Focusing on six words: Helping government do its job better

Archive for the ‘Congress’ Category

DorobekInsider: GSA administrator nominee watch — developments on the Kansas City federal center

leave a comment »

Yes — more than 10 months into the Obama administration — and Martha Johnson, the nominee to be the administrator of the General Services Administration, is still awaiting Senate confirmation.

The issue: Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) has put a hold on Johnson’s nomination because of a Kansas City federal property, as we told you back in August — and Federal News Radio 1500 AM spoke with the Kansas City Star reporter Kevin Collison.

Collison has an update:

GSA puts twist in downtown project’s plan

The Kansas City Star

Downtown Kansas City can have a new federal office building and 1,200 employees, but under a different development plan than first envisioned.

A top General Services Administration official has given the Missouri congressional delegation the green light for the $175 million project — but only if the federal government owns it.

The plan that had been pitched locally since 2006 called for a building to be developed privately and leased to the GSA. The 430,000-square-foot project would be filled with federal workers moving from the Bannister Federal Complex in south Kansas City…

Peck’s letter is the latest twist in a political battle that has stalled President Barack Obama’s choice to lead the GSA. Bond has placed a hold on the appointment of Martha Johnson to apply pressure on behalf of the Kansas City project…

Bond’s office greeted Peck’s latest offer with caution, and the senator will continue to hold up the Johnson appointment until more information can be obtained.

Read the full story here.

Read GSA’s letter to the Missiour congressional delegation here:

View this document on Scribd

As the Kansas City Star reports, it remains unclear if this will resolve the stand-off… and how quickly that be resolved.

Written by cdorobek

October 14, 2009 at 1:01 PM

DorobekInsider: The GSA Johnson hold update — Bond and Johnson have met

leave a comment »

I mentioned over the weekend that the Kansas City Star had confirmed that Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) has the hold on Martha Johnson’s nomination to be the administrator of the General Services Administration.

Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller has learned that Bond and Johnson have actually met to try and resolve the issues.

Congressional staffers tell Federal News Radio that the two met in early August before the Senate went on recess.

“While the Senator sat down with the nominee for a face-to-face meeting, he is waiting on additional information on projects important to Kansas City,” senate staffers said.

Bond’s staff, however, would not detail what those projects are. The Kansas City Star’s Kevin Collinson’s story says it is mostly seeking to pressure the government to build a downtown federal office building.

The proposal to consolidate more than 1,200 area federal workers in either a new or existing building downtown was thought to have been cleared by Washington agencies last fall when the GSA and Office of Management and Budget finally forwarded the plan to Congress.

Most of the federal workers are now at the Bannister Federal Complex in south Kansas City, which is gradually being vacated by its government tenants.

But in June, the Senate Environmental and Public Works Commission asked Anthony Costa, GSA acting commissioner for public buildings, for more financial analysis. Bond suspected the move had been requested by GSA bureaucrats as part of an effort to scuttle the Kansas City plan.

We will continue to watch it.

Written by cdorobek

August 25, 2009 at 9:30 AM

Posted in Congress, GSA, Management

DorobekInsider: What’s the deal with GSA administrator nominee Johnson? The Kansas City Star finds out

leave a comment »

One of the key Obama administration posts still vacant is the role of GSA administrator. Of course, Martha Johnson was nominated in April, and she made it through the Senate committee in June, but her nomination has been… on hold… literally.

There have been several stories flying around — one was that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had actually pulled her name off the nomination list because, as the story goes, GSA had told agencies that the government could not travel to Las Vegas in Reid’s home state. In fact, the WSJ had this report on July 22:

Government Meeting? Stay Away From Fun City

What do Reno, Orlando and Las Vegas have in common? To some pockets of the federal government, they just seem like too much fun.

Instead, employees at some big agencies, like the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are being encouraged to host meetings in more buttoned-down places such as St. Louis, Milwaukee or Denver….

Earlier this month, Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, the chamber’s majority leader, expressed concern to the White House about a prohibition on government travel to resort destinations. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel wrote back saying that government travel “is not focused on specific destinations,” but on cost and efficiency.

The General Services Administration, which sets the amount government employees can spend per day at each destination, has no ban on locations.

But some agencies appear to be instituting their own guidelines that dictate where events should be held.

According to an Agriculture Department employee familiar with the guidelines, the agency issued internal travel guidelines in the spring that encourage employees to hold meetings in cities that display three key attributes: a travel hub; low in cost; and “a non-resort location.” The employee said cities on the list with those three attributes included Chicago; Denver; Portland, Ore.; St. Louis; Washington, D.C.; Milwaukee; Phoenix and Fort Collins, Colo.

