DorobekInsider

Focusing on six words: Helping government do its job better

Archive for the ‘Executive’ Category

DorobekINSIDER: BREAKING: GSA names Michael Robertson as chief of staff

leave a comment »

Just in — GSA Administrator Martha Johnson today named Michael Robertson to be GSA’s chief of staff.

GSA's Michael Robertson

GSA's Michael Robertson

That post was vacated earlier this year when Danielle Germain stepped down. The chief of staff is a critical post in the GSA leadership team. In fact, GSA Administrator Martha Johnson served as the chief of staff for then GSA Administrator David Barram, so it is a post with which she has intimate knowledge.

He will take over on May 3, 2010.

The statement from Johnson:

“Under the Obama Administration, GSA is uniquely positioned to leverage our governmentwide scope, expertise, and buying power to deliver solutions for the White House and federal agencies on sustainability, open government, recovery, and acquisition workforce,” said GSA Administrator Martha N. Johnson. “I am thrilled that the White House has appointed Michael Robertson as GSA’s next Chief of Staff. I’ve worked closely with Michael for over a year and can think of no better person to advise and serve as a driving force on these initiatives. His talent and commitment to GSA will assure our strong focus on our customers, align us with the President’s priorities, and ensure that we find creative and collaborative ways to continue to be a leader across government.”

And the statement from Robertson:

“In my time here I’ve learned that the people of GSA are some of the most committed public servants across government,” said GSA Chief of Staff Michael J. Robertson. “I am honored to serve in the Obama administration as GSA Chief of Staff. We have an amazing opportunity to grow GSA and better position ourselves to serve our customer agencies and deliver on the President’s priorities of improving government efficiency and operations through sustainability, open government, citizen engagement, innovation, and responsible acquisitions.”

Robertson already wears a number of hats within GSA — he serves as the White House liaison, the associate administrator of GSA’s Office of Governmentwide Policy, and the agency’s chief acquisition officer. It seems unlikely that he would be able to continue holding all those posts, but we were not immediately able to confirm those details.

UPDATE: GSA confirms that Robertson will not continue in the posts at the Office of Governmentwide Policy or the Chief Acquisition Officer. Johnson is working with the White House on candidates for those posts.

Johnson is looking how to build GSA’s next generation acquisition team given some key vacancies. Jim Williams retired as the commission of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service last month… and David Drabkin retired from his post as deputy chief acquisition officer. Johnson is known to consider these vacancies an opportunity to build a 2.0 version of GSA’s acquisition organization and has been carefully considering a number of options.

Robertson worked on the staff of then Sen. Barack Obama, worked on the Obama presidential campaign, and joined GSA soon after the transition.

Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris had the first interview with Robertson when he started at GSA. Read more here.

* Federal News Radio: GSA’s Robertson ready to take on challenges [September 8, 2009]

* Federal News Radio: GSA reorganizes to better green the government [February 22, 2010]

Dorobek Insider: GSA names a OGP-CAO leader – and then merges the organizations

* DorobekInsider: Robertson to be named to head GSA’s OGP and CAO [August 10, 2009]

* Federal News Radio: Data propels GSA’s plans for the acquisition workforce [April 13, 2010]

Robertson’s current bio from GSA:

Michael J. Robertson – Chief of Staff

Michael J. Robertson has been appointed by the White House as Chief of Staff for the U.S. General Services Administration effective May 3, 2010.

In this role, he will serve as an advisor to the Administrator with particular emphasis on furthering the Obama Administration’s agenda at GSA. He will work with client agencies and the White House to ensure that GSA finds creative and collaborative ways to be a leader in sustainability, open government, recovery, and responsible acquisitions.

Since August 2009, Michael served as Associate Administrator of Governmentwide Policy and Chief Acquisition Officer for GSA. As head of the Office of Governmentwide Policy, Robertson worked to develop and evaluate policies for management of the federal government’s internal operations. In addition, as Chief Acquisition Officer, he has been responsible for developing and reviewing acquisition policies, procedures, and related training for GSA and federal acquisition professionals. He also served as the functional manager of GSA’s acquisition workforce.

Michael began his service with GSA in early 2009 when he was appointed as White House Liaison.

