Government Innovation’s Bad Rap

Hey there, I’m Christopher Dorobek the DorobekINSIDER and welcome to GovLoop Insights Issue of the Week with Chris Dorobek for the third week of October 2011. We’re glad you’re with us.Each week, our goal is to look at an issue, a person, an idea that helped define the past 7-days, but we also work to find a topic that also will have an impact on the days, weeks and months ahead.

And as always, we focus on six words: helping you do your job better.And our issue of the week is about you doing your job better.

ISSUE OF THE WEEK

There were a few stories this week about different agencies seeking different ways to be innovative. The New York Times reports that the postal union representing letter carriers’ has hired a former investment banker, and a the financial firm to help craft a plan to breathe some life into the ailing postal service.

And along a similar vain, Reuters reports that the is stepping up its five-year-old Defense Venture Catalyst Initiative, or DeVenCI, as a way to get high-tech advice.

There has been a lot of discussion in recent years about how the government can be innovative. Next week, at the Industry Advisory Council’s Executive Leadership Conference, a big focus will be on innovation. And, in fact, we are going to try something a big different — maybe even innovative. As part of that discussion, there will be an UN-session. You have have heard of an un-conference. These are where you don’t have a panel — or even an agenda. You have… well, the people in the room. You tap the wisdom of crowds. At ELC, we are doing an UN-session. When I say we, the UN-session is going to be guided by myself and Kathy Conrad. Kathy is the principal deputy associate administrator of GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies.

I asked her to join me this week to talk about government and innovation and she says that the government isn’t given enough credit for its innovation even by government employees.

OTHER STORIES WE’RE FOLLOWING

We start with your money, where there were were a number of stories. We lead, of course, with the talk and the likelihood that pay for feds will be frozen for the third year. The Washington Post says that Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), the chairman of and ranking member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, are also suggesting that the way that feds retirement befits are calculated should be recalculated. And Federal Times notes that the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and other Republican members on the panel called on the budget supercommittee to extend the federal pay freeze through 2015. They also called on the supercommittee to permanently end “non-performance-based” step increases.

Speaking of that budget supercommittee: Many eyes still watching the work that is going on behind closed doors on Capitol Hill. The Washington Post says there is growing unease that the supercommittee might not do much of anything.

Meanwhile the U-S intelligence agencies are bracing for big budget cuts, Wired’s Danger Room blog reports. The intelligence community is facing a “double digit” percentage cut to its $80 billion annual budget, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said at a conference this week.

And the age of austerity is getting increasingly real for feds. This week, the Justice Department said it may shut down some offices around the country. That angered attorneys working in those cities… and the Government Accountability Office said it may have to consider furloughs if proposed budget cuts pass.

Very serious issues, but could there be austerity hype? For government tech, maybe, at least according to immixGroup’s Market Intelligence organization. It presented it’s assessment of the budget this week. They said that while continuing resolutions and ongoing budget cuts will have an impact, most federal IT spending requests are slightly ahead of 2011 levels, with buying trends expected to emphasize telework/mobile computing, cloud computing/virtualization, and cybersecurity.

A few other quick money items:

* The unemployment rate for veterans is outpacing the rate for civilians. The Washington Post has the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that showed the unemployement rate for veterans at nearly 12 percent, well above the overall jobless rate of about 9.1 percent.

* And we told you last week about Moneyball managers. Politico this week has the story about Moneyball economics. And they quote White House Office of Management and Budget Associate Director for Performance and Personnel Management Shelley Metzenbaum who says that the Moneyball book and film about the baseball manager who uses atypical data to make decisions. Metzenbaum says that could be a model for government agencies.

The defense story of the week… from the New York Times, which reported that the Obama administration considered using cyber-attacks on Lybian leaders to disrupt and disable the Qaddafi government, but eventually decided to use traditional air strikes. (Last week, we spoke to  Mark Bowden the author and journalist. His most famous work is Black Hawk Down, but his most recent book is Worm: The First Digital World War. Hear that conversation here.)

Our procurement story of the week… The Government Accountability Office sustained a protest of the General Services Administration’s cloud computing contract. GAO essentially recommended a do over. We have a link to Washington Technology’s story and the GAO decision.

A few big management stories this week…

The 7,000 memmbers of the Senior Executive Service — you’re going to be getting a new performance management system and soon. Federal Times reports the new system, being finalized by the Office of Management and Budget, aims to evaluate SES members on how well they demonstrate the SES’s five “core qualifications”: leading people, leading change, business acumen, building coalitions and being results driven.

And the management of government technology specifically the role of the CIO.

GAO put out its assessment on the role of the federal chief information officer. What is probably little shock to anybody: GAO found that CIOs don’t fully have a full seat at the leadership table in many agencies. (AFFIRM will be holding it’s own assessment on the changing role of the CIO at it’s lunch on November 16.)

Meanwhile, the Federal CIO Council put out it’s thoughts on the critically of what are called integrated program teams. We’ll have more on this later, but you can read why the Federal CIO Council believe they are important online.

And just in case you think managing technology is easy, a story out of Canada where that government’s CIO said that it could take a decade to remake that country’s IT structure.

Finally, the Wall Street Journal had a story this week about ways of updating the suggestion box. And we’ve seen that across government. TSA and now DHS have their Idea Factory. But here is a way to have your say on waste. the National Academy of Public Administration and the Recovery, Accountability and Transparency Board are looking for your insights on how to find waste, fraud and abuse. You can have your say at fedaccountabilitydialogue.net.

I should mention that the Journal also had a story about the trials and tribulations of having these kinds of open forums. The Journal notes that a White House promised to answer questions raised in an online petition. One petition wants to legalize raw milk sales. Others seek to mandate the spaying and neutering of pets, abolish the Transportation Security Administration and even to “formally acknowledge an extraterrestrial presence engaging the human race.” There is even one to save the Postal Service.

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