Archive for December 2011
NOTE: Updated to clean up formatting
Hey there — I’m Christopher Dorobek — the DorobekINSIDER — welcome to GovLoop Insights Issue of the Week with Chris Dorobek… where each week, our goal is to find an issue — a person — an idea — then helped define the past 7-days… and we work to find an issue that will 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 for the month of December, we have been taking taking a break from the issue of the week — and we are taking a look at the issues that defined government for the year. And next week, we’ll talk about the issue of the year — I don’t think anybody will be surprised, but… we’ll talk about it next week.
Over the past few weeks, we spoke about cyber-security — and dealing with big data… How do you deal with all the information that you now have access to?
And then last week, we spoke about how transparency and open government can really help you get your job done — talking to Earl Devaney, who is retiring from government after more than 40 years… for the past two years, he has been the chairman of the Recovery, Accountability and Transparency Board.
This week, we are going to talk to one of the concepts that is really changing… well, it’s changing so much in technology, but it is also having a huge impact on government… and I’m going to bring you some highlights of one of the best speeches that you probably didn’t hear.
But we’re going to start off this week, as we have so many week’s this year, talking about… yes, the budget. And it was a roller coaster week — one of many this year. After it seemed likely that there could be a government shutdown, House and Senate negotiators this week signed off on a more than $1 trillion, year-end spending bill and it made its way through the House on Friday.
The bill is more than 1,200 pages and Politico reports that it covers a remarkable breath of topics — domestic spending… the Pentagon and foreign aid — plus tens of billions more related to the war in Afghanistan.
The funding bill sets government spending for the year at $1.043 trillion, a level agreed to in an August deal that raised the nation’s legal borrowing limit. The figure represents a 1.5 percent drop in spending from the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.
That doesn’t count $115 billion for overseas military operations, a $43 billion dip since this past year as the war in Iraq winds down. It also doesn’t include $8.1 billion in emergency disaster-relief spending.
The measure covers spending for three-fourths of the government. A number of agencies were covered in the November deal including the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, State, and Transportation, as well as NASA and some smaller agencies. This deal covers the all other agencies.
And as a result of this deal, most domestic programs will see cuts as part of the effort to reduce the deficit.
The measure omits funding for the Internal Revenue Service to prepare for the 2014 implementation of the federal health-care law. But it increases funding for border agents and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
It includes $8.4 billion for the EPA — a $233 million drop from last year. And provides $550 million for Obama’s signature Race to the Top education program, a cut of more than 20 percent.
The other big event, which seemed to get less attention, is the end of the war in Iraq after nine years. The flag of American forces in Iraq has been lowered in Baghdad, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told troops the mission had been worth the cost in blood and dollars. I’ll leave that debate to others.
About 4,000 US soldiers now remain in Iraq, but they are due to leave in the next two weeks. At the peak of the operation, US forces there numbered 170,000.
With that, we turn to one of 2011’s big issues — even if you don’t work in technology, you’ve heard of cloud. Last week, we spoke with Earl Devaney of the Recovery Board about how cloud computing allowed the Recovery Board to be much more agile then it could otherwise.
In November, I got to moderate a program focusing on cloud computing. [By way of transparency: I was paid to emcee the event.] It was one of the most interesting presentations I had heard all year.
I go to a lot of events and hear a lot of speakers. Many of them are very good — and many of them seek to peer into the future. But one of the best futurists I heard all year was John Rucker. He isn’t a professional speaker. In fact, he even jokes that he looks like a fed. And he is a fed. Rucker is the acting lead for the Department of Veterans Affairs data center consolidation initiative. And he gave a revealing look at the future of technology — and of cloud computing in the government.
After the break… I have his full speech — and his slides as well. But I wanted to bring you two highlights of his speech.
I noted that VA has long been seen as one of the most hapless agencies for government IT. VA CIO Roger Baker and VA CTO Peter Levin have made enormous strides to change that — and Rucker called him the best CIO he has seen in his more than 30 years of government service.
But he noted the cloud is going to have a big impact on the future of government technology…
John Rucker of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
He also said the cloud isn’t for everything…
John Rucker… he is the acting lead for the Department of Veterans Affairs data center consolidation initiative.
As I say, the speech doesn’t have flash — but I think it is one of the most far sighted assessments of government technology that I’ve heard.
It’s GovLoop — I’d love to hear what you think. Do you agree with his assessment? Or is cloud just a lot of hype?
Again, after the break, hear the speech in full… and the DorobekINSIDER must read list…
Federal workers and contractors seemly have dodged yet another shutdown — I’ve actually lost count about how many there have been this year. (Federal Computer Week says there have been five.)
Last night, I was invited to the annual holiday party hosted by ASI Government, formerly Acquisition Solutions. Not surprising, the buzz of the night was about… the change of leadership at ASI Government — former Agriculture Department CIO Anne Reed stepping into the role of chairwoman after seven years, and Kimberly “Kymm” McCabe has taken over the role as ASI Government’s President and Chief Executive Officer…
McCabe specifically mentioned the end of the war in Iraq…
But most of the focus was on… the then potential of a government shutdown. Last night, as the festivities were going on, there seemed to be progress toward a resolution, but it was only late last night that the sides announced they had found common ground. But there was still interesting discussion around the topic. One person — now in industry after a distinguished government career — said that the shutdown threat had almost become SOP. It has become standard operating procedure. Yet several govies showed up late specifically because they were working on shutdown contingency plans.