Before coming to GSA, Robertson served as the deputy working group lead for the Energy and Environment Agency Review Team on the Obama-Biden Transition Project. Immediately prior to that, he served the Obama for America presidential campaign as the primary point person for securing endorsements and superdelegate support from House and Senate members.

In early 2007, Robertson served as then-Senator Barack Obama’s Legislative Coordinator and deputy to the Chief Counsel where he managed the appropriations process, worked on judicial nominations, and conducted political outreach to promote Obama’s legislative priorities. In 2004, he worked in Chicago on Obama’s Senate campaign. Before entering the political field, Robertson worked in venture capital in San Francisco.

A native of Fresno, California, Robertson graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California at Berkeley and earned his Juris Doctor from Golden Gate University School of Law. He is currently pursuing a Masters of Law from Georgetown University’s Law Center in Washington, DC.

Written by cdorobek

April 20, 2010 at 1:04 PM

The DorobekINSIDER Reader: The open government policies and plans

leave a comment »

When there are big events, I like to pull together resources in one place — and, of course, this has been open government week — the Office of Management and Budget issued a series of policies, while agencies issued their open government plans.

Federal News Radio’s Max Cacas reports on the plans and policies:

[redlasso id=”6268069c-5bd4-4498-93b1-834438aaaafb”]

You can find Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s ongoing coverage of the open government initiative here.

Before the plans were released, I posted DorobekINSIDER: Assessing transparency and open government.

The top level resources:

* The DorobekINSIDER reader from May 22, 2009 on the open government and transparency initiative — yes, this all is a work in progress

* The White House open government site, which has a lot of good information but buries links to agency open government plans in the open government dashboard.

* OMB director Peter Orszag blog post: OMB and Open Government, which includes a link to the four OMB open government policies — also listed below — and to OMB’s open government plan.

* White House Office of Science and Technology Policy blog post by Norm Eisen, Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform:
Open for Change, which he says will “strengthen our democracy and promote accountability, efficiency and effectiveness across the government.”

* GovLoop has a great chart of all the agency open government plans

OMB policies

* Social Media, Web-Based Interactive Technologies, and the Paperwork Reduction Act [PDF] [Flash version]

* Information Collection under the Paperwork Reduction Act [PDF]

* Increasing Openness in the Rulemaking Process – Use of the Regulation Identifier Number (RIN) [PDF]

* Open Government Directive – Federal Spending Transparency [PDF]

Discussion about the policies and open government:

* Sunlight Foundation’s Ellen Miller: Idling in the driveway: “Sigh. I feel like a disappointed parent.”

* Sunlight’s Jake Brewer has told open government advocates:

Put simply, it’s increasingly clear government is not going to become more open and transparent without extraordinary public pressure. And WE are going to have to be the ones to put that pressure on them.

You can help right now by joining our campaign for open government and signing the pledge to demand all public government information be available ONLINE and in REAL-TIME.

http://PublicEqualsOnline.com

* GovLoop has a fascinating discussion, “What Do You Think about OMB Soc Media and PRA Guidance?”
Much of that discussion has revolved around the Paperwork Reduction Act — and a strong frustration that it really hinders agencies flexibilities.

A sample of some of the discussion:

This is fairly far from awesome. I’d actually label it fairly disappointing. Not only are both documents written to be as vague as possible (the PRA primer, for instance, spends most of its text simply repeating statute), this doesn’t really get us where we need to be…

More disappointing from my standpoint, it keeps in place the notion that citizen interaction with the government is essentially a “burden” and still codifies the position that significant interaction with the public should be minimized (this is clearly contrary to open government).

The discussion has spurred me to actually print out the Paperwork Reduction Act and read it for myself to get a sense of what it actually says. My sense is that some of what OMB is trying to do is work within the constraints of the law — a law enacted in the early 1980s before hardly anybody even had e-mail addresses.

* More on the Paperwork Reduction Act and its role from OnDotGov.com: A Few Things on the New Paperwork Reduction Act Guidance

* GovLoop also has a discussion on the open government plan: Open Gov plans cheers and jeers

* GovTwit’s blog: Open Government Day brings new guidance from OMB

* InformationWeek: Government Social Media Restrictions Eased
The guidance makes it easier for agencies to use social media and requires steps to ensure better rule-making and spending transparency.

