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The Obama-McCain ELC government IT “debate”

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It was just about a week ago that I was down in Williamsburg, VA for the annual ACT/IAC ELC 2008 conference. I’m still catching up on items, but… I told you earlier that I was part of a team moderating a debate about government IT.

So the final day of ELC featured a debate between two representatives of the presidential candidates on government IT issues.

Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller and I discussed this debate on the Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris last week. Hear that conversation here. [MP3] GovExec’s NextGov covered the debate with word that the leaders said that government CIOs should be career workers. FCW covered the face off.

To be honest, I was looking forward to the conversation because we haven’t heard much conversation during the presidential race about government management issues, let alone government IT. The panel ended up being… OK. It certainly was a very valiant attempt and I think ended up being more entertaining then informative. There were several reasons for this. One was systemic — we had three moderators — Anne Armstrong of 1105 Media, Allan Holmes of GovExec/NextGov, and myself. With three of us, it left nobody really in charge of the conversation, which allows the presidential representatives the ability to either go on and on… or to get off track. The second issue was, frankly, the McCain campaign. Representative the Obama campaign was Michael Nelson, who is now a Georgetown University professor. And, while his answers were… detailed — more our fault as moderators then his — but he did stick to the topic: What will the presidential candidates mean to government and government IT. The person representing the McCain campaign however… well, it changed several times during the course of the conference planning. In fact, the day before the session, the McCain representative cancelled. ACT/IAC officials considered cancelling the session altogether — something that would not been good, in my view. They ended up getting Tim Hugo, a Virginia delegate.

The session was always a risk and was going to be complex. The campaigns, after all, don’t really care about government management issues, let alone technology policy. It’s too bad because there is a lot of gain that can come from these issues. And it was just one week before the election.

That being said, there were a number of media outlets there, as you can see above, and if Virginia is a battleground state, there were a number of potential voters there as well.

Hugo was somewhat thrown into this. I have heard from people that I trust and who know Hugo and they tell me that he is knowledgeable, but… he didn’t come off well and… I don’t think he ended up helping McCain. But I don’t think it was Hugo’s fault. It is the hapless McCain campaign, which has provided somebody and then threw Hugo into a situation where he was not prepared.

Another issue — and this one is my fault as much as anybody else, but… unfortunately there were three moderators. None of us were put in charge. (My sense is that nobody wanted to tick off the other two news organizations by making one of them above the others.) It led to a combination where there was nobody in charge… and one guy who was thrown into a situation… and it ended up being… less then it could have been. Nelson was fascinating, but Hugo essentially just kept going back to the tax issues — vote Obama and you’re going to be paying higher taxes. Unfortunately, I can turn on any network and hear that. The goal here was to delve into their technology policies and plans.

Just an aside: The New America Foundation and Wired magazine were scheduled to have an event this past week talking about the Obama and McCain views on technology. Representing Sen. McCain will be the campaign’s chief economic policy adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who Politico suggests could be the OMB director in a McCain administration. Representing Sen. Obama was former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt. It ends up that Holtz-Eakin cancelled at the last minute — and the New America Foundation and Wired magazine went ahead with the Obama view, rightly in my view. Too bad. Missed opportunities.

That being said, you can see the New America-Wired magazine debate-turned-conversation below (20 minutes in they talk about open government):

Written by cdorobek

November 3, 2008 at 9:18 AM

Posted in 2008 Vote

The first take at leadership in a new Obama or McCain administration

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We’re in the final hours of the 2008 vote — a campaign that seems to have gone on and on and on… Much of my family lives in California, and they often say, ‘It must be so exciting to be ground zero of this election.’ Of course, as DC people know, the election actually is an outside the beltway event — very little of it happens here. But come Wednesday, Nov. 5, that’s when it gets very busy here in DC and for months to come as all the preparations for “transition” come to fruition.

