DorobekInsider.com

Focusing on six words: Helping government do its job better

Archive for March 2010

DorobekINSIDER: Jerry Lohfink, head of the USDA’s National Finance Center, to retire

leave a comment »

The DorobekINSIDER has learned that Cyrus G. “Jerry” Lohfink, the director of the National Finance Center, will retire in August.

“I have decided to retire for one primary reason; I feel that it is time,” he said in a note to his staff on Monday. “It is time for me to address other interests and challenges. It is time for NFC to benefit from new leadership and perspectives. And, as we have often discussed, nothing improves until something changes.”

Lohfink is widely respected for his work at the National Finance Center, particularly for the work around Hurricane Katrina. NFC is located in New Orleans and had to shift resources around during Hurricane Katrina. For that work, he was recognized in 2006 with Federal Computer Week’s Fed 100 Award for that work — and in the issue, we called him them the Master of Disaster.

Lohfink has led the National Finance Center since 2003 after John Ortego retired from government.

The National Finance Center is a fascinating organization for a number of reasons. First, NSF was doing shared services before shared services was cool. But it is also critically important organization to feds given that they are the payroll system for many agencies. The NSF provides integrated Payroll/Personnel System and provides all the necessary related support services for the payroll process. NSF is a fee-for-service organization, meaning that it operates similar to the private sector — if you don’t satisfy customers, you lose the business. According to USDA, the National Finance Center has 1,100 Federal employees and an additional 100 contract employees with annual revenues of exceeding $160 million. NFC disburses in excess of $100B annually, pays 620,000 Federal employees biweekly, performs recordkeeping services for more than 4.2 million enrollees in Federal health benefit programs, and provides a variety of human resource, administrative, and information technology services for 172 Federal organizations.

Jerry and his wife, Cheryl, have been married for more than 30 years. They have three children. They live in Slidell, Louisiana.

Here is his note to staff:

Subject: For Your Info

What a year already! The New Orleans Saints are World Champions (and pigs have flown)! The City of New Orleans is transitioning to new leadership! FMMI is up and serving more and more customers! NFC continues to improve services and gain new business! And there are still 9 more months remaining in the year for things to happen.

One such future happening this year, albeit a far less notable one, will be my retirement from Federal Service. I have just informed Mr. Jon Holladay, Acting Chief Finance Officer, of my intention to retire from Federal service at the end of August 2010. I am sending you this note because I wanted to be the first to share this information with you.

I have decided to retire for one primary reason; I feel that it is time. It is time for me to address other interests and challenges. It is time for NFC to benefit from new leadership and perspectives. And, as we have often discussed, nothing improves until something changes.

I have been very blessed to have had 33 years of Federal Service which I have tremendously enjoyed; especially my 27 years at NFC! Federal Service has been very good to me and my family. My time at NFC has introduced me to many opportunities, challenges, and terrific people – leadership, peers, customers, stakeholders, business partners, etc. But foremost in my daily thoughts are you, the “CAN DO!” employees at the NFC, who have been my inspirations, role models, and folks that I tremendously admire! Always maintain that positive attitude! I just do not think that each of you truly appreciates the important role you play and the terrific job you do at making the Government’s administrative and financial business better!

I look forward to continuing to work with you over the next 5 months to better the organization, improve customer satisfaction, and continue to grow the business. We continue to be in a great period of service improvement and business growth. We must keep the momentum going! There are great years ahead for the folks at the NFC! You are making it so.

I tremendously appreciate what each of you does on a daily basis for your organization and its customers! I am proud to say that I am your colleague and number one cheerleader. THANK YOU for making me a better person from having served with each of you! Who dat? YOU DAT!!

Sincerely,

/s/ Jerry
CYRUS G. LOHFINK
Director, National Finance Center

Here is his bio from USDA:

Jerry Lohfink is director of the Office of the Chief Financial Officer’s National Finance Center in New Orleans, La.

