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Archive for May 18th, 2009

DorobekInsider: Baker is now officially the new VA CIO

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The Department of Veterans Affairs officially has a new chief information officer. Roger Baker, formerly the Commerce Department CIO, was confirmed by the Senate Monday. Baker’s formal title is Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology.

In addition to Baker, the Senate confirmed three other people: Gunn to be VA’s general counsel; Riojas to be assistant secretary for operations, security and preparedness, and Sepulveda to be assistant secretary for human resources and administration.

Here is the press releases from Sen. Daniel Akaka, chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee issued late Monday (thanks to Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller):

U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, praised his colleagues for confirming four of President Barack Obama’s nominees to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) tonight: Roger W. Baker, Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology; Will A.Gunn, General Counsel; Jose D. Riojas, Assistant Secretary for Operations, Security, and Preparedness; and John U. Sepulveda, Assistant Secretary for Human Resources and Administration. They join Secretary Eric Shinseki, Deputy Secretary Scott Gould, and Assistant Secretary Tammy Duckworth as part of VA’s growing team of confirmed leaders.

“I thank my Senate colleagues for recognizing the importance of establishing a confirmed leadership team at VA. Secretary Shinseki now has a stronger team to help him accomplish his ambitious agenda. I encourage the Administration to move quickly in nominating qualified candidates for the VA leadership positions that remain vacant,” saidAkaka.

Chairman Akaka and the Committee unanimously approved the four nominees on May 12, following a hearing the week before. The Senate has the responsibility under the constitution to provide advice and consent on Presidential nominees for positions within the Executive branch. As Chairman of the Committee of jurisdiction over veterans programs,Akaka leads the Veterans’ Affairs Committee in reviewing nominations for over a dozen VA leadership positions, judgeships for the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, as well as the Labor Department’s Assistant Secretary for Veterans Employment and Training Programs. (For a list ofconfirmable positions reviewed by Senate Committees, click here.)

To be honest, one of the most frustrating exercises is trying to find any of this information on the Senate Web site. You can find the release for the previous action by the Senate committee, but nothing about this action.

Written by cdorobek

May 18, 2009 at 7:56 PM

DorobekInsider: Dee Lee to join the Professional Services Council

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Last June, back when I was the FCW Insider, I told you that rock star Deidre Lee was joining Compusearch. The DorobekInsider has now learned that — in something of a coup — she is leaving to join the Professional Services Council. Expect an announcement… well, any time now.

Deidre Lee

Deidre Lee

Lee is one of the former government super-stars who retired after a stellar government career, as I wrote in an FCW editorial. (Be sure to check the cartoon at the bottom of that page. It’s delicious. It was one of the cartoons where John Klossner got it exactly right.. and read a FCW profile of Lee here.)

She left government to join Compusearch, a privately held company that “provides enterprise software and services that automate mandated business rules for public sector organizations with authority to spend, grant, or move funds.” Many people said quietly that it seemed like an odd fit for Lee. One person called her one of the best know and most admired federal acquisition leaders around.

At PSC, she will be executive VP of federal affairs.

It is a big coup for PSC, which now has Stan Z. Soloway, Alan Chvotkin… and now Dee Lee. That makes for a pretty formidable team.

UPDATE: The press release just hit the streets:

Deidre “Dee” Lee to Join Professional Services Council

Arlington, Va.—The Professional Services Council (PSC) announced today that Deidre “Dee” Lee, former Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy and before that, Director of Defense Acquisition and Procurement Policy, will be joining the association as Executive Vice President of Federal Affairs and Operations effective June 1.

In her new role, Lee will lead efforts to expand PSC’s engagement with agency acquisition and operational components across the government. She will also help lead PSC’s broader policy analysis and advocacy efforts.

“Dee is one of those unique leaders with deep knowledge and insight that will greatly enhance PSC’s ability to work collaboratively with our government colleagues as we collectively seek to address the plethora of issues and challenges before us” said Stan Soloway, President and CEO of PSC. “She brings with her an enviable and exceptional history, built through her long and distinguished federal career, of leading change and advocating for balanced and smart business practices. She will be a great addition to our leadership team.”

In addition to her leadership of both the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and DoD acquisition, Lee has also served as a senior acquisition leader at the General Services Administration, Deputy Director of Management at FEMA, and senior procurement executive with NASA. Lee is currently the Director of the Defense and Intelligence Business Unit for Compusearch.

Lee joins Soloway, a former deputy undersecretary of defense, and PSC Executive Vice President and Counsel, Alan Chvotkin, former counsel to the Senate Armed Services and Small Business Committees, on the PSC leadership team.

PSC is the national trade association of the government professional and technical services industry. PSC’s more than 330 member companies represent small, medium, and large businesses that provide federal agencies with services of all kinds, including information technology, engineering, logistics, facilities management, operations and maintenance, consulting, international development, scientific, social, environmental services, and more. Together, the association’s members employ hundreds of thousands of Americans in all 50 states.

Written by cdorobek

May 18, 2009 at 12:41 PM

DorobekInsider Signal column: Defining transparency

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As some of you may know, I write a column for AFCEA’s Signal magazine. It appears on the back page of the magazine each month. After coming from Federal Computer Week, which put out 40 issues each year, the deadline for a monthly is very different — I have to write ahead. Essentially, I have already finished my column for the June issue and I’m half-way through with the July column. (A bit of a preview: For June, I write about the end of e-mail… July: the CI-NO syndrome.)

