Focusing on six words: Helping government do its job better

Archive for September 3rd, 2008 Hurricane response 2.0

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It has been really interesting to watch government implement Katrina’s lessons learned. By most accounts, federal, state and local agencies all did much better responding toGustov then they did with Katrina. [GSA deputy chief acquisition officer David Drabkin was on Federal News Radio’s Daily Debrief this afternoon talking about the acquisition aspects of hurricane preparedness (.mp3)… and Rear Admiral Dr. Craig Vanderwagen, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the Department of Health and Human Services was on FED’s Morning Drive this morning talking about the work done (.mp3)]

Of course, everybody is watching the other storms swirling out there in the Atlantic. No rest for the weary.

But it was interesting to see the Gustav response largely because there have been all sorts of developments in technology in the last three years that enables people to get information in various ways.

First off, blogger Andy Carvin noted that the Homeland Security Department has created a “hurricane response widget” that people can put right on their Web sites. It provides links that people can use to get more information.

I foolishly thought it was one of the first government uses of widgets, but… far from it. The FBI has one… as does EPA… and even Rep. Max Thornberry (R-Texas). They aren’t publicized all that much, so I don’t know how much these widgets get used, but… what a great way of getting information out.

Carvin also has a fascinating post about all the online resources that are available out there for people to keep track of what is going on. For example, there is a Twitter site that used to be focused onGustof and has now been rebranded “StormWire.” It can be found at (Unsure about what Twitter is? FCW did a primer on it last week on Twitter… and there is a Plain English guide on Twitter.)

There is also a hurricane related ning social networking site about the storms that can be found at

See about the other named storm names here.

Written by cdorobek

September 3, 2008 at 7:20 PM Where did Robert Burton go?

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Last month over on the other blog, there was video evidence that Robert Burton retired as the deputy administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

After taking some time off this summer, Burton has a new gig as an attorney at DC’s Venable law firm.

Stay tuned. We hear an “official” press release is in the works… and you may even hear him around town sometime soon.

Written by cdorobek

September 3, 2008 at 12:39 PM

Posted in Circuit, Whose In and Whose Out

Tagged with , , Talking about the innovation gap on the Daily Debrief

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In the coming days, we will talk about what we hope to do with Federal News Radio’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris. The Daily Debrief team have only met once — and there were a lot of creative juices flowing. So I’ll save some of the specifics about what we are going to try and do for later.

One thing we are going to do is try to stretch all of our minds just a bit — get outside of the people we talk to all the time. When I was over at Federal Computer Week, I proposed the creation of a FCW Book Club. I believe they are going to keep that idea going, thank goodness. I don’t know how well it would work on radio, to be honest, but… we are going to try and tap into thought leaders out there — people who can talk about issues that will impact how the government does its work.

Along those lines… While vacationing on Monday, I read the story in the NYT headlined Another Voice Warns of an Innovation Slowdown.

Judy Estrin, 53, has spent her entire career in Silicon Valley, a region that thrives on constant innovation. Ms. Estrin, the former chief technology officer of Cisco Systems, has founded four technology companies.

Yet she is deeply worried that Silicon Valley — and the United States as a whole — no longer foster the kind of innovation necessary to develop groundbreaking technologies and sustain economic growth.

“I am generally not an alarmist, but I have become more and more concerned about the state of our country and its innovation,” she said last week, explaining why she wrote her book, “Closing the Innovation Gap,” which arrives in bookstores Tuesday. “We have a national innovation deficit.”

I find this whole question of innovation just fascinating — and I do think there is a government angle. The government, after all, was the inventor of the Internet. And, as I noted previously, it also spurred the creation of the technology behind the company Pixar. And, coincidentally, there are probably some government uses of computer animation, I’m sure.

Government agencies are also enormous users of technology, so agencies ability to accomplish their missions depend on ongoing innovation.

(Slightly off-topic briefly: We may also try to get one of the people who have written about Pixar. There have been a lot of people writing about Pixar lately. For example, I’m just about finished reading The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company, which I would definitely recommend. It essentially is a biography of this amazing company — and, again, I think there are some connections to how the government does business. Hollywood, after all, is a large, very conservative organization that is slow to adapt to change. Yet movies have been evolving — andPixar is an excellent example of that. Pixar uses technology, and, in fact, has been at the cutting edge of computer annimation . But in the end, technology only serves the mission — telling stories. This month’s issue of the Harvard Business Review has an excellent piece byPixar President Ed Catmull, who, I might add, is a computer scientist who makes movies. How cool is that? Catmull’s HBR piece, How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity: Behind Pixar’s string of hit movies, says the studio’s president, is a peer-driven process for solving problems, he offers wonderful insights into how to develop a creative company. But… I’m veering way off the topic here. More on this later.)

Back to innovation… We have confirmed that during the week of September 15, we are going to have Judy Estrin on the Daily Debrief.

I just ordered her book, Closing the Innovation Gap: Reigniting the Spark of Creativity in a Global Economy, so it should arrive by the end of the week so I can be adequately prepared…

We’ll let you know the specific time when we get it nailed down… and you can always hear Federal News Radio interviews on our Web site at

Stay tuned.

Written by cdorobek

September 3, 2008 at 12:33 AM