From May 1998 until his selection for this position Lohfink served as deputy director of NFC. During his nearly 20 years at NFC he has also served as associate director of its Information Resources Management Division, its financial management officer, chief of its Financial Information Branch, a senior financial analyst, and a program analyst.

From 1978-84 he served with the Agricultural Research Service at its [then] regional office in New Orleans. During his tenure there he worked as the assistant for finance to ARS’s [then} regional administrator, the assistant budget and fiscal officer, a supervisory budget analyst, and a supervisory accounting technician.

John Ortego, the previous director of NFC, is now president and owner of Ortego & Associates, a business consulting firm based in New Orleans.

Written by cdorobek

March 31, 2010 at 10:13 AM

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: The 2010 Fed 100 Awards Gala: Eagle winners, and I blush

leave a comment »

Last night was Federal Computer Week’s 20th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala recognizing the 100 people who have made a difference in government IT in the past year. You can read the profiles of the winners from FCW here… and the full list here — including (blush) the DorobekINSIDER.

In my humble opinion, Federal Computer Week’s annual Federal 100 awards program is one of the most prestigious awards program in the government IT market. That is in part based on the fact that, as the former editor in chief at Federal Computer Week, I got to see how the process works — and it is tough. In fact, it is more competitive then you can imagine. One year, we had a judge who specifically asked to be a judge after winning the award a number of times. (Judges cannot win the Fed 100 award.) And that person, after being a judge, exclaimed, ‘Wow! I have new found respect for this process.’ And he went home and polished his awards, which were all given for well deserved work.

The 2010 Fed 100 winners are a distinguished group. There are people who are almost obvious — federal CIO Vivek Kundra, Roger Baker, the CIO at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Beth Noveck, the deputy chief technology officer who has led the open government initiative. And then there are the less well known yet still equally remarkable — NASA’s Emma Attunes, EPA’s Jeffrey Levy, Craiglist founder Craig Newmark and Sunlight Lab’s Clay Johnson.

Each year, FCW and the 1105 Government Information Group selects two people — one government, one industry — as the firsts among equals. Those two people are given FCW’s Eagle Award. These are the two people who have gone above and beyond among those who have gone above and beyond.

The 2010 government Eagle Award winner is Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency.

An excerpt of why he was recognized:

Alexander has consolidated the cyber mission planning and execution commands that support all 10 combatant commanders, and he helped oversee the development of a comprehensive, integrated and joint specializedcyber technical training course at Naval Air Station Pensacola. In addition, he has been nominated to lead the Defense Department’s newCyber Command.

Read the full write-up here.

The 2010 industry Eagle Award winner is Robert “Bob” Dix, Vice President of Government Affairs for Juniper Networks.

An excerpt from his write up:

Dix is active in a number of collaborative government and industry efforts, including the President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee and the Partnership for Critical Infrastructure Security.

He also helped develop the National Cyber Incident Response Plan and assisted in creating scenarios for Cyber Storm III, a national cyber threat exercise scheduled for September.

Read his full write-up here.

Again, you can read all the profiles of the winners here… and the more in-depth profiles of several of the winners here.

I have to just make one note because, in fact, I was also a 2010 Fed 100 winner. In fact, I believe I am the first working journalist to win this prestigious award. (Anne Armstrong, the president of the 1105 Government Information Group and former long-time editor in chief ofFCW, was a Fed 100 winner, but I believe she was recognized for her work at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology. I know she will correct me if I’m wrong.)

Regardless, getting such an award for a journalist can be seen as double edged sword — it is an enormous respect because, as I say, I have seen the process and I know how tough it is. But it can also raise the question: Does winning this kind of award mean that I’m not being tough enough? I don’t think so — and I was shocked and in awe of the recognition.