Resort locations aren’t banned, “but you have to provide robust justification” to supervisors for approval to hold an event there, the employee said.

Read the full story here.

Apparently there never was a ban on travel to the hurting Las Vegas — although there is a lot of mis-information out there about travel.

But it appears that the hold on Johnson’s nomination is by Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO), as reported Friday by the Kansas City Star:

Bond blocks GSA nominee in action tied to downtown KC federal building

The Kansas City Star

Posted on Fri, Aug. 21, 2009

Sen. Kit Bond is blocking approval of the president’s choice to lead the General Services Administration, adding pressure on Washington to approve a proposed downtown federal office building.

Bond, who has been a leader in the effort to build the estimated $175 million project since it was first proposed in 2006, has placed a hold on the appointment of Martha Johnson.

Johnson, a former GSA chief of staff, was recommended for the post by President Barack Obama in April and was endorsed by the Senate Government Affairs Committee in June.

The GSA acts as the federal government’s landlord and also buys goods and services for federal agencies.

Bond could not be reached for comment Friday, but an aide confirmed his decision to block Johnson’s appointment.

Read the full story here.

Of course, it still is a bit remarkable that senators can put holds on nominations without having to be up front about it.

We’ll continue to track the story. One can assume that this will get resolved soon — one way or another.

Written by cdorobek

August 23, 2009 at 9:42 PM Rep. Honda’s tries crowdsourcing his Web redesign — a check-in

leave a comment »

Editor’s note: To those coming from the Future Fed series that I will be doing on WTOP and Federal News Radio 1500 AM — if this is your first time to the DorobekInsider — welcome. I hope you’ll visit regularly, but… each week, along with the Future Fed series, I will also have a related post each Monday morning with more on the topic. So, if nothing else, I hope you’ll join me here on Mondays.

20090603 hondaI mentioned earlier this month that Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) is redesigning his Web site using a very innovative method — crowdsourcing. That is essentially where a task that was traditionally done by an employee — or contractor — and it is done in a transparent, open way. Open source software is one version of crowdsourcing, but… it is developing in many different ways. It is one of the Web 2.0 ideas — my Web 2.0 definition being that information is power, but that the real power of information comes when it is shared.

Rep. Mike Honda is taking this very unique step — he is crowdsouring the redesign of his Web site. It is very innovative. And it could have broader applications. As the White House openness and transparency initiative continues, Vivek Kundra is Chief Information Officer, Katie Stanton is Director of Citizen Participation have a blog post about technologies they are looking at — and one of them is crowdsourcing. Specifically, they point to an initiative that the Transportation Department is funding to crowdsource the development of a bus stop design. The project is called Next Stop Design — cute — and you can read more here.

UPDATE: We spoke to Honda on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris. We will talk to Honda Monday afternoon on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris. (He tells us he got some push back from House administrators.)

We will talk to Honda Monday afternoon on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris. (He tells us he got some push back from House administrators. We also talk to him about the loss of control.)

Honda already has more than 80 different submissions. You can see them for yourself here — very transparent.

I have been culling through them — and there are some very good designs. I hope to have Rep. Honda back on the show to talk about the experience once they have made a final section — I’m hoping that they will unveil the new redesign on our show. But… here is one by “Apoloo” that I thought was handsome:

Written by cdorobek

June 15, 2009 at 5:45 AM

DorobekInsider: How do you build a better Web site? One member of Congress tries crowdsourcing

leave a comment »

Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) is looking to redesign his Web site. How does one go about doing that? Crowdsourcing.

Honda details the thinking behind it on his blog:

Recently, I announced the launch of a new pioneering project to improve civic engagement in Congress via crowdSPRING. I will be redesigning my website – using a technique called crowd-sourcing – to lead the way in making government sites more transparent and accessible to the public.

20090603 hondaThe project allows designers to mock up multiple layouts for consideration by you, my constituents. The final design will be chosen based on votes, design functionality, usability, and other criteria. I believe that this crowd-sourcing initiative will usher in a new era of government transparency. Many government websites have good content, but the content is often very hard to find. We are giving power to you, and democratizing the way we interact with the public.

My goal as your Member of Congress is to serve you first and foremost. This crowd-sourcing initiative ensures that I am meeting your needs on your terms by allowing an unprecedented level of access into the design process of a government website.