Federal News Radio has been “tracking the transition” for months — and we will for months more. And there are others who are now covering the transition more actively. DC journalism blog Fishbowl DC got their hands on a memo from the WP saying that the paper is going to step up its coverage of the transition and feds. It would be a thrilling change. That being said, the Washington Post used to own Government Computer News and, in my humble opinion, just never got it. That being said, I think it is a very important topic — it’s my career — so I welcome the Post stepping up its coverage.

Politico.com, the start-up Hill newspaper which has become one of my favorite reads, has done two pieces looking at who might be the big cheeses in the new administrations. I’ve picked the ones that I found interesting, but… I have links to Politico’s full lists for Obama and McCain.

The big seats to fill — and quickly — are the jobs of chief of staff, Treasury Secretary — there is a slight economic issue going on — and Defense Secretary — there are two wars going on.

An Obama administration

OK, I know there seems to be some push back with people feeling almost ticked that the projections seems to indicate that we’ll wake up Wednesday morning to President-elect Barack Obama. The fact is that McCain has a much more much more complex path to the White House then Obama does. To me, the fact that McCain is as close as he is… that is just remarkable. Polls won’t matter any more come Tuesday. We’ll know for sure.

So… what might the leadership of an Obama administration look like?

From Politico:

White House chief of staff: Former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.); Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.); or dark horse candidate Bill Daley, commerce secretary under President Bill Clinton and now an executive with JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Defense secretary : Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.); Richard Danzig, Navy secretary under Clinton; John Hamre, president and CEO of CSIS and former deputy secretary of defense; President Bush’s incumbent, Robert Gates — would be for at least a year so he wasn’t a lame duck

Treasury secretary: Former Clinton treasury secretaries Larry Summers and Robert Rubin; FDIC Chairwoman Sheila C. Bair; New York Fed President Timothy Geithner, former Treasury under secretary and assistant secretary; former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker

Homeland Security secretary: Former Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.); William Bratton, Los Angeles police chief and former New York police commissioner; former Rep. Tim Roemer (D-Ind.), a member of the 9/11 Commission; Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.); Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)

and one just fun one…

Secretary of Energy: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.)… My comment — not theirs — the energy Terminator?

A McCain administration

Again, from Politico.com:

Previous reports have indicated that McCain’s transition team, headed by former Navy Secretary John Lehman

White House chief of staff: Lehman or longtime McCain aide and speechwriter Mark Salter

Treasury secretary: FedEx founder Fred Smith; former eBay CEO Meg Whitman; Bain Capital co-founder and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney; John Thain, former Merrill Lynch CEO and now president of Global Banking, Securities and Wealth Management at Bank of America

Secretary of defense: Lehman; Lieberman; Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.); current Defense Secretary Robert Gates

Secretary of state: World Bank President and former deputy secretary of state Robert Zoellick; Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.); former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage

Office of Management and Budget: Former Congressional Budget Office director and campaign adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin

Written by cdorobek

November 2, 2008 at 12:19 PM

Posted in 2008 Vote, Executive

IAC’s ELC 2008 — Sunday night: political analyst Charlie Cook

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I have mentioned that I’m down at ACT/IAC’s Executive Leadership Conference 2008 through Tuesday. The lead-off speaker tonight was Charlie Cook, a political analyst and the name behind the Cook Political Report.

In general, Cook said that the election was close — until September’s financial crash. The October surprise ended up being a September surprise — and it completely altered the nature of the campaign. At this point, he said, the campaign is 100 percent about the economy.

Cook

Cook

Some interesting points and/or quotes.