Being a journalist in this kind of community — and this is a community — it can be complex because our readers and our listeners are also our sources. And we depend on them. And I think you all depend on us. Yet the role of journalism is, in a way, the quest for The Truth. As the information age has evolved, finding The Truth can be difficult because it really depends on the data you have in front of you. So the role of journalism has evolved — we parse the data to tell you the information you need to help you make your assessment of The Truth. And that has been my goal: To provide you with information that helps you do you job better — that helps government operate better.

I tell the people who I will be covering regularly, I cannot promise they will always like everything I write — or say — but that I will bend into pretzel shapes to treat them fairly. Part of the quest for The Truth is asking questions. Throughout my career, I have sought to do it in a way thatisn ‘t punitive. Generally, I’m not a fan of “got ya'” stories because too often they simply don’t result in the desired change. So I get to talk about things that work — and things that don’t — in a way where we all learn lessons.

So this is very special — coming from people like Evans, the former de facto federal CIO… people like Dave Wennergren, the Defense Department deputy CIO… people like Martha Dorris, the Associate Administrator for GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Communications… Michael Howell, the deputy CIO at the Office of Management and Budget… HUD CIO Jerry Williams… and the entire team of judges. Honestly, I’m honored and humbled.

All of that being said, this is a community — a community of people who are generally very smart and very passionate about what they do. And I am honored — and humbled… And I’m thrilled get to do what I love to do.

I also want to give a special thanks to two people: Marty Wagner. The way that this community came out in support of Wagner following his Fourth of July 2007 accident is still just remarkable to me. It was such a real demonstration of this community. Wagner has come a long way from the days following the accident. He is a remarkable person — during his government career, he was somebody who was able to disagree without ever being disagreeable. He was able to push people to think “outside the box.” And in many way, he is my model.

The other is Anne Armstrong — the entire team from 1105 Media including FCW Editor in Chief David Rapp… and, of course, John S. Monroe, who, in so many ways, is the heart and soul of Federal Computer Week. But in particular, I want to thank Armstrong because she has been such a mentor for me — she named me to be the editor in chief of Federal Computer Week, but she also is passionate about this market. And in many ways,  my selection in particular has to have been SO difficult. The fact is that the Fed 100 are people really are the decision of a panel of expert judges — and they take the challenge very seriously. FCW editors don’t decide, but they can suggest. But to give such an award to a journalist — and a journalist at another organization — it says volumes about the real objectivity of these awards.

And, of course, thanks to Team Federal News Radio, who give me the opportunity to have so much fun doing this job each and every day.

So… with that… photos from the 2010 Federal 100 Awards Gala from last week.

Written by cdorobek

March 29, 2010 at 1:20 PM

DorobekINSIDER: Get Federal News Radio on your iPhone

leave a comment »

We’re an iPhone application. Last week while I was away, Federal News Radio launched the Federal News Radio iPhone application. And it is pretty cool. And it is free!

From the description:

Based in Washington, DC (1500 AM), Federal News Radio covers the business of the federal government by looking at lessons learned and best practices, and talking to the people themselves who make government work, including federal policy makers and contractors. Federal News Radio covers issues including management, technology, pay and benefits, contracting, and policy. Whether you work for the federal government or a federal contractor, Federal News Radio will provide you information that will help you do your job better. For more information on Federal News Radio go to FederalNewsRadio.com.

Features of the Federal News Radio iPhone App:
– Listen to the Radio Station Live
– Read Mike Causey’s Daily Column
– Read the Latest Articles and Blogs
– Listen to Federal News Radio Interviews/Podcasts
– Read the DorobekINSIDER

Completely unrelated bonus feature:
– Listen Live to Most Washington Capitals Hockey Games

This is particularly cool because you can now get the DorobekINSIDER right on your iPhone, but you can also listen to Federal News Radio 1500 AM even when you’re outside of our signal area.


I might mention that our sister station, DC’s WTOP radio, also has a iPhone applicationthe “Glass Enclosed Nerve App.” Using that app, just like with the Federal News Radio app, you can use it to listen to WTOP. But you can also get weather and traffic — including big traffic issues and traffic cameras. Find that application here.