* TechPresident’s Nancy Scola: Use Social Media Freely, White House Tells Agencies [April 7, 2010]

* TechPresident’s Micah Sifry: Open Govt: Does the Govt Know What the Govt Knows? [April 7, 2010]: “Let’s remember that announcing a plan isn’t the same thing as getting the job done”

* Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy: Major Milestone Reached in Open Government Initiative: “We should recognize that the 120 day mark is really just a starting point, not an endpoint.”

Meanwhile, how would you grade the Obama administration’s open government initiative so far:

Previous DorobekINSIDER readers:

* The DorobekInsider transparency, openness and data.gov reader [May 22, 2009]
* The DorobekInsider reader: Obama cyber policy review [May 29, 2009]
* The DorobekInsider Reader: National Security Personnel System recommendations [August 31, 2009]
* The DorobekInsider Reader: Veterans Day [November 11, 2009]
* The DorobekInsider reader: Howard Schmidt as cybersecurity coordinator [December 23, 2009]
* The DorobekInsider Reader: Martin Luther King Jr. [January 18, 2010]

DorobekINSIDER: Assessing transparency and open government

leave a comment »

Last weekend, open government advocates gathered in Washington, DC for the second Transparency Camp — an un-conference, which is one of these events where bright people come together and decide what they want to talk about. Read the Twitter feed from that event by checking out #tcamp2010 — and even the Washington Post wrote a story about the event this year.

I could only be there on the second day, but there were great folks with great ideas…

I have been fascinated by the Obama administration’s transparency and open government initiative. Among previous posts:

The DorobekInsider transparency, openness and data.gov reader [May 22, 2009]

DorobekInsider: The first draft from the Open Government and Innovations conference [July 21, 2009]

DorobekINSIDER: On NewsChannel 8 talking government openness and transparency — the liner notes [February 25, 2010]

Signal magazine column: Why Transparency Matters [May 2009]

Signal magazine column: Contract Transparency Poised to Open Up [September 2009]

And O’Reilly media has just published a book Open Government: Collaboration, Transparency, and Participation in Practice. I’ve just started it, but… the early parts of the book are well worth reading.

And this coming week will be a big week for the open government as the Office of Management and Budget and agencies will issue their open government plans.

There were several interesting aspects that came out of transparency camp.

* Most agencies get transparency: Most of the employees I know get transparency and open government. They understand why it matters and how it can help. In theory, they get that one of the powerful parts of transparency is the acknowledgment that more wisdom exists outside any organization than it does inside an organization. That being said, there is a difference between theory and practice. At Transparency Camp 2010, there were a number of staffers from Capitol Hill, which, by and large, is horrible at transparency. And some of the Hill staffers even suggested that if bills are created in a more open framework, well, that’s what staffers do. And the argument is that they know more then… well, those people out there.

Even still, the theory of transparency is one of those ideas that goes against the grain. It’s akin to the Mike Causey example that he uses for investing: When a car starts sliding on ice, you’re supposed to turn into the slide. It just doesn’t feel natural. In many ways, transparency is unnatural.

Furthermore…

* Transparency and open government still isn’t fully defined: As I said last year, transparency continues something akin to a Rorschach test — everybody sees transparency very differently. Each person has very different ways of defining what transparency means and how it can be implemented. A lot of that is good at this point — it is important to note that we are still very early in this and everybody is still learning. But it will be interesting to see how it actually gets implemented.

* Transparency and open government moves a lot of cheese around… and I’ll take a simple example: Freedom of Information Act Requests. It has always seemed to me that this is a process that is just made for openness and transparency. Why can’t all FOIA requests be posted in a public fashion… and agency responses be posted online. One reason: We journalists don’t want others knowing what we are working on.

* Open government and transparency needs to help government operate better: If this is going to take hold — if this is going to be real, I continue to believe that it needs to help agencies do their jobs better.

* Open government and transparency aren’t just a bludgeon: In many ways, Recovery.gov is the poster child for transparency and open government. In fact, Earl Devaney, the chairman of the Recovery, Accountability and Transparency Board told Federal News Radio that the transparency of the site actually has helped the Recovery Board operate more effectively. But it has been difficult at times. We remember the stories about the recovery dollars that were listed in phantom congressional districts. And everybody went nuts. The fact is that incorrect data was probably always there. We just didn’t know it before. Now we know — and it has been fixed. In fact, that is the power of open government, transparency and collaboration. Yet too often we use it as a bludgeon.

The fact is, this is new — and there are going to be mistakes.

But there are real opportunities out there. One of my favorites is the Better Buy Project. This is an innovative initiative by GSA, the National Academy of Public Administration’s Collaboration Project, and the Industry Advisory Council. And the goal is to build a better acquisition process by tapping the wisdom of the crowds, something I had discussed last year. They are actually trying it. The Better Buy Project started in the GovLoop Acquisition 2.0 community, then evolved to a way of having people suggest ideas (hear GSA’s Mary Davie talk about it on Federal News Radio) … and it is now a wiki where you can actually help GSA build a better contract both for Data.gov and for the replacement of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service’s mainframe computers. More on this later this week, but… it is such a remarkable way of seeking people’s ideas.

We’ll be talking to the folks at GSA who are leading this project later this week. You can also read more on the Better Buy blog.

There are many examples and ideas how transparency and open government can help agencies do their jobs better. It is fun to watch!

DorobekINSIDER: WH makes it official: Takai nominated for DOD CIO post

with one comment

We told you about it back in February — it is official this afternoon: Teri Takai has been nominated to be the Defense Department CIO and Defense Department Assistant Secretary for Networks and Information Integration.

The DOD CIO post has been vacant since John Grimes retired in April 2009.

Here is the write up from the White House:

Teresa Takai, Nominee for Assistant Secretary (Networks and Information Integration), Department of Defense

Since December 2007, Teri Takai has served as Chief Information Officer for the State of California. As a member of the Governor’s cabinet, she advises him on the strategic management and direction of information technology resources as the state works to modernize and transform the way California does business with its citizens. Prior to her appointment in California, Takai served as Director of the Michigan Department of Information Technology (MDIT) since 2003, where she also served as the state’s Chief Information Officer. In this position, she restructured and consolidated Michigan’s resources by merging the state’s information technology into one centralized department to service 19 agencies and over 1,700 employees. Additionally, during her tenure at the MDIT, Takai led the state to being ranked number one four years in a row in digital government by the Center for Digital Government. Before serving in state government, Takai worked for the Ford Motor Company for 30 years, where she led the development of the company’s information technology strategic plan. She also held positions in technology at EDS and Federal-Mogul Corporation. In 2005, Takai was named “Public Official of the Year” by Governing magazine. She is Past-President of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers and currently serves as Practitioner Chair of the Harvard Policy Group on Network-Enabled Services and Government. Takai earned a Master of Arts degree in management and a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics from the University of Michigan.

Written by cdorobek

March 29, 2010 at 5:06 PM

DorobekINSIDER EXCLUSIVE: GSA’s Jim Williams to retire from government after 30-plus years

leave a comment »

Jim Williams, the widely respected head of the General Services Administration’s Federal Acquisition Service, has told staff that he will leave government on April 3.

Williams has had a remarkable government career, most recently as the first commission of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, which was tasked with bringing together the former Federal Supply Service and Federal Technology Service. But he has also served as the director of U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program (US-VISIT) at the Homeland Security Department, and in several senior leadership posts at the Internal Revenue Service.

Williams does not have any current plans for when he leaves government, sources confirmed. He is exploring his options, insiders said.

The note Williams sent to staff today:

Today, I let Administrator Martha Johnson know that I am retiring from government service on April 3, 2010, but I am planning for my last day in the office to be March 31st.

I feel like I have been incredibly blessed and fortunate to have been able to serve our great nation for over thirty years and do so with so many people around the world that I like and respect.

I also believe our country’s future is bright because of the dedicated and fantastic people that I have had the opportunity to serve with and to have been part of teams of people, many still serving government, that work hard to deliver positive results for the American people, our military and law enforcement personnel, and all other parts of government.

For people who have recently come into government, I hope they experience and feel how tremendously fulfilling a public service can be. Across several government agencies and most recently GSA, DHS, and IRS, I know the successes that I am proud to have been a part of have all been due to great leaders and teams of people coming together from the public and private sector to best serve our country and make the world a better place.

There is no adequate way to say thank you to my family, friends around the world, and co-workers for all the support provided to me during my career, but I hope they know I am very grateful.

At this point, I do not know where I will be working after I leave government. I will see what options there are after I leave, but, wherever I end up, what does matter to me is that I want to stay in touch with friends. Thank you to you all for your friendship and support that helped make my career such a wonderful and rewarding experience.

Best wishes,

Jim Williams

Williams bio:

James A. Williams returned to the position of Commissioner, Federal Acquisition Service on January 22, 2009. He was designated Acting Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration on August 30, 2008. As Acting Administrator, Williams presided over the leading acquisition agency for the federal government. He was responsible for the management of nearly 12,000 employees and more than one-fourth of the government’s total procurement dollars. As Administrator he influenced the management of $500 billion in assets including 8,600 government-owned or leased buildings. He also was steward of more than 425 historic properties and 208,000 vehicles.

During his leadership as Acting Administrator, Williams was responsible for a very successful presidential transition; and for gaining approval of the 4.5 million square foot Master Plan for the St. Elizabeths Hospital campus in Washington, DC to be the new permanent home of the Department of Homeland Security. He also provided leadership in the sustainable design of energy efficient buildings; managed various “green” initiatives that provide environmentally friendly products, services and technology to federal agencies; and continued the implementation of fuel-efficient vehicles within federal and GSA’s vehicle fleets.

Before becoming Acting Administrator, Williams served as Commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service. Here he provides strategic direction-setting, performance management and leadership for the efficient and effective program execution necessary to provide best value for the government and for taxpayers, proactive customer assistance and simplified procedures. His organization is responsible for nearly $50 billion annually in acquisition revenues covering the GSA Schedules Program, information technology, vehicles, furniture, supplies to the warfighter, property disposal, travel and transportation contracts and assisting customer agencies with life cycle acquisition support.

Prior to this, Williams served as Director of the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program (US-VISIT) at the Department of Homeland Security. Previously, he served in several executive leadership positions at the Internal Revenue Service, including Deputy Associate Commissioner for Program Management, Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Procurement and later as Director of Procurement at the IRS.

Earlier in his career, Williams was director of the Local Telecommunications Procurement Division at GSA, where he was responsible for all nationwide local telecommunications purchases for the agency.

A native of Virginia, Williams earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Virginia Commonwealth University and a master’s in business administration from The George Washington University.

DorobekINSIDER: Johnson sworn in as GSA administrator — telework style

leave a comment »

GSA — the long wait is over.

The General Services Administration now has a new administrator. The DorobekINSIDER has confirmed that Martha Johnson was sworn in as GSA administrator on Sunday — by phone. The phone swearing was first reported by the Washington Post’s Federal Eye.

GSA officials confirmed that Acting Administrator Steve Leeds called Johnson at her Annapolis home on Sunday to administer the oath of office. Johnson’s husband, Steve, served as the official witness.

Johnson was confirmed by the Senate last week. And she was scheduled to be sworn in today. DC’s snowpocalypse delayed that to Thursday. All of that created this odd situation where Johnson was confirmed — but not yet in that job.

Somewhat curiously, GSA decided to do the phone swearing in on Sunday night.

GSA officials say that the phone oath is legal — and was necessary because of the snow.

GSA last had a permanent administrator nearly two years ago when Lurita Doan stepped down from that post.

Written by cdorobek

February 9, 2010 at 4:02 PM

DorobekINSIDER: DC snowpocalypse delays swearing in ceremony for GSA’s Johnson

leave a comment »

DC’s snowpocalypse has delayed the swearing in ceremony for GSA’s newly confirmed administrator Martha Johnson. The DorobekINSIDER told you last week that the swearing in ceremony was scheduled to be Tuesday at 2p ET at GSA HQ. But given that there is yet another storm eying the Nation’s Capital, GSA officials have decided to delay that ceremony to Thursday, Feb. 11 at 2p ET at GSA HQ.

The note to staff:

Martha Johnson Swearing-In Moved to Thursday Good Afternoon GSA

Due to the inclement weather in and around the Washington, D.C. metro area we have decided to postpone our welcoming for Martha Johnson. The
Swearing-In Town Hall event has been tentatively rescheduled for Thursday, February 11 at 2 p.m. For employees in Central Office, we will continue to keep you updated on details for attending the event. For employees in the regions, we will be sure to update you on how to watch the ceremony on InSite.

Thank you for your patience!

Frankly, I’m not sure what Johnson is able to do pre-swearing in — whether that is a formality. I’ve asked, but if you know…

Written by cdorobek

February 8, 2010 at 4:55 PM