Obama wants to ‘blow up’ tech purchasing – Plus the DorobekINSIDER’s 7 Stories

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

  • Why should anyone care where the internet comes from? You log on to your computer daily, hourly, minutely. But do you know where the information is streaming from? Or how it works? Do you even care? Insights on why you should, in part two of our interview with Andrew Blum.

But up front:

  • The Hill: Obama wants to 'blow up' tech purchasing

    • Watch WSJ’s Full Interview With President Obama - Washington Wire

    • “ There is a larger problem that I probably — I speak personally but also as the administration — could have identified earlier. And that is the way the federal government does procurement and does IT is just generally not very efficient. In fact, there’s probably no bigger gap between the private sector and the public sector than IT. And we’ve see that in, for example, the VA and the Department of Defense trying to deal with electronic medical records for our service men as they move into civilian life. Most of that stuff’s still done on paper. we’ve spent billions of dollars — I’m not saying we as in my administration. I mean we’ve now had about a decade of experimentation, spent billions of dollars and it’s still not working the way it should. So what we probably needed to do on the front end was to blow up how we procure for IT, especially on a system this complicated. We did not do that successfully. Now, we are getting it fixed, but it would have been better to do it on the front end, rather than the back end.

    • NYU Professor Clay Shirky: Tech planning and Healthcare.gov. "The management question, when trying anything new, is "When does reality trump planning?" For the officials overseeing Healthcare.gov, the preferred answer was "Never." Every time there was a chance to create some sort of public experimentation, or even just some clarity about its methods and goals, the imperative was to deny the opposition anything to criticize. At the time, this probably seemed like a way of avoiding early failures. But the project's managers weren't avoiding those failures. They were saving them up. The actual site is worse--far worse--for not having early and aggressive testing."  

    • WSJ: Politics complicated health-exchange build. The shenanigans in Washington leading up to the passage of the Affordable Care Act had a big impact on online health-exchange development efforts, Patrick Howard, a principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP, tells The Wall Street Journal. Howard, who worked on the Connecticut and Kentucky health exchanges, said the process was subject to political uncertainties, particularly in 2012. Last year, states had to decide whether to build their own exchange or use HealthCare.gov, taking into account the Supreme Court’s decision to require U.S. citizens to purchase health insurance. State officials also had to be mindful of the presidential election. “There was a lot of building blocks to get to building the IT system,” Mr. Howard said. “In state government, it doesn’t take long to chew up a couple of years in planning for a system.”  

  • There is -- or isn’t -- hope for a budget deal… depending on what you read

    • Politico: Hopes growing for budget deal: Hopes are growing that Ryan and Murray could reach a narrow deal to replace a portion of the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, according to lawmakers and senior aides involved in the discussions.  

    • GovExec: Did the Shutdown Even Matter? With less than four weeks to go, there is little sense of urgency on a budget deal.

The SEVEN stories that impact your life for Wednesday the 20th of November 2013

  1. A recent report from the GAO attributes problems associated with security clearances to the high number of positions that are classified. The Washington Post notes that there are approximately 5 million individuals in the U.S. government with a security clearance currently and that this number is not likely to go down. According to the GAO report, there are one-time assessments of a position’s clearance designation after the first 24 months. What is needed, however, is periodic reviews of a position’s need for access to classified materials if the number of security clearances is to be kept to an efficient and effective minimum.

  2. Obama administration tech officials announced this week that individuals can now direclty enroll for healthcare coverage with insurers, giving them the option to avoid Healthcare.gov altogether. Tech officials stated that even with direct enrollment, individuals can expect to receive their Obamacare subsidies. Politico reports that the issue of direct enrollment has been a hot button topic lately with Maryland Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin pushing HHS Secretary Sebelius to make direct enrollment a priority. Political pressure for direct enrollment has mounted even more with the recent release of statements by a top tech official saying that as high as 40 percent of Obamacare IT systems are still unfinished.

  3. The U.S. House passed the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act this week, which aims to make federal spending data more transparent and easier to compare across agencies. Specifically, the new law requires agencies to use a uniform coding system for federal spending data that both internal auditors and external watchdogs can use to monitor and compare the use of funds across the government. Nextgov reports that the law also requires changes to the website, USASpending.gov, that will make it easier for users to observe federal spending across agencies.

  4. Senate members of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee have again delayed the review and markup of the 2013 Postal Reform Act due to a lack of support among democrats. The original proponents of the legislation, Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Tom Coburn (R-OK), are now working on a new bill, which they hope will garner greater political support. The Government Executive states that their proposal will be submitted as a substitute amendment to the original legislation and that the committee will review it following the Thanksgiving recess.  

  5. The OMB has provided guidelines for how agencies are to move towards a continuous diagnostics and monitoring (CDM) system by the year 2017. Federal News Radio explains that this system, now known as information security continuous monitoring (ISCM), is designed to protect government data from cybersecurity threats. Specifically, OMB has released a new information security memorandum: M-14-03, which provides instructions on managing information security risk on a continuous basis. The Federal CIO Council and Committee on National Security Systems, in support of M-14-03, released a Concept of Operations (CONOPS) memo, which is available on OMB MAX. In addition to M-14-03, OMB has released M-14-04, which provides instructions for agencies to meet reporting requirements under the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), and it includes reporting instructions for agencies’ privacy management program.

  6. Agencies are finding it difficult to recruit cybersecurity experts given that Congress is unlikely to authorize higher pay scales for these positions. The Federal Times notes that outside of government, cybersecurity experts can earn salaries that are two or three times higher. While many in Congress recognize the need for cybersecurity talent in government, they are wary of the hiring and screening processes for these positions given the recent NSA scandals and the actions of individuals such as Edward Snowden.

  7. TSA is collaborating with the Defense Department to broaden its Pre Check expedited screening procedures for all active duty military, including the U.S. Coast Guard, reserves and National Guard. TSA currently has Pre Check expedited screening options for military personnel at 10 U.S. airports. FCW reports that this number is expected to increase to 100 airports by December 20. In these fast-track security checkpoints, military passengers can keep their shoes and jackets on and their laptops and security compliant liquids in their bags.   

DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder

  • Army PR push: 'Average-looking women': The Army should use photos of “average-looking women” when it needs to illustrate stories about female soldiers, a specialist recommends — images of women who are too pretty undermine the communications strategy about introducing them into combat roles.

  • Politico: Harvard president sounds alarm over sequester Harvard University President Drew Faust warned Tuesday of continuing to cut scientific research budgets, saying even the nation's wealthiest university is losing faculty to countries where governments are spending more on research. Harvard gets 16 percent of its budget -- $600 million per year -- from federal research spending, much of that for medical research. The university is fundraising and seeking nonprofits and corporations to help support research, Faust said during a meeting with POLITICO editors and reporters, in part because the basic partnership between universities and the government is at risk."

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