Of course, an iPhone or iTouch is required to make the applications work.

If you don’t have an iPhone or iTouch, FederalNewsRadio.com — and WTOP.com, for that matter — have improved the way we stream the stations from the Web sites.

From John Meyer, Director of Digital Media for WTOP and Manager of Sales and Operations for Federal News Radio 1500 AM:

On the heels of our new iPhone apps, I wanted to make everyone aware of some other changes we have implanted to our sites. If you go to our Listen Live pages on either site, you will notice a greater selection of listening options. We have eliminated the Silverlight player and replaced it with a Flash Player. You can also still listen via Windows Media as well as Mp.3/iTtunes.

Hopefully these changes can help us solve some of our technical issues that have blocked our streaming in the past.

FederalNewsRadio.com’s “listen live” page

WTOP.com’s “listen live” page

Written by cdorobek

March 29, 2010 at 9:00 AM

DorobekINSIDER: Off-topic: Back from a great visit to the Galapagos Islands

leave a comment »

I mentioned that I was going away for an extended break, in every sense of the word. We traveled to the remarkable Galapagos Islands, an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed around the equator in the Pacific Ocean some 525 nmi west of continental Ecuador.

Before I jump back into things, I hope you will indulge me in the modern day version of a slideshow of my trip — yes, it’s off-topic, but… the Galapagos Islands are a simply remarkable place.

And just so it isn’t totally off-topic: There is a U.S. government connection in the Galapagos Islands. When there, I learned that the U.S. constructed a military base on in Baltra island and radar stations in other strategic locations. Baltra was also established as a US Air Force Base. Crews stationed at Baltra patrolled the Pacific for enemy submarines as well as providing protection for the Panama Canal. After the war the facilities were given to the government of Ecuador. Today the island continues as an official Ecuadorian military base.

That is only one fact I didn’t know before the visit. Here is an number of bullet point answers some some of the most frequently asked questions:

* The Galapagos Islands are primarily protected areas, but there is a sizable population that lives on the islands — about 40,000 or so. There is even an airport on the islands. That puts a remarkable strain on the islands eco-systems.

* The Galápagos became a national park in 1959 and tourism started in the 1960s.

* The islands are famous because they are geologically young and famed for their vast number of endemic species, which were studied by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle. His observations and collections contributed to the inception of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.

We spent a week on board the M/Y Grace — named after Grace Kelly, by the way — touring this remarkable place. And this is remarkable because of the topography — it looks pre-historic… because of the eco-systems — there are desert climates with cactus almost adjacent to very lush green lands… and just about everything in between. The location, the weather, the temperatures — and some luck — have make these islands fertile grounds for scores of plants, animals, birds, marine life. There are these remarkable land iguanas, but there are also the even more remarkable sea iguanas, who have evolved to be able to drink salt water. (They almost snort it out.) And they swim using their tails to propel them to the algae that they eat… There are boobys — Red Footed Boobys… and Nazka Boobys… and the Blue Footed Boobys. There are sea lions — and penguins. Yes, the only place where there are penguins outside of Antarctica… There are Frigate birds. The male Frigate birds during mating season puff up what looks to be their chests to attract a mate. When the female Frigate birds fly by, they puff up, spread their wings, and make a sound that is right out of the Jurassic period.

This from Ron Zuckerman, one of the 16 people on board the M/Y Grace with us, who has written up some of his (and our) adventures. This is his item about the Frigate birds:

We arrived at a good time, it was spring and the male Frigate birds were looking for mates. The males sit in low brush and inflate their bright red pouch at the base of their bill and call for a mate. The bigger the pouch the more attractive the male. If a female is interested she will land nearby and offer him a twig. If he accepts they are a couple and proceed to produce an egg.

