Archive for November 2008
Two stories that I read on my way back to DC (on Saturday to avoid the Sunday rush — whew!)
LAT: Obama administration jobs
Apparently there are a whole lot of people who are interested in working for the Obama administration. The transition team has received 290,000 applications, and that’s not including all the calls, e-mails andFacebook exchanges that have been flooding in to the Obama staff.
Go-getters seek jobs in Obama administration [LAT, 11.28.2008]
One member of President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team measures meetings by the number of resumes arriving on his BlackBerry.
Another says job-seekers have offered him tickets to Redskins football games, which he has turned down. And yet another has given his mother in Chicago “talking points” to deal with people trying to get to him by going through her.
“People are anxious to figure out every possible avenue in and want to get advice on how to do this,” said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic lobbyist who has gotten calls asking how to break into the new administration — even though he backed Hillary Rodham Clinton during the presidential primaries.
For people on the receiving end, it’s an unrelenting daily bombardment of resumes and requests to meet for coffee.
“I think it’s wonderful that people want to serve. But for those of us who have to deal with the onslaught, it’s a little overwhelming,” said a senior official with the transition who asked not to be identified for fear it would prompt a further deluge of applicants to his in-box.
So far, the transition team has received 290,000 applications for jobs in the Obama administration through its website — www.change.gov — and officials believe they could wind up with 1 million job-seekers by the time Obama is sworn into office on Jan. 20.
By comparison, before President Bush took office in 2001, he received just 44,000 requests for political jobs. As former President Clinton assumed the White House in 1993, he had received 125,000 applications for jobs.
The problem is that only about 8,000 non-career service positions are available, according to the Plum Book, which lists those jobs.
Ron Klain, chief of staff to Vice President-elect Joe Biden, has been hearing from people he knows and from people Biden knows.
WSJ: Fiscal discipline
Obama Pledges Discipline Even With Stimulus Outlays [WSJ, 11.26.2008, WSJ.com is a paid site]
President-Elect Targets Wasteful Spending As Stimulus Funds Are Set to Strain Budget
President-elect Barack Obama on Tuesday emphasized his commitment to fiscal responsibility, promising that his team would strip the federal budget of all unnecessary spending to help offset large outlays expected for his planned stimulus package.
But Mr. Obama didn’t provide many specifics, and he gave little sense of how he would tackle entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security. Few experts believe the budget deficit can be brought under control without trimming spending on these programs.
President-elect Barack Obama, flanked, by Budget Director-designate Peter Orszag, left, and Deputy Budget Director-designate Rob Nabors, speaks during a news conference in Chicago.
The deficit totaled an estimated $438 billion for fiscal 2008 ended in October, and is expected to surge in 2009 due to a $700 billion government rescue package for the financial sector, among other expenditures. Mr. Obama has pledged to push for a stimulus package to create or save 2.5 million jobs soon after he takes office in January, but he hasn’t provided a cost.
“If we are going to make the investments we need, we also have to be willing to shed the spending that we don’t need,” Mr. Obama said in his second news conference in two days on the economy. “We can’t sustain a system that bleeds billions of taxpayer dollars on programs that have outlived their usefulness or exist solely because of the power of politicians, lobbyists or interest groups.”
You can read his farewell message… and more… after the break.
On this Black Friday, there are two stories that caught my eye — in addition to the continuing story out of India, of course…
* Cyber-attack on Defense Department computers raises concerns [LAT, 11.28.2008]
Just days ago, I pointed to the BusinessWeek story about attacks on NASA networks… Today, the LAT has a story about cyber-attacks on DOD systems — attacks so severe that military leaders briefed President Bush. This synopsis from the WSJ.com:
Senior military leaders took the exceptional step of briefing President Bush this week on a severe and widespread electronic attack on Defense Department computers that may have originated in Russia — an incursion that posed unusual concern among commanders and raised potential implications for national security. Defense officials would not describe the extent of damage inflicted on military networks. But they said that the attack struck hard at networks within U.S. Central Command, the headquarters that oversees U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, and affected computers in combat zones. The attack also penetrated at least one highly protected classified network.
Read the full story here.