  • The presidential race is over, save a huge event, Cook predicted. “Put a fork in it. This is done,” he said.
  • Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was having a difficult time anyway — an unpopular president, an almostunprecedented desire for change, an unpopular war, and then… the economy.
  • After September and the economy became the issue, national security — McCain’s cornerstone issue — almost evaporated.
  • Going in to September, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) had the lead, but there were still questions — was the lead enough. After the financial mess, that questions has been largely answered… it will be enough.
  • This will be a “train wreck” election for Republicans. That happens — to both parties. But this is the second train wreck election in a row for the Republican party. The GOP could lose anywhere from 7-10 Senate seats… and as high as 30 House seats.
  • Regarding Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential candidate, the nomination gave a “short of B-12 for the old guy,” but in the end, the question being asked is whether the section was a “stroke of genius, or just a stroke.” The Palin appointment also undercut McCain’s “experience” argument.
  • All of that being said, the two candidates face very difficult issues come Jan. 20. “Does the winner win? Or does the loser win?” Cook asked.

Cook had other good stories, including one about McCain’s mother, Roberta, who is well in her 90s. When she was 93, she traveled to Paris. Unfortunately they wouldn’t let her rent a car — so she bought a Mercedes so she could tour Europe. She eventually had it shipped to the United States and she picked it up on the East Coast and was driving back to Arizona and, on the trip back, she got a ticket for driving 100-miles-per-hour. That is a strong constitution.

More on the official ELC agenda tomorrow. In addition to sessions, there are keynotes from David Walker, the former comptroller general, and from CNN political analyst Amy Holmes.

I’ll live blog here… and try and post to my Twitter feed too. And I’ll be reporting what has been happening on Federal News Radio’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris on Monday afternoon. (I’m rushing to get back to be on Tuesday’s show.)

Written by cdorobek

October 27, 2008 at 1:12 AM

Posted in 2008 Vote, Circuit

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Recommended read: 8 ways tech shaped the 2008 vote

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I mentioned that I’m going down to Williamsburg, VA on Sunday for the Industry Advisory Council’s 2008 Executive Leadership Conference — one of the big government IT conferences of the year… and that I’m going to be part of a panel that gets to question the representatives of the presidential campaigns. (I’ve had a few suggestions for questions sent to me, but… send ’em along or, even better, post them here.)

But I came across this story in Network World: 8 ways technology has shaped the ’08 elections.

Technology has played a particularly prominent role in the 2008 elections — and it isn’t just the typical silliness over whether a candidate really claimed to have invented a key piece of technology. Throughout the year we’ve seen technological advances used both for good, such as using Short Message Service to announce a vice presidential pick, and for bad, such as hacking into another vice presidential pick’s private e-mail account. In this story, we’ll take a look at the eight techiest moments of the 2008 presidential race, including YouTube debates, viral videos and e-voting controversies.

And they highlight the CNN/YouTube debates… tech luminaries making endorsements…

I think writer Brad Reed missed the biggest one, however — how technology has been ingrained into the presidential race. Check out the campaign Web sites — they are creating social networks around their campaigns and their issues. And I think that is really going to impact how this next administration will manage — and how agencies will have to work.

Yesterday, on Federal News Radio’s InDepth with Francis Rose mid-day show, Rose had two former CIOs on — Microsoft’s Kim Nelson, formerly the EPA CIO, and consultant John Gilligan, the former Air Force CIO. The program is definitely worth a listen. [MP3] They spend some time talking about the role of the CIO in light of the OMB CIO memo, but… at the end of the program, Nelson says what I say above — the new administration, regardless of which side comes in, is going to want to use these tools to help them get their jobs done. They used it to win an election, and they believe that they can use them to run agencies.

T-minus 11 days until election day… 88 days until the inauguration

Written by cdorobek

October 24, 2008 at 10:19 AM

Posted in 2008 Vote, EGov, Management, strategy

Tagged with

Who might be the government’s CIO… er, CTO?

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BusinessWeek today has a piece, headlined, “The Short List for U.S. Chief Technology Officer: Barack Obama has pledged to name a cabinet-level CTO to oversee a job-creating national broadband buildout if he’s elected. Big names abound.”

Among the names are Vint Cerf, Steve Ballmer, Jeff Bezos, and Ed Felten, a prominent professor of computer science and public affairs at Princeton University.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama has proposed the creation of a CTO in government.