But 1105 President Anne Armstrong asked about the costs of all this.
The short answer is… there is no easy answer.
The Congressional Research Service actually looked at the shutdown issue back in September 1995.
The estimated costs of shutting down the federal government during a lapse in appropriations are incomplete and sketchy at best. That is especially true in the brief shutdown periods that occurred prior to 1995. In those federal shutdown experiences, the General Accounting Office (GAO) attempted to evaluate such government-wide costs, but incomplete and lack of response by various agencies hampered this undertaking. Certain limited costs have been identified over the years, however. GAO found costs of about $1 million resulting from having to issue split or late paychecks in October 1979 and approximately $1.1 million from having to prepare agency shutdown plans in 1980.
In 1991, GAO found that the estimated partial costs for the federal government shutdown over the Columbus Day Holiday week-end in 1990 was $1.7 million.
There have been two other CRS reports — one on September 27, 2010: Shutdown of the Federal Government: Causes, Processes, and Effects. The other is more of a round-up of information about shutdowns from April 8, 2011: Past Government Shutdowns: Key Resources.
Regardless, there was almost uniform agreement among government insiders that the shutdown threats, ongoing continuing resolutions and general budget upheaval have an enormous impact on the government’s ability to accomplish agency missions. (Going out on a limb there, aren’t we?)
To be honest, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has seemed to put forward 12 fairly reasonable principles for the discussion — regardless of political viewpoint.
The 12 principles are:
- Make Deficit Reduction a Top Priority.
- Propose Specific Fiscal Targets.
- Recommend Specific Policies to Achieve the Targets.
- Do No Harm.
- Use Honest Numbers and Avoid Budget Gimmicks.
- Do Not Perpetuate Budget Myths.
- Do Not Attack Someone Else’s Plan Without Putting Forward an Alternative.
- Refrain From Pledges That Take Policies Off the Table.
- Propose Specific Solutions for Social Security, Health Care, and the Tax Code.
- Offer Solutions for Temporary and Expiring Policies.
- Encourage Congress to Come Up With a Budget Reform Plan as Quickly as Possible.
- Remain Open to Bipartisan Compromise.
Find the September 1997 CRS report after the break…
How many times have we done this — this year alone?
Once again, there is a deadline Friday — and as of Thursday morning, there is a greater threatof a government shutdown — and the Obama administration has recommended agencies make shutdown plans. Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee, early this morning, released details of more than $1 trillion spending package.
So what is the likelihood of a government shutdown?
Amy Morris, one of the stalwarts of Washington, DC’s Federal News Radio DC, is leaving the station, the DorobekINSIDER has learned. (I’m predicting that I’ll hear from Amy for calling her a “stalwart,” but it’s a good thing — really!)
We hear she is joining the all-news radio station being launched by CBS Radio, insiders say.
The departure leaves big shoes to fill on WFED’s morning show. Morris anchored the morning show with Tom Temin, the former editor of Government Computer News. Morris also served as WFED’s executive editor.
A personal note: Amy and I were paired on Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program when I first started at the station. She taught me everything I know about radio. For that, she will always have a special place in my heart. Beyond that, she is a consummate professional — and she is passionate about journalism.
And that voice: I always said — only half joking — that I could listen to her read the phone book… and I would continue to listen.
The Office of Management and Budget this morning posted a new memo [PDF or below] by Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel laying out the administration’s initiative for cloud computing security.
Known as FedRAMP — Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program— it is a government-wide program that provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services. This approach uses a “do once, use many times” framework that will save cost, time, and staff required to conduct redundant agency security assessments.
The memo, titled Security Authorization of Information Systems in Cloud Computing Environments, has been widely anticipated and lays out the administration’s steps toward securing cloud computing.
Earlier this year, at a speech in California, VanRoekel suggested that FedRAMP could become mandatory.
Cloud computing is at the heart of the Obama administration’s key technology initiatives and is a prominent part of the White House 25 point IT reform plan [PDF].
The GovLoop Insights Issue of the Week is changing a few for December. Generally, we try to find a issue — a person — an idea — that helped define the past 7-days… and we always work to find an issue that will 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.
For the month of December, we are taking a break from the issue of the week — and we are taking a look at the issues that defined government for the year. And we’ll unveil the issue that defined 2011 later this month. But that gives us a few weeks to look at a few of the big issues of the year. And this week, we’re going to talk about cyber-security and making sense of big data.
But first, a look at some of the big stories for the end of November and the beginning of December, 2011 — yes, the final month of the year.
Or read more… after the break…
Chris Niedermayer, the Deputy CIO for Business and IT Modernization at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has announced internally that he is retiring after 33 years of public service, the DorobekINSIDER has learned.
His last day will be Dec. 3. He has told friends that he plans to take two or three months off to “decompress” and that he will start looking for new opportunities after the new year.
Niedermayer is well respected in the government IT community having worked in a number of key posts, most recent at the Patent and Trademark Office, and before that at the Agriculture Department. He was recruited by HUD CIO Jerry Williams to be a key part of the IT leadership team at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Earlier this year, Niedermayer was struck with Lyme Disease. After a tough battle, he has now fully recovered.
Read Niedermayer’s full bio… after the break.