* Rescue Plan Strained by Lack of Staff [WSJ, 11.28.2008]
The WSJ reports that the Treasury Department’s Troubled Asset Relief Program is having trouble getting qualified staff. Again, synopsis from the WSJ :
The U.S. Treasury has so far struggled to keep up with the task of hiring enough people to handle the $700 billion financial rescue package passed by Congress in October. The man now in charge of running the Troubled Asset Relief Program, Assistant Secretary NeelKashkari, said the department’s Office of Financial Stability, with about 40 full-time employees, is operating at half-staff.
NewsBytes: Items worth reading (or hearing)… NASA undergoing hacks… Vivek Kundra… government 2.0… and Safavian pardon watch
A number of items worth keeping an eye on — between bites of turkey, of course…
NASA under cyber-attack, BusinessWeek reports
BusinessWeek has a story — the first of what I’m sure will be scores of similar type stories — about agencies under cyber-attack. In this instance, it is NASA. We spoke to Keith Epstein, an investigative reporter in BusinessWeek’s Washington bureau, on Federal News Radio’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris on Friday about the story. You can hear that conversation here.
You can read BusinessWeek’s story here.
America’s military and scientific institutions—along with the defense industry that serves them—are being robbed of secret information on satellites, rocket engines, launch systems, and even the Space Shuttle. The thieves operate via the Internet from Asia and Europe, penetrating U.S. computer networks. Some of the intruders are suspected of having ties to the governments of China and Russia, interviews and documents show. Of all the arms of the U.S. government, few are more vulnerable than NASA, the civilian space agency, which also works closely with the Pentagon and American intelligence services.
In April 2005, cyber-burglars slipped into the digital network of NASA’s supposedly super-secure Kennedy Space Center east of Orlando, according to internal NASA documents reviewed by BusinessWeek and never before disclosed. While hundreds of government workers were preparing for a launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery that July, a malignant software program surreptitiously gathered data from computers in the vast Vehicle Assembly Building, where the Shuttle is maintained. The violated network is managed by a joint venture owned by NASA contractors Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
Undetected by the space agency or the companies, the program, called stame.exe, sent a still-undetermined amount of information about the Shuttle to a computer system in Taiwan. That nation is often used by the Chinese government as a digital way station, according to U.S. security specialists.
By December 2005, the rupture had spread to a NASA satellite control complex in suburban Maryland and to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, home of Mission Control. At least 20 gigabytes of compressed data—the equivalent of 30 million pages—were routed from the Johnson center to the system in Taiwan, NASA documents show. Much of the data came from a computer server connected to a network that tracks malfunctions that could threaten the International Space Station.
As I say, I’m sure this is just the first of many of these kinds of stories… and it gives you an indication as to why the Bush administration has stepped up its cyber-security initiatives.
Years ago — back in 2005, in fact — FCW had a story headlined, The new Trojan war, that looked at these cyber-security issues.
In mythology, the Greeks found an innovative way to avoid Troy’s defenses. By offering the gift of a huge horse — hollowed out and filled with soldiers — the Greeks were able to bypass Troy’s defenses and attack from the inside.
Today the Pentagon faces a similar situation. Adversaries have been attacking Defense Department computer networks in attempts to bypass the United States’ formidable defenses and attack from the inside out.
Defense and industry officials describe DOD networks as the Achilles’ heel of the powerful U.S. military. Securing military networks is even more critical in an increasingly transformed military in which information is as much a weapon as tanks and assault rifles.
DOD networks have been breached. Department officials acknowledged hackers attacked military networks almost 300 times in 2003 — sometimes by cyber Trojan horses, which can operate within an organization’s network. DOD officials say intrusions reduced the military’s operational capabilities in 2004.
Along those lines, 1105 Media and Juniper are hosting a seminar on the trusted Internet connection initiative — the program designed to trim down the government’s connections to the Internet in order to make them more secure. They have a good agenda lined up. In the morning, there will be presentations by RDML Michael (“Mike”) Brown , the Homeland Security Department’s National Protection and Programs deputy assistant Secretary for Cyber Security and Communications, and OMB’s Karen Evans. I will also be moderating a panel about what TIC means to people on the front lines.