Zuckerman, who is also a professional photographer, genously agreed to allow me to post some of his photos. They are much better then mine. That being said, if you want to see mine, they are all posted on my Flickr page — you can even see them in a slideshow of your own. You can see the collection here, including my passion for sunsets.

I should also note that on the trip, we visited Ecuador’s capital, Quito, which is virtually on the Equator and, at more than 9,000-feet, second-highest administrative capital city in the world (after La Paz, Bolivia), and the highest legal capital (ahead of Sucre, also in Bolivia, and Bogotá, Colombia). And we got to cross the Equator several times — on the ship, but also on land, where we did the ‘balance the egg on the equator’ experiment. While scientists seem to say it isn’t true, it worked for us.

It was a remarkable trip. It was great to be away — great to be un-plugged for a period of time — and… it’s great to be back.

Just a few more of Ron Zuckerman‘s remarkable photos:

Written by cdorobek

March 28, 2010 at 11:48 PM

DorobekINSIDER: Disconnecting from the grid with the Blue Footed Booby

with one comment

The DorobekINSIDER is taking a break for a few weeks. I am fortunate to be traveling to the Galapagos Islands for a dream trip.

My guess is that I will be pretty much disconnected from the grid — I don’t think there is much Internet connection out there in the Galapagos Islands. That being said, I’ll post my experiences — and photos of Blue Footed Boopys — when I return.

I’m actually guessing that one of the difficult tasks will be unplugging. The great thing about what I do is… I love what I get to do each and every day. So unplugging will be something of a challenge. I’m guessing that going from being hyper-connected to being dis-connected will take a few days. I’m sure I’ll get used to it.

I’ll be back briefly for the Federal 100 Awards Gala — I’m beyond honored to be on that list, so I just couldn’t miss the gala. I know the vetting that goes into selecting the 100 people, and the fact that the judges selected a working journalist — I’m just beyond honored. So I’ll be back — and then disappear again for a few days.

On the trip, I’m going to re-read Daniel Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us in preparation for April 2nd’s Federal News Radio Book Club discussion. I posted a discussion forum on GovLoop. As you have thoughts about the book, I hope you’ll share what you think this means for government.

As always, thanks for reading. I’ll be back.

Written by cdorobek

March 11, 2010 at 9:02 AM

DorobekINSIDER explainer: That Census letter announcing the Census form is coming

leave a comment »

There has been a lot of commentary and buzz about the Census sending out a letter notifying people that you will soon be receiving the Census form. And many people have scoffed calling it a colossal waste of money — or worse. To be fair — I said the same thing.

Here is the text of the letter:

Dear Resident:

About one week from now, you will receive a 2010 Census form in the mail. When you receive your form, please fill it out and mail it in promptly. Your response is important. Results from the 2010 Census will be used to help each community get its fair share of government funds for highways, schools, health facilities, and many other programs you and your neighbors need. Without a complete, accurate census, your community may not receive its fair share. Thank you in advance for your help.

Sincerely, Robert M. Groves
Director, U.S. Census Bureau

Go to <2010census.gov> for help completing your 2010 Census form when it arrives. [Note: this sentence is repeated in Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and Russian]

So I called Census officials to ask the question: Why send out a letter saying that the Census is coming?

The answer: To raise awareness.

Census surveys show that 45 percent of people don’t know about the Census — a number I find shocking, but… And further Census surveys show that these letters increase awareness of the Census. That increased awareness increases the Census form return rate by 6 to 12 percent. That increase has a real return on investment — every 1 percent increase in Census returns saves the government $85 million in operational costs associated with census takers going door to door to follow up with households that did not mail back the form. It costs $57 per household on average to send a Census enumerator out to get the data.

These letters went out to 120 million addresses, Census officials said.

That being said, I wish they had included a link where I could fill out my Census form online, but…

More information can be found here.

Written by cdorobek

March 10, 2010 at 1:21 PM

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,239 other followers