The purpose of the website redesign is to move America closer to Government 2.0, where the public’s ability to access and provide advice to Members of Congress is enhanced by new technology and new online participation. As many of you know, I am very active through Twitter, Facebook, and my blog. I intend to make my new site be an example for other member sites to follow. Congress must take advantage of Web 2.0 technologies, to transform the relationship between citizens and government. Instead of viewing the public as a customer for services, I believe that we should empower citizens to become our partners in shaping the future of our nation.

The project has gone live, you can view the entries by clicking here.

I would love to hear your comments about this initiative. You can leave them on my blog here.

I will be posting more information soon about the voting process once we begin recieving entries for consideration.

This has just launched, but… Find the specific details about this initiative here.

What a fascinating idea — and how fun will it be to watch this as it evolves.

Written by cdorobek

June 3, 2009 at 7:34 AM

Another big score for Deloitte — Tom Davis

leave a comment »

We told you earlier that OMB’s Tim Young would be joining Deloitte. Well, the consulting firm has another big score — Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA).

Congress Daily reports — and I have confirmed from Davis friends — that the ranking leader of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will work in the federal practice area as a non-lobbyest when he leaves congress on January 20.

Back when I was at FCW, we had an exit interview with Davis… The NYT Magazine also had an excellent piece with him.

Davis has been candid about his reasons for leaving — money — he notes he is getting paid less today then he was when he joined congress some 14 years ago — and it’s just not that fun to be in the minority.

Now, part of it is leaders who inspire people to go into government. The one thing you’ve got to like about [Sen.] Barack Obama [(D-Ill.)] is that he’s inspiring a lot of young people. Maybe you get them to come into government. But I tell you what: He can inspire them to come into government, but once they fill out the forms, they wait six months and find out that they didn’t hit the right category, it’s going to discourage people. You want to bring good people in, and then you want to pay them. You want to bonus them. You want to inspire them to stay in government. Work satisfaction is an important part of that. If people feel they’re being productive, they’re going to stay in government.

So much of government today is [about] good, talented people that we’re not retaining. They’re filling out forms that never needed to be printed. They’re working under regulations that shouldn’t be. They’re sitting there on idle where we could make them more productive if we could step back as managers and say how do we get the job done? But we’re so regulation-driven instead of mission-driven that it’s very discouraging for talented people, and they go somewhere else.

I’ll just add one other thing. We’re part of the problem in Washington. Politicians come in and when they’ve got to cut the budget, the first thing they do is chop off fingers and toes. They don’t look at their business processes in terms of how we can be more productive, how training people is a pretty good investment. And so, they cut out training. They take away their discretion to act by writing rules and regulations telling people what they have to do and how they have to do it. And who wants to work in a straitjacket? That just stops the innovative juices.

Unfortunately, Davis is one of the few people on the Hill who really cares about government management issues, particularly government procurement issues — there isn’t much of a back bench. We hope that others will step up — maybe Senator-elect Mark Warner (D-VA).

Written by cdorobek

November 14, 2008 at 6:42 PM

DorobekInsider: House members can post to YouTube

leave a comment »

I told you earlier the House rules prevented Representatives from posting to YouTube. The Senate had reached an agreement earlier allowing the senators to post to YouTube.

Well, the House has reached an agreement too, NextGov’s Andrew Noyes reports.

Committee adopts new third-party Web site regulations [, 10.03.2008]

Members of the House will be permitted to use third-party Web sites like YouTube to communicate with constituents as long as the content is for official purposes, and not personal, commercial or campaign communication, according to rules adopted Thursday by the House Administration Committee.

The rules are seen by House Administration Chairman Robert Brady as a compromise between several proposals under consideration in recent months and are closely aligned with those circulated by the Senate Rules Committee last week.

One plan by Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Mass., who chairs the commission charged with drafting the language for the Administration Committee, was slammed by Minority Leader Boehner in July as “an attack on free speech.”

House Administration ranking member Vernon Ehlers and Reps. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Tom Price, R-Ga., drafted alternate language, which formed the basis for the changes that won committee approval. Ehlers said Brady “demonstrated outstanding leadership.”

“These new guidelines are a step in the right direction for a Congress that has been behind the technological curve for too long,” Boehner said. “By encouraging the use of emerging and established new media tools, Congress is sending the message that we want to speak to citizens, and receive feedback, in the most open and accessible manner possible.”

Continue reading

Written by cdorobek

October 3, 2008 at 10:09 PM