EDITOR’S NOTE AND DISCLOSURE: I am being paid for moderating this panel.
DC’s Vivek Kundra advising Team Obama
We told you about this earlier, but WTOP star reporter Mark Seagraves scored an interview with DC CTO Vivek Kundra and confirmed that he has, indeed, been advising Team Obama on technology issues. Federal News Radio spoke to Seagraves about his interview with Kundra on the Daily Debrief with(out) Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris.
The Fenty Administration’s top techie is helping President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team develop new ways to use technology.
Vivek Kundra, chief technology officer for the District, tells WTOP the same applications and innovations he’s brought to the District government can be applied at the federal level.
“I’m advising on what we’ve done in the District of Columbia,” Kundra says. “I think it’s scaleable nationally, and globally, too.”
Kundra isn’t eager to talk about his work with the Obama transition team, preferring to direct the conversation back to his work for the District. But when pressed, Kundra acknowledges the scope of his consultations go beyond the transition.
“I’m advising in terms of some of the ideas that are in the District government that can be leveraged not just in the transition team, but across the country,” says Kundras from his ninth floor office, which overlooks the federal enclave below Capitol Hill.
Read the full story here.
More on government 2.0… and Safavian… after the break…
Read the rest of this entry »
Many of us are off traveling this Thanksgiving week. (My family decided to gather in Santa Fe, NM for the week. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it… and on Friday, I’ll visit Las Vegas, NM to visit my former colleague now with Government Executive, Bob Brewin. Bob always points out that Las Vegas, NM is the original Las Vegas.)
If you are out and about, please travel safely.
My brother-in-law is English where they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, of course. So a few years ago, we hosted Thanksgiving — including my sister’s family and her in-laws and they were asking us about Thanksgiving. Those kinds of conversations are always interesting because they cause you to take a step back and think… and I came to the conclusion that Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it isn’t about gifts… in the end, it is about being with family and loved ones, friends… and thinking about all the many things we have to be thankful for — even in these shaky economic times.
The past 12 months have been very interesting in the Dorobek household — there have been some big lows (a major fire in my house… my beloved pet passing away)… and there have been many highs (my wonderful new pooch… and, while I adored my old job, I am absolutely loving my new gig ). And there are so many people — I am very blessed.
On this holiday, however, my thoughts go back to Marty Wagner. Wagner is a former GSA official who retired from government to join the IBM Center for the Business of Government. In July, Wagner fell off his roof and sustained serious injuries — he was in a coma for months. In recent weeks, there have been very positive signs. Wagner is such a special person… so I send my thoughts out to Wagner and his family.
Meanwhile, the Census has pulled together data on Thanksgiving.
In the fall of 1621, the religious separatist Pilgrims held a three-day feast to celebrate a bountiful harvest, an event many regard as the nation’s first Thanksgiving. It eventually became a national holiday in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanksgiving. Later, President Franklin Roosevelt clarified that Thanksgiving should always be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month to encourage earlier holiday shopping, never on the occasional fifth Thursday.
The preliminary estimate of turkeys raised in the United States in 2008. That’s not statistically significantly different from the number raised during 2007. The turkeys produced in 2007 together weighed 7.9 billion pounds and were valued at $3.7 billion. Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service
There are many more Thanksgiving stats — share them around your family’s table — after the break…
Checking in with the most read items on The DorobekInsider.com for the past seven days…
Several items on the Federal News Radio Book Club, which took place last Wednesday with Stephen M. R. Covey, the author of The SPEED of Trust along with Dave Wennergren, the Defense Department’s deputy CIO. It was a fascinating discussion, so… I hope you’ll give it a listen if you missed it. I have the link posted from here. We’re on the search for the next book club suggestion, so…
Meanwhile, the most read items from 11-24 November…
- Obama CTO frenzy: More names in the mix
- Apps for Democracy… and my recommendation for Obama’s CTO [We heard more about DC's remarkable Apps for Democracy program from Peter Corbett, president of iStrategy Labs on Federal News Radio's Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris last week. I should also note that we also spoke to Andrew McAfee, associate professor at the Harvard Business School and the person credited with creating the term 'enterprise 2.0.' As I mentioned in the most read DorobekInsider item for the week, McAfee wrote a piece on what the CTO should do.. and we spoke to him about that of Federal News Radio's Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris. You can hear that discussion here . If Team Obama hasn't spoken to McAfee, he would also be on the CJD list of people who would make for a great Obama CTO.]
