Focusing on six words: Helping government do its job better

DorobekINSIDER: GovLoop issue of the week: CES, CES Government, and mobile

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GovLoop InsightsWelcome to the GovLoop Insights Issue of the Week with Chris Dorobek.

Each week, our goal is to 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.

This week, we’re going to get geeky… we’re going to embrace our inner nerd. This week was the annual gadget-a-thon known as CES — the Consumer Electronics Show out in Las Vegas. I got to attend for the first time this year — both to CES and CES Government. One of the key speakers was Steve VanRoekel, the federal chief information officer. And later on, we’ll have highlights of his speech, and talk about what it means for you.

Also later on, we’ll have our weekend reading list — the weekends are a good time to rejuvenate — but also some time to take a step back and ponder. And we’ll have some reading that may guide you as you work to think outside of the box.

But after the break, we’ll have our look at the week that was for the second week of January 2012… plus the full Week in Review…

I don’t say this very often, but… it was a somewhat quiet week outside of the craziness of the Consumer Electronics Show.

We start off with your money, as we so often do. And the federal budget crunch started to get real this week. The Agriculture Department announced it will shut 259 offices around the country — and yes, that could impact jobs. Government Executive reports that the Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is working to avoid furlows. And GSA has also requested buyout authority. Washington Post Federal Eye columnist Ed O’Keefe noted that it felt as if it was furloughs — or buyouts — just about everywhere.

Meanwhile, President Obama this week visited the Environmental Protection Agency — and the Washington Post notes that the President will probably be making more of those pop-ins.

Meanwhile the White House announced Friday that it will seek to merge six agencies that focus on trade and commerce into one new department. The plans would impact the Commerce Department’s business and trade functions, the Small Business Administration, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the Trade and Development Agency.  The move would require the approval of Congress — and administration officials say it would impact as many as 2,000 jobs that would be eliminated through attrition.

As part of that announcement, the President announced that he was elevating the Small Business Administration to a cabinet level agency.

And a bit of deja vu all over again… The White House notified Congress on Thursday that the government was near its $15.194 trillion borrowing limit, ushering in the debut of procedural theater in which the debt limit will ultimately be raised even if Congress votes against it.

And this week, a big shake-up among White House staff. The White House announced that Chief of Staff Bill Daley had resigned… and that Jack Lew, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, would take over that post. That set of rounds of speculation about who would take Lews’ OMB post — but, the New Yorker said it also is a disappointing sign about the atmosphere in Washington. The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos notes that Daley is the son of tough Chicago mayor Richard Daily — and when Daley concludes that the political atmosphere is so poisoned, that’s saying something.

Speaking of politics… In the march toward November’s elections, another significant step in the march in setting the stage for the fall battle for the White House… former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney did better than expected to win the New Hampshire primary. Next up: South Carