a few ideas that impact feds and how they will do their job.

One is cutting programs. The president says that the administration is looking to cut spending and that they will “identify more than 100 programs that will be cut or eliminated.”

Two… we’ll create new incentives to reduce wasteful spending and to invest in what works.

Three… the administration is going to create a process where front-line workers can offer up ideas. (I would recommend the administration look at TSA’s Idea Factory, a Digg-like system that allows front line TSA workers to offer up ideas — and allows others to vote on the best ideas.)

After all, Americans across the country know that the best ideas often come from workers – not just management. That’s why we’ll establish a process through which every government worker can submit their ideas for how their agency can save money and perform better. We’ll put the suggestions that work into practice. And later this year, I will meet with those who come up with the best ideas to hear firsthand about how they would make your government more efficient and effective.

Four… the administration is reaching out to industry.

We will reach beyond the halls of government. Many businesses have innovative ways of using technology to save money, and many experts have new ideas to make government work more efficiently. Government can – and must – learn from them. So later this year, we will host a forum on reforming government for the 21st century, so that we’re also guided by voices that come from outside of Washington.

The transcript can be found here … or below:

Good morning. Over the last three months, my Administration has taken aggressive action to confront an historic economic crisis. As we do everything that we can to create jobs and get our economy moving, we’re also building a new foundation for lasting prosperity – a foundation that invests in quality education, lowers health care costs, and develops new sources of energy powered by new jobs and industries.

One of the pillars of that foundation must be fiscal discipline. We came into office facing a budget deficit of $1.3 trillion for this year alone, and the cost of confronting our economic crisis is high. But we cannot settle for a future of rising deficits and debts that our children cannot pay.

All across America, families are tightening their belts and making hard choices. Now, Washington must show that same sense of responsibility. That is why we have identified two trillion dollars in deficit-reductions over the next decade, while taking on the special interest spending that doesn’t advance the peoples’ interests.

But we must also recognize that we cannot meet the challenges of today with old habits and stale thinking. So much of our government was built to deal with different challenges from a different era. Too often, the result is wasteful spending, bloated programs, and inefficient results.

It’s time to fundamentally change the way that we do business in Washington. To help build a new foundation for the 21st century, we need to reform our government so that it is more efficient, more transparent, and more creative. That will demand new thinking and a new sense of responsibility for every dollar that is spent.

Earlier this week, I held my first Cabinet meeting and sent a clear message: cut what doesn’t work. Already, we’ve identified substantial savings. And in the days and weeks ahead, we will continue going through the budget line by line, and we’ll identify more than 100 programs that will be cut or eliminated.

But we can’t stop there. We need to go further, and we need an all-hands-on-deck approach to reforming government. That’s why I’m announcing several steps that my Administration will take in the weeks ahead to restore fiscal discipline while making our government work better.

First, we need to adhere to the basic principle that new tax or entitlement policies should be paid for. This principle – known as PAYGO – helped transform large deficits into surpluses in the 1990s. Now, we must restore that sense of fiscal discipline. That’s why I’m calling on Congress to pass PAYGO legislation like a bill that will be introduced by Congressman Baron Hill, so that government acts the same way any responsible family does in setting its budget.

Second, we’ll create new incentives to reduce wasteful spending and to invest in what works. We don’t want agencies to protect bloated budgets – we want them to promote effective programs. So the idea is simple: agencies that identify savings will get to keep a portion of those savings to invest in programs that work. The result will be a smaller budget, and a more effective government.

Third, we’ll look for ideas from the bottom up. After all, Americans across the country know that the best ideas often come from workers – not just management. That’s why we’ll establish a process through which every government worker can submit their ideas for how their agency can save money and perform better. We’ll put the suggestions that work into practice. And later this year, I will meet with those who come up with the best ideas to hear firsthand about how they would make your government more efficient and effective.

And finally, we will reach beyond the halls of government. Many businesses have innovative ways of using technology to save money, and many experts have new ideas to make government work more efficiently. Government can – and must – learn from them. So later this year, we will host a forum on reforming government for the 21st century, so that we’re also guided by voices that come from outside of Washington.

We cannot sustain deficits that mortgage our children’s future, nor tolerate wasteful inefficiency. Government has a responsibility to spend the peoples’ money wisely, and to serve the people effectively. I will work every single day that I am President to live up to that responsibility, and to transform our government so that is held to a higher standard of performance on behalf of the American people.

Thank you.

Written by cdorobek

April 25, 2009 at 11:31 AM Breaking news: NAPA’s DiGiammarino to join the Obama administration

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A big appointment for the Obama administration: It has been somewhat known but it is all but official — Frank DiGiammarino is moving to the White House. Starting next month, he will be the Deputy Coordinator for Recovery Implementation. In that role, he will serve as the principal deputy to EdDeSeve, who was tapped by the Obama administration earlier.

At the National Academy, Lena Trudeau will be promoted within the organization, the DorobekInsider has learned.

More to come, but… here is DiGiammarino bio:

Frank P. DiGiammarino serves as Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at the National Academy of Public Administration.  In this capacity, Frank is responsible for business development and the creation and execution of special initiatives at the National Academy that can deliver innovative approaches to addressing government’s management challenges. In addition, he oversees the National Academy’s government relations, outreach and communications efforts.

An author and speaker on how to navigate government change, Frank came to the National Academy in 2005 after many years as a senior consultant and strategist. Former positions include Director and DoD Practice Area lead at Touchstone Consulting Group, General Manager and Director of Program Management at Sapient Corporation, and Principal Consultant with the State and Local government practice at American Management Systems.

Career highlights include leading a program to re-engineer a $6 billion Army department with 15,000 personnel; driving reorganization of an 1100 person consultancy in 6 months with 85% adoption; and leading a 700 plus person office that delivered $120 million in annual revenue.  Frank holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts and Master’s of Public Administration from The George Washington University.  He serves on the Advisory Board for the Commonwealth College of the University of Massachusetts and the Advisory Board of the National Capital Area Chapter of the American Society of Public Administration.  He is an advisor to the leadership team of the Young Government Leaders organization and recently served as an advisor to the Change and Transformation Initiative at the George Washington University.

And the note from Jenna Dorn, the president and CEO of the National Academy of Public Administration to staff:

Dear Colleagues –

It is with tremendous pride and no small measure of sadness that I share this news with you: the National Academy’s Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Business Development, FrankDiGiammarino , has been tapped by the Administration to become the Deputy Coordinator for Recovery Implementation In this capacity, Frank will serve as the principal deputy to Academy Fellow EdDeSeve , who was recently appointed Special Advisor to the President for Recovery Implementation. As you know, Frank joined the National Academy four years ago. He was named one of the Academy’s first Program Area Directors, and I subsequently promoted him to the role of Vice President based on his strong record of achievement. Frank has been instrumental in implementing the Board’s strategy for growth and diversification of our revenue base through partnerships, strategic initiatives and new business development. He ably led the Collaboration Project from its inception and has been a strong champion for innovation in government. He has personally closed a number of new contracts, and systematized and enhanced our business development function. Frank’s appointment to this new role speaks so well for his own work and the work of the National Academy. We will, of course, miss him, but offer our heartiest congratulations and best wishes for success in his important new endeavor.

I ask you to join me in also congratulating Lena Trudeau, whom I have asked to serve as Vice President of the National Academy. Lena will assume responsibility for leading the Academy’s studies, strategic initiatives and business development. In that capacity, Lena will lead and supervise the Program Area Directors and other team members who are responsible for these functions. In her nearly two years with the National Academy, Lena has secured and led, as a Program Area Director, a number of “traditional” Academy studies, including work at Coast Guard,FEMA , and the Department of State. In addition, she has supervised the implementation of studies at the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Park Service. Along with Frank, Lena has been instrumental in the Academy’s successful launch and implementation of the Collaboration Project, which has in turn spawned the creation of a promising new business line in hosting National Dialogues. Lena brings to her new role a strong background in managing service delivery operations, and a proven ability to improve the Academy’s business processes and methodologies. She has over 15 years of consulting and management experience, leading multi-million dollar engagements for clients in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Immediately prior to joining the National Academy, she served as Vice President, Consulting Services for Ambit Group, a strategy and technology consulting firm dedicated to the federal marketplace. Previously, she has held positions atNokia, the world leader in mobility, at Touchstone Consulting (now SRA , Inc.), and in the Privy Council Office of the Government of Canada. Lena holds a Masters of Business Administration from the RichardIvey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario and a Bachelor of Social Science in Political Science and Philosophy from the University of Ottawa.

Lena recently shared with me her “appreciation for the importance – now more than ever – of the National Academy as a platform for positive change in government, as well as the exceptional national resource that is our Fellowship.” Please join me in welcoming her to this new leadership position. I know that in the time-honored tradition of the National Academy, I can count on you to give her your full support.


Jenna Kundra talks open government at AFCEA Bethesda this morning

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chapter_logoI’m up early this morning to attend the monthly breakfast gathering for AFCEA International’s Bethesda, MD chapter — and it’s a good one this morning. I expect a packed house as Vivek Kundra, the federal CIO and the Office of Management and Budget’s Administrator for E-Government and Information Technology will be speaking on the topic of open government. Along with Kundra are Interior Department CIO Sonny Bhagowalia, Colleen Coggins, who is on assignment to OMB to be the chief enterprise architect, and Energy Department CIO Tom Pyke.

It’s a all-star panel, a very hot topic… and I will be Tweeting (#AFCEA), but I will also be taking my notes. And, in my own way of being transparent, I make those available. So you can see my notes as I take them here. I have started doing this for a few reasons. First, it shares information — and it follows the Defense Department concept of network-centric operations. The DOD concept is you put information out there — unless there is a good reason not to. That doesn’t mean that you don’t continue to do the analysis — tweets are not going to replace a follow up piece that one might write based on theAFCEA Bethesda meeting, to use this example. Nor does it mean that one might take all of Kundra’s presentations to look for themes. But by making that information available — sharing it — it makes all of us better. And we have to understand — and I think people are smart enough to understand — that my notes will not be perfect prose. In fact, they might not even be cohesive thoughts or sentences. But it is more data that people can use to make decisions.

But I have also started posting my notes because I have actually had participants read my notes and tell me that I mis-interpreted what they were trying to say. It led to greater understanding and accuracy later on.

Of course, we will talk about Kundra’s presentation this afternoon on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, but if you want to follow along this morning… the notes are posted here.

On the subject of open government, on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief Thursday, we’ll also be talking to Lena Trudeau of the National Academy of Public Administration about the “national dialogue” on and transparency. This is the project we told you about earlier where the administration is literally seeking your ideas to one of the most daunting challenges: Bringing transparency to the massive stimulus bill. As I have mentioned, Trudeau has led NAPA’s efforts to use these “national dialogues” as a way of reaching out to people. I spoke about the initiative on DC’s WTOP radio Wednesday — hear that here… And I should also mention that Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller gave us an excellent report from GSA’s IRMCO on this subject. You can hear that here. Team Obama puts out the help wanted sign for transparency ideas

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One of the more vexing issues right now is transparency and the recovery program, and I keep pointing out that this is all unprecedented. There has arguably never been this level of transparency on this scale done this quickly… and I would argue that this is unprecedented in the private sector as well. That being said, it is also critically important. And the team working on the administration’s recovery plan understand that.

I mentioned back in March that the Obama administration was trying to get some transparency around the stimulus transparency initiative by, at least initiatially, reaching out to feds. And they used an existing tool — OMB’s MAX federal community wiki. (If you don’t know about the MAX federal community, the National Academy of Public Administration’s Collaboration Project has a case study on it here … and last year when I was at Federal Computer Week, we highlighted it as a case study in collaboration.)

The administration was quickly chided — somewhat unfairly — for being transparent in a way that wasn’t publicly available. In my conversations with people, what they were trying to do was to use the tools that they had and the plan has always been to reach out in additional ways. And I have been hearing parts of those plans, but we’re getting the first official look at them on’s home page … and on Facebook… on Twitter … and below…

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The administration is turning to the National Academy of Public Administration , which has been way out front on collaboration issues with its with its Collaboration Project, to create a public “dialogue” as a way of eliciting ideas from the public and from industry.

For one week beginning April 27th, The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board and the Office of Management and Budget in partnership with the National Academy of Public Administration, will host a national online dialogue to engage leading information technology vendors, thinkers, and consumers in answering a key question:

What ideas, tools, and approaches can make a place where all citizens can transparently monitor the expenditure and use of recovery funds?

Participants from across the IT community will be able to recommend, discuss, and vote on the best ideas, tools, and approaches. Your ideas can directly impact how operates and ensure that our economic recovery is the most transparent and accountable in history.

