Focusing on six words: Helping government do its job better

Archive for the ‘DHS’ Category Worth reading: Social Software and National Security

leave a comment »

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

View this document on Scribd

Written by cdorobek

April 18, 2009 at 9:10 AM

Three new IAC transition documents: Budget fixes, e-health, and information sharing/homeland security

leave a comment »

The Industry Advisory Council‘s Transition Study Group today posted three additional transition papers that will be shared with President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team.

The first two documents focused on innovation and then on the strategic use of IT to spur change. Read them and hear from IAC officials here.

There are three new documents. I’ll read them this weekend, but… you can too.

New Strategic Performance Integrated Budget Process Needed [PDF]

The Time for Electronic Health Care Records is Now! [PDF]

A Breakthrough in Information Sharing Is Accelerating Homeland Protection [PDF]

Written by cdorobek

January 9, 2009 at 7:59 PM

Posted in budget, DHS, Industry, Transition

DorobekInsider brush with the famous: Michael Chertoff

with one comment

chertoffI mentioned that I had the chance to sit down with DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff on Tuesday as part of a meeting with bloggers that he has undertaken. In actuality, not all of them were bloggers, but… whatever. It was great to spend an hour with theDHS Secretary.

So the people who attended were Rich Cooper of Catalyst Partners and contributor to the Security Debrief blog; Daniel Fowler, homeland security reporter for Congressional Quarterly; Michael Santarcangelo, founder and chief security strategist for Security Catalyst, and Mary Mosquera of Federal Computer Week.

We covered a lot of ground — FEMA, the new team, transition, inauguration issues, cyber-security — and I have to run upstairs to WTOP 103.5 FM to talk about it, but… I’ll work, work, work to get it all posted.

In brief:

  • FEMA: Keep it with DHS
  • Inauguration: Working with the local jurisdictions to make sure everybody is safe
  • Transition recommendations: Give the agency time to settle in before undertaking another reorganization
  • Self-assessment: Katrina was the low point, but he is proud that it has been more than 7-years since a terrorist attack. That isn’t allDHS, but DHS played a role
  • A blogger round-table: He liked the conversations and would recommend it to the next administration

More details later.

Written by cdorobek

December 10, 2008 at 2:18 PM

Posted in DHS

The DorobekInsider meets with DHS Secretary Chertoff Tuesday

with one comment

So on Tuesday, I and who knows how many other bloggers get to sit down with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. The DHS press offices refers to it as part of a “blogger roundtable” with the DHS secretary.

The DHS Press Office would like to invite you to attend a blogger roundtable with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. He will discuss the overall state and future of the department as its transitions to new leadership, and will highlight key achievements during his tenure.

Details below:

What: Blogger Roundtable with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff

Topic: State and Future of Homeland Security

When: Tuesday, December 9, 2:30-3:30PM

Frankly, I’m interested in the transition… I’m interested in why he is meeting with bloggers… and it has been reported that he doesn’t use e-mail. I’m interested in how one leads an organization without using that fundamental communication method. So many questions and so little time.

I’ll post about it here tomorrow… and discuss it on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris.

Written by cdorobek

December 8, 2008 at 7:18 PM

Posted in DHS, DorobekInsider

USCG’s Adm. Thad Allen talks government 2.0

with one comment

USCG's Adm. Thad Allen (USCG photo)

USCG Adm. Thad Allen (USCG photo)

I mentioned that we spoke to Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen on Federal News Radio’s Friday edition of The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris. Our Internet editor Dorothy Ramienski turned the interview into a story. You can read that here. You can hear the interview here. [.mp3]

We actually spoke to Adm. Allen on Thursday, but that show was so packed, we couldn’t give the interview the attention that it deserved, so… we saved it for Friday.

The Coast Guard is a fascinating organization — one of the better managed government agencies. And I give a lot of credit to Allen for deciding to play a leadership role in government 2.0.

I think it goes clear back to the digitalization of our environments staring back in the 1980’s with personal computing and I believe there is a new pattern of behavior emerging in our society where people congregate and aggregate to do things differently using information technology. These are the people we want to bring into the Coast Guard and nurture.

As regular readers know, I’m fascinated by government 2.0 because I think there are very real opportunities here. There is a confluence of factors — the push for change, the swath of young people who will join the federal government, and then the scores of tools that are available out there now — easy to use tools. And then government is uniquely suited to tap into the power of these tools because government, in particular, needs to share information across a variety of groups — internally and externally. So there are real opportunities here. That being said, it does involve change.

I have heard at recent meeting people saying, ‘It’s about time government gets around to this.’ See this comment on an unofficial USCG blog,

Lets stop talking about this and get on with it. Off the self technology that is running on OPS (other peoples servers) can get you there today. Could we be saving more lives today if were would stop worrying about what a blog might or might not say or post. Move out, you have my support.

Most agencies aren’t behind the curve on this. In the private sector, there aren’t many organizations — outside of Google and Cisco, for example — that make collaboration a part of the way they do business. It isn’t as easy as it seems. And it can involve some real organizational changes. Given that government agencies are inherently slow to change, I give the ones testing it out real credit.

Agencies have to be careful and I think it is very wise to touch their toes into the water rather then just jumping into the deep end of the pool. All of that being said, leadership in these situations is essential, and I give Adm. Allen a lot of credit for his leadership role.

The Coast Guard didn’t ask, but… if I were to offer recommendations: Focus on a problem that it is looking to solve. Right now, many of these “government 2.0” applications work best when they have a somewhat focused goal. That lets one learn lessons in a specific application — and use those on other projects.

One think I did forget to ask: Adm. Allen is now on Facebook. What has he learned from using Facebook… what is his experience… We’ll talk to him again and I’ll ask again next time.

Written by cdorobek

October 19, 2008 at 10:10 AM

DorobekInsider: The government’s newest blog… the U.S. Fire Administration

leave a comment »

The latest agency to join the blogosphere: The Homeland Security Department’s U.S. Fire Administration. You can find the blog at (And, to their credit, they have a link right from the top of the home page.)

According to the USFA’s release, “This blog will serve as a tool for the Fire Service to share comments, ideas, and success stories about fire prevention, preparedness, and response in America. In turn, USFA will post videos, outreach materials, and other helpful tools while charting feedback.”

The blog’s first post is headlined Fire Department Preparedness and it was written by Ken Kuntz.

Ken Kuntz is a Fire Studies Specialist with the National Fire Academy’s Administration and Delivery Branch. He is the Project Officer for the Major Fire Investigations-Technical Report Series project which provides reviews of select/significant incidents to identify salient lessons learned to be shared with the fire service and allied groups and organizations. has a collection of many of the government blogs.

And you can read the Fire Service’s full release after the break.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by cdorobek

October 9, 2008 at 12:24 AM

Posted in DHS, Government 2.0

Tagged with , ,

DorobekInsider: TSA blog as a government 2.0 example

with one comment

TSA's Evolution of Security blog

TSA's Evolution of Security blog

Last week, I mentioned that I attended a forum on government 2.0 sponsored by the Industry Advisory Council titled “Evolution of the Web: How Social Networking is Changing the Way Government Does Business.” And I reported that one of the superstars of that panel was TSA and Lynn Dean, who is the manager of strategic and Web communications in the Transportation Security Agency’s Office of Strategic Communications and Public Affairs.

Last week, I posted about TSA’s Idea Factory, which is a wonderful example. But TSA has another really excellent example: it’s public blog.

I have to be very honest: I said privately — if not publicly — that I thought that concept of a TSA blog was… well, if I didn’t say foolish, it wasn’t far from it. My thinking then was that blogs build are a way to build community and why, after all, would somebody return regularly to the TSA blog?

But I have been proven abundantly wrong. The TSA blog is one of the most read government blogs and, perhaps more importantly, gets scores of comments.

Strangely, I underestimated the power of a blog. (Shame on me.) What the TSA blog has given the organization is something that is so important for government organizations — for most organizations: transparency. It gives the TSA an opportunity to talk about the issues that TSA officers deal with — and why they deal with the issues the way they do.

So yes, there are the obvious public outreach benefits, but there are also benefits for TSA, Dean said. “It is a great reality check to hear what people think,” she said. Many of those are misconceptions, but… that is important to know as well.

That transparency also has garnered some respect even among us cynical media type. A case in point: Remember the story earlier this year that said that authorities at the airport could confiscate your laptop without any reason. Needless to say, it freaked people out. AndTSA started getting pings. But it was TSA — it was Customs. And TSA got some praise in places such as Wired magazine’s blog for clearing up the misunderstanding.’s Threat Level blog even gave TSA some positive press.

Dean acknowledged that it was no small fete to get the TSA blog up and going. And the IT organization was no help — shame on them. (After I heard Dean, I poked around with some TSA folks I know and they told me that the IT organization originally told them it would cost $600,000 to get a blog up and running. One wise IT person finally just suggested, ‘Um, can’t we just use Blogger [Google’s blogging software], which is free?’

So one lesson for IT organization’s is you better figure out how to implement these different Web 2.0 tools are people are going to find ways to bypass you. And, on the flip side of that, for program people, if you’re told something akin to a $600,000 figure to start a blog, go to somebody else in the IT organization until you find the creative innovator.

Back to Dean’s presentation: One of the challenges that TSA faced soon after launching the blog was… catching up with the success.

Once TSA launched the blog in January 2008, within three days, they had received some 2,000 comments. “Early it was ‘This is great,'” Dean said, until they realized that they had to review all of those comments. (Most agencies have a policy that comments need to be reviewed before they are posted to the agency’s Web site. That being said — and it is an important point — TSA has been careful not to censor. They will not post comments that are dangerous or insightful, but they do not censor comments critical of the organization.)

It is important to speak candidly about risk, consequences and strategy, Dean said.

Dean also had to find people who could feed the blog beast. To do that, she did a Google blog search for ‘work at TSA.’ The blogs she found were specifically not about TSA, but they were people who know about blogs — and blogging. They had a predilection to understand what TSA was trying to accomplish.

So, Dean’s tips:

* You have to convince the skeptics — and cover your basis (legal, IT, security)
* Recruit the appropriate staff who get it
* Develop a strategy of what you are trying to accomplish
* Be responsive to readers, to internal concerns.
* Run your blog by being honest and transparent. That’s the point, after all

One demonstration of success came with this comment:

wow, reading this blog actually makes me think that TSA might know what they’re doing.
feb. 11, 2008, 9:43p

Later, I’ll re-offer my tips to bloggers.

Written by cdorobek

October 6, 2008 at 11:23 PM