- Tim Young’s retirement festivities
- OMB’s Tim Young is going to… Yes, we now know
- Microsoft federal names a CTO — a chief transition officer
- Is the NASA CIO stepping down? More Friday
- FCW excerpt of ‘The SPEED of Trust’ — in preparation for Wednesday’s Federal News Radio Book Club
- OMB’s Tim Young announces his departure, but to where?
- NASA CIO update… the CIO job is posted, but no official word yet
- Another big score for Deloitte — Tom Davis
- Navy out with one of the first Web 2.0 policy memos
- NASA CIO Pettus: Stepping down to spend time with his family — really
- Obama’s yet-to-be-named CTO suggestion box
- We talk to the new head at Unisys federal
- Tech guru Genachowski named to Obama transition team
- News on OMB’s Tim Young… today?
- Obit: Christina Nelson, formerly of the Digital Government Institute
- @obama may be gone, but @change_gov is born
- Reminder: The Federal News Radio Book Club today
- Gartner’s 10 technologies worth watching
- Hearing from the creator of ObamaCTO.org
- The Federal News Radio Book Club: The Speed of Trust
- @barackobama: Where are you? Obama’s Twitter feed goes silent
- Hear the Federal News Radio Book Club: The SPEED of Trust
In Washington, we often scoff at the concept that anybody might make a decision to spend time with their family. Well I have heard from people close to NASA CIO Jonathan Pettus, who tell me that he is actually notified his staff that he is stepping down to spend time with his family.
In fact, Pettus is not leaving NASA. As he told his staff this week, he intends on returning to the Marshall Space Flight Center and step down as the NASA CIO, people close to Pettus tell me. As I told you earlier, NASA is actively seeking someone to fill the position.
Pettus’s wife and two children have remained in Alabama for the past 2 years while he have served as CIO and it wasn’t possible to relocate for a number of personal reasons.
There is no specific date for the change.
Insiders tell me that Pettus is pleased that NASA has some momentum with the agency’s IT strategy with major IT initiatives underway to consolidate IT infrastructure, enable collaboration, and improve IT security.
People close to Pettus tell me that it was a difficult decision — but that it has been one of those classic career vs. family conflicts and after two years of constant travel, he simply felt that he owned it to his family to be closer to home.
I haven’t seen Pettus as often as some other CIOs — in part because of the travel, I’m sure. But whenever I have had dealings with him, he has always been frank and honest and he always impressed me. I can only imagine howdifficult a decision this would be.
This week on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s In Depth with Francis Rose program, we had a really wonderful discussion this week with Covey, Dave Wennergren, the Defense Department’s deputy CIO, Rose and myself about this book. If you couldn’t listen on Wednesday, we have it posted online here. You can listen to the entire hour. You can also hear it here:
Rose is also going to be replaying the conversation this coming Thursday or Friday.
If you want a taste of the book, listen to the conversation — Wennergren did such a good job making sure we tied the book in to the challenges facing agencies these days. We spoke to him about the program earlier on Federal News Radio’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris. But you can also read excerpts over at Federal Computer Week’s November 17, 2008 issue. They have three parts:
- Organizational success: A matter of trust: Leaders will reap dividends if they align their organizations with core principles and behaviors that increase trust.
- The 4 cores of credibility: The key to building trust in organizations is alignment — linking an organization’s design around those cores and behaviors.
- The 13 behaviors for cultivating trust: These behaviors stem from character, competence, or a combination of the two.
Again — you can hear the entire book club discussion here. I’d love to hear your thoughts about the book… about the book club format… and about future books that we can select.
A very special thanks to Rose for agreeing to adopt the book club idea… to Covey for agreeing to participate — he was really great — but particularly to Wennergren. I’m a huge Wennergren fan anyway, but… he just was so helpful every step of the way with this process — coming up with the book… and then participating in each and every part of it.
So… which book next?