This is similar to the National Dialogue on Health IT and Privacy that the National Academy held last year. Back in October, I suggested that the concept was worth watching … and on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, we had the National Academy’s Lena Trudeau on several times to talk about it. Hear an early one here [.mp3] … or her most recent one here talking about their report assessing the National Dialogue tool.

One of the big industry concerns was whether “transparency” means that they will have to surrender proprietary information. Frankly, if they do, they will not participate. And I believe that the organizers have considered that and they have devised a plan that allows a public description with additional follow-up data available for consideration purposes. That being said, this is a big issue for industry and some companies will be reluctant to participate if it means the loss of their intellectual property.

That being said, this seems like an important opportunity… and I’ll be fascinated to see what evolves from this dialogue. The Obama CTO reader

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The Obama administration’s announcement late Friday — and officially made on Saturday — of the OMB deputy director of management/chief performance officer as well as the much discussed Obama chief technology officer has been the talk of weekend water-coolers, such as they are. For those who are just catching up, more here… the President announced new chief performance officer and OMB deputy director of management, Jeffrey Zients, and also the much discussed Obama CTO, Aneesh Chopra, who has served as the Virginia Secretary of Technology.

In general, the CTO announcement wasn’t a total shock. Back on Feb. 12, we had Chopra on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris talking about Virginia’s innovative, you get a sense that Chopra has at least thought about the job. In fact, at that time, we promised Chopra we wouldn’t focus on the ObamaCTO job, but… I said that at the end of our conversation. Unfortunately it got chopped off. I’ll see if I can hunt it down today. Regardless, you can hear that conversation here.

Also if you want to get insight into the new Obama CTO, here is a video for you…

Hat tip to Read-Write-Web, where they said, “We’ve embedded a video of the keynote Aneesh Chopra gave at this year’s State of the Net Conference earlier this year to give you an insight into the thoughts of our new CTO. In this 50 minute talk, Chopra discusses health IT, broadband policy and open education among other things.”

I thought it would be good to pull together some readings on what people are sying about Chopra and the Obama CTO post. Some of the Dorobek Insider’s writings can be found here.

Other writings about the CTO:

* OMB Director Peter Orszag’s blog post about the Zients, under the delicious headline Move Over R2, CPO is Here (I’ll get more on Zients later, but… this was interseting):

The President decided to make the Deputy Director for Management the government’s first Chief Performance Officer because the goal is not just good management or solid operations, but generating good results for the American people. Through this performance lens, government operations become a way to drive better results, not an end in and of itself. Specifically, Jeff will lead the President’s efforts on contracting and procurement reform, improve government productivity by helping to root out error and waste, build a performance agenda across government, and enhance the transparency of the government’s finances so that citizens are empowered to hold us all accountable for improved stewardship and performance. He will work closely with the also just-announced Chief Technology Officer,Aneesh Chopra, and the Federal Chief Information Officer, Vivek Kundra.

*’s Micah L. Sifry: Obama Names Aneesh Chopra US’s First CTO

Great analysis from Sifry… as always. (And no — not just because he mentions me!)

First, it looks like very good news for the transparency movement, as well as those of us looking for an open-minded leader willing to experiment with new forms of collaborative governance. For example, back in early 2007, under Chopra’s leadership, Virginia was one of the first states to move, with Google’s help, to make its state websites more searchable and thus more accessible to ordinary citizens. The state has also been in the forefront of efforts to create robust web services tracking the giant government stimulus spending package enacted by Obama, and as fed-watcher Christopher Dorobek points out, Chopra is well aware of and supportive of citizen-led watchdog efforts like Jerry Brito’s (Give points to Dorobek for also noting Chopra’s potential as CTO.)

Under Chopra (and it must be mentioned, his boss Governor Tim Kaine), the state also launched a highly interactive website that collected more than 9000 suggestions from residents on how the stimulus monies might be spent. “Relative to calls and letters, it’s fairly safe to say this is probably a tenfold increase in civic participation by allowing people to click on a button, submit their ideas and engage with their governor,” Chopra told a local paper back in March. Finally, like his soon-to-again-be-colleague Vivek Kundra, Obama’s Chief Information Officer, who also came out of Virginia before serving as DC’s CTO, Chopra is willing to try new ways to innovate government processes, inspired by the open and lateral networking development culture of the internet.

Read the full post here.