My May Signal column is about transparency. Here is an excerpt:

Transparency can be valuable. One White House official joked with me that the Obama transparency initiative will be a success if it puts my blog out of business. I joked that I wasn’t worried. In fact, transparency can be incredibly powerful. In the end, it enables people to tap into the wisdom of crowds. And transparency is at the heart of Web 2.0 core beliefs: that all of us together are smarter than each of us individually. Therefore, transparency is elemental to government 2.0. These concepts feed and depend on each other. One cannot co-exist without the others.

But no person can overestimate the complexities involved in implementing government transparency. It is a dramatic shift in the way we think about information, particularly in government. We always have understood that information is powerful, but the understanding of the power of information led us to keep our information close. In fact, the theory of Web 2.0—and I would argue of transparency as well—is that information, in fact, becomes much more powerful when it is shared.

You can find a link to the full column here … and yes, even make comments on the Signal Web site until we get our comment functionality up and running here on .

I headlined the column, Why transparency matters: Less then half-way into 2009, the word of the year is more than hype.

And I do find transparency fascinating — and potentially very powerful. And yet very complex.

As a journalist, I, of course, am a big believer in transparency. But how much… and at what point… and to what end.

In the end, transparency is very difficult to define — and everybody is defining it differently. I have taken to calling it a Rorschach test word — how you define transparency, in a way, tells us a lot about how you view transparency itself.

Because it is so difficult, the definition becomes very important, and I think how we define transparency will define the different between the success or failure of these initiatives. To be honest, I am a bit concerned the Obama transparency initiative could end up failing if it ends up being defined as transparency for transparency sake. At its core, I think transparency needs to help agencies — or the government — operate better.

What does that mean? There seems to be a movement that views transparency as the end goal. To me, transparency is merely a means to an end. The end result — the result that benefits people the most — is better decisions, the availability of more data… the goal is good government.

A case in point: At Government 2.0 Camp earlier this year, there were those argued that the government ought to make all of its contracts fully public. Somebody — and it may have been me — raised the point that there is propritary information in contracts that companies simply don’t want to have in the public sphere because it undermines their competitive advantage. The response: Oh well. In the end, that seems to define transparency for transparency sake. In the end, transparency is a means to an end — the end is good government. And the transparency for transparency sake movement simply seems to undercut the entire initiative. Instead, what would be more helpful would be to provide a list of transparency initiatives that would make government better.

I don’t think we can — or should — underestiminate how challenging this is going to be. In the end, most people are reluctant to share their information. In many ways, it just isn’t in our nature. As I suggest in the column — and I use a Mike Causy-ism to illustrate the point — in many ways it is like driving in the snow or ice. We are told to turn into the slide, but it is against our nature. There is a parallel with sharing information. We have been told for generations that information is power, and that led us to gather and keep as much information as we can. But we are learning that the true power of information comes when it is shared.

Therefore, my recommendation to the Obama administration, as they put the finishing touches on the transparency initiative: Focus on transparency that helps agencies accomplish their missions more effectively.

There are some areas where transparency and openness just seems obvious to me. Government data, for example. Vivek Kundra, the Obama administration CIO, when he was the DC chief technology officer, essentially proved that by making all sorts of District data sets available. That enabled the powerful Apps for Democracy contest, where people built applications using that now open data. And Kundra has spoken about using a similar framework on the federal level with the Web site.

Transparency can also shift our political dialogue away from the accusatory ‘the other guy is a liar’ mantra that seems to have dominated our post-Watergate view of government. By making information available as a default, it becomes more difficult for the bad guys to operate because their actions can be seen — and have to be justified. There will still be those out there who will use data to second guess — but they are doing that anyway. And in the end, at least the discussion will be illuminated with data.

But I also think that transparency is also a significant enabler for true government 2.0 — as Kundra calls it, government as a platform. In the end, the government doesn’t have to do everything. But the government can be an enormous enabler, in the best sense of that word.

The DorobekInsider returns…

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Yes, I’m back. I was away for a few days enjoying some R&R.

Typically, even when I take a few days off, one: I say so here, and two: I still try to blog, at least occasionally. I actually can use that time to get away from the day-to-day stuff and actually ponder a bit.

Unfortunately — or, perhaps fortunately, I was staying at a place that didn’t allow cell phones in public areas — this drove some people insane. It also didn’t have very stable Internet connection. And I was really staying quite busy.

[The place I stayed is called Miraval — it is this fancy spa in the Tucson desert that really emphasizes a somewhat Zen focus. In fact, their logo says, “Life in balance.” I took my father — a man for whom it is impossible to buy gifts — for a birthday/Christmas/whatever — and as a chance to spend some time with my father. So it was time well spent… It was atMiraval last year that I had my ‘brush with greatness’ with Jeff Bezos. My celebrity sighting this time was Steve Case , the co-founder and former executive at AOL. Now perhaps this isn’t a total shock — Case’s Revolution owns Miraval and apparently they were having a board meeting or senior management meeting at Miraval last week. All of that aside, I’d give Miraval a thumbs up.]

Now, back to re-entry… I’m behind on a lot of e-mail… and have a busy week ahead.

Written by cdorobek

May 18, 2009 at 7:47 AM