Bring Government into the 21st Century: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will use technology to reform government and improve the exchange of information between the federal government and citizens while ensuring the security of our networks. Obama and Biden believe in the American people and in their intelligence, expertise, and ability and willingness to give and to give back to make government work better. Obama will appoint the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to ensure that our government and all its agencies have the right infrastructure, policies and services for the 21st century. The CTO will ensure the safety of our networks and will lead an interagency effort, working with chief technology and chief information officers of each of the federal agencies, to ensure that they use best-in-class technologies and share best practices.

Unfortunately we simply don’t know much more about what the CTO will do other then what it says above.

The BusinessWeek piece had these thoughts:

A White House CTO would be expected to help create incentive programs to expand broadband’s reach, particularly tax credits for smaller carriers. But the tech czar would almost certainly be deeply involved in overseeing a federally-backed $50 billion venture capital fund that Obama has proposed to develop more environmentally friendly technology.

Again, just not much there. That’s largely because I’m not sure Team Obama has thought about it.

To be fair, there isn’t much more of a plan on the other side. Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain’s technology plan have the same platitudes about making more information available online… and then there is this line:

Since 2001, he has called for an Office of Electronic Government to set a strategic vision for implementation of electronic government.

Somebody might want to let the campaign know that Karen Evans is, in fact, OMB’s Administrator of E-Government and Information Technology. So, I’m all for fighting the good fight, but… if he is still fighting for that office to be created, he can let it go. He won!

Written by cdorobek

October 20, 2008 at 10:03 AM

Presidential cookies… and your privacy

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If the presidential candidates Web sites were government Web sites, they would violate federal privacy rules.

The Web sites of both presidential candidates use Web cookies. Web cookies are, to use the definition that the NIST Web site uses, are “small bits of text that are either used for the duration of a session (“session cookies) or saved on a user’s hard drive in order to identify that user, or information about that user, the next time the user logs on the a Web site (“persistent cookies”).” By OMB mandate as part of the E-Gov Act, persistent cookies are not allowed on federal Web sites unless specifically approved — and the approval process is somewhat arduous, so few do it.

I am interested to see who uses cookies and why. The issue is controversial in the Web world. Privacy advocates are not big fans of cookies — they can let a site track where you’ve been and how you make your way through a Web site. Web content managers love because they can show how users actually use the Web site so they can make it better. They also allow you to save a password or remember where you’ve been on a Web site, for example.

Frankly, most people just don’t think about it — not unlike many privacy issues, to be honest. (I follow this issue occasionally… See FCW Insider posts I did on the topic here… and here… and here.)

So I thought it would be interesting to see how the presidential candidates deal with the issue — and while both the Obama and McCain Web sites use persistent cookies, they both talk about it in their Web privacy policies.

BarackObama.com

As I mentioned, the Web site of the Obama for President campaign does use persistent cookies — as you can see, this cookie expires on September 26, 2010. But the campaign does a good job of explaining the whole thing on the campaign’s privacy policy:

Browser information collected on the web site:

We log IP addresses, which are the locations of computers or networks on the Internet, and analyze them in order to improve the value of our site. We also collect aggregate numbers of page hits in order to track the popularity of certain pages and improve the value of our site. We do not gather, request, record, require, collect or track any Internet users’ Personal Information through these processes.

We use cookies on our site. A “cookie” is a tiny text file that we store on your computer to customize your experience and support some necessary functions. We also use cookies to better understand how our visitors use our site. Our cookies contain no Personal Information and are neither shared nor revealed to other sites. We do not look for or at other sites’ cookies on your computer.

You also have choices with respect to cookies. By modifying your browser preferences, you can accept all cookies, be notified when a cookie is set, or reject all cookies. (For more information on how to block or filter cookies, see http://www.cookiecentral.com/faq.) However, if you reject some or all cookies, your experience at our site and other sites throughout the World Wide Web may not be complete. Also, you would be unable to take advantage of personalized content delivery offered by other Internet sites or by us.