* O’Reilly Media’s Tim O’Reilly (the guy who invented the term Web 2.0): Why Aneesh Chopra is a Great Choice for Federal CTO

Some in Silicon Valley have hoped for one of their own, a CTO with a deep technology pedigree and ties to the technology industry. For example, the Techcrunch coverage leads with the title Obama Spurns Silicon Valley. This is a narrow view. I’ve been working for much of the past year to understand what many have been calling Government 2.0, and in that process, Chopra has been one of those who have taught me the most about how we can build a better government with the help of technology.

Chopra has been focused for the past three years on the specific technology challenges of government.

And O’Reilly goes on to list nine reasons why Chopra is good for the job. This post bullet points them :

  • The role of the CTO is to provide visionary leadership, to help a company (or in this case, a government) explore the transformative potential of new technology.
  • Chopra demonstrates a deep understanding of the idea that the government is an enabler, not the ultimate solution provider.
  • Chopra understands that government technologists need to act more like their counterparts in Silicon Valley.
  • Chopra is a practical innovator.
  • Chopra has a real focus on measurement, and on figuring out what really works.
  • Chopra has specific expertise in Health Care IT.
  • Chopra is incredibly charismatic.

But read O’Reilly’s full post here. (O’Reilly will be on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris this afternoon in our Meet the Innovator series talking about government 2.0.)

* WSJ’s Digits blog: Tech Industry Cheers as Obama Taps Aneesh Chopra for CTO

Silicon Valley execs and tech bloggers sounded genuinely excited about Obama’s choice Saturday morning and tech industry lobbying groups TechNet and the Business Software Alliance quickly released statements of support, as did several tech heavyweights.

I actually hear that many Valley techies were consulted — and gave an early thumb up for Chopra.

Much more to come… and we’re trying to get information on the chief performance officer, Jeffrey Zients. Stand by for no real news on the administration’s cyber-security review

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Not only was the administration telling people about the new chief performance officer/OMB deputy director of management and the Obama chief technology officer/director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, but… the White House also announced late Friday — at 9:37p ET, in fact — that the administration has completed its 60-day top-to-bottom cyber-security review … and that there was nothing to announce.

The White House review is being led by Melissa Hathaway, the Office of the Director for National Intelligence’s senior advisor and the cyber coordination executive, who joined  the National Security Council on a 60-day detail to oversee and review federal cybersecurity. Many people have been hoping that there would be some conclusion about the future of the government’s cyber-security efforts, which have been leaderless, particularly after the departure of Rod Beckstrom as the director of the Homeland Security Department’s National Cybersecurity Center. (Read Beckstrom’s resignation letter here … and more on Beckstrom’s departure here… and Miller about Beckstrom’s recent appearance before Congress.) There have been some who have proposed a cyber-security “czar” in the White House, including the much watched study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency‘s recent cyber-security report . But Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller has reported that post seems unlikely.

Here is the money quote from Friday’s White House announcement — or the non-money quote: “After the President has had an opportunity to carefully review the group’s report, we will begin discussing the results,” the White House release said.

I have posted the release below:

April 17, 2009

Statement by the Press Secretary on Conclusion of the Cyberspace Review

On February 9, the President directed a 60-day review of the plans, programs and activities underway throughout the government that address our communications and information infrastructure (i.e., cyberspace). The purpose of the review is to develop a strategic framework to ensure that our initiatives in this area are integrated, resourced and coordinated appropriately, both within the Executive Branch and with Congress and the private sector. Today, theinteragency group undertaking the review concluded its work and is now in the process of submitting its findings and recommendations for the President’s review.

The report being submitted summarizes the review team’s conclusions and outlines the beginning of the way forward in building a reliable, resilient, trustworthy digital infrastructure for the future. It provides to the President recommendations regarding an optimal White House organizational structure to address cyberspace-related issues and includes an action plan on identifying and prioritizing further work in this area. After the President has had an opportunity to carefully review the group’s report, we will begin discussing the results.

Written by cdorobek

April 19, 2009 at 5:30 PM Worth reading: Social Software and National Security

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This has been buzzing around for a few days now — a paper looking at the relationship between social software and national security. Wired blogged about it … FCW’s Ben Bain had a good piece … You can now read it for yourself below… or find the link on this page… download the PDF.

Social Software and National Security: An Initial Net Assessment by Mark Drapeau and Linton Wells II

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Written by cdorobek

April 18, 2009 at 9:10 AM