We may use pixel tags (also known as web beacons or clear GIF files) or other tracking technology to help us manage our online advertising and to analyze and measure the effectiveness of online advertising campaigns and the general usage patterns of visitors to our Web site.. Such technologies may also be used by third party advertising service providers who serve or assist us in managing ads on our site, such as DoubleClick, Yahoo Tremor and 24/7 RealMedia. These files enable us or these third parties to recognize a unique cookie on your Web browser, which in turn enables us to learn which advertisements bring users to our website and to deliver advertising targeted to your interests. The information that is collected and shared using these pixel tags and similar technology is anonymous and not personally identifiable. It does not contain your name, address, telephone number, or email address. We are not responsible for and do not control any actions or policies of any third party advertising technology service providers or of any third party members of any related advertising networks. For more information about DoubleClick, including information about how to opt out of the use of these technologies by DoubleClick, go to http://www.doubleclick.net/us/corporate/privacy. To opt out of collection by 24/7 Real Media, please visit: http://www.247realmedia.com/opt-out.html. To opt our of collection by Yahoo Search Marketing, please go to http://info.yahoo.com/privacy/us/yahoo/ysmt/details.html.

Obama’s Web site also had a cookie that expired… in 1919. Hmmm.

JohnMcCain.com

The Web site of McCain for President also uses persistent cookies — see the cookie here that expires on Dec. 31, 2019. But, again, the campaign does a good job of explaining the what and why on the campaign’s privacy policy:

How we use log files to better serve you: We use log files to assess the aggregate level of traffic to JohnMcCain.com including what pages people are visiting, and to diagnose any potential problems with the Web site. This log file does contain an “Internet Protocol” or IP address that gives us insight on the general geographic area that visitors are coming from but not information on a specific individual. All users remain anonymous unless they choose to give us personally identifiable information, or log in to the website using a username and password or through a cookie stored on the user computer.

Information collected when you donate: When you make a contribution to John McCain 2008, federal law requires us to collect and report the following information: name, mailing address, employer, occupation, and amount of contribution. Federal law requires us to report this information to the Federal Election Commission if an individual’s contribution or contributions aggregate in excess of $200 in a single election cycle. Contributions from corporations, government contractors, foreign nationals without a “green card,” and minors (individuals under the age of 18) are prohibited. Any credit card information provided is only used to immediately process your donation. John McCain 2008 does not retain your credit card information once the donation is processed online. John McCain 2008 may also choose to publicly disclose donors online or in other methods.

Use of cookies and protecting your privacy: We do make use of cookies to personalize and customize your interaction with JohnMcCain.com and to provide you with the best possible online experience. A cookie is a tiny text file that is placed on your hard drive and does not contain any personal information about you.

Cookies are a privacy low hanging fruit, and that’s why I often check in on them. Often the biggest issue with privacy is giving people the option — telling them what you are doing and letting them decide — transparency, even.

Earlier in the year when I looked at all of the campaigns cookies, the campaign with the most persistent cookies: Rudy Giuliani. Cookies on his Web site expired on January 17, 2038… but even he had an explainer.

Written by cdorobek

October 15, 2008 at 7:39 AM

DorobekInsider: Questions the presidential candidates should debate

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What questions should the presidential candidates debate? It is a great questions — and an apt one for feds, whose lives, of course, will be touched by the new administration — regardless of who wins.

The Partnership for Public Service Wednesday released its “Road map to Reform,” which consists of a series of proposals for the next President when it comes to managing the government. Federal News Radio’s Max Cacas was at the briefing at the National Press Club and was on the Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris with his first look. [Hear the conversation here .mp3; Check federalnewsradio.com for the full story on Thursday.]

One part of that road map: Questions that the presidential candidates should be asked during debates. And they are pretty good.

One of the questions: “How will you measure your success in running our government?”

Read all of them.. after the break.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by cdorobek

October 2, 2008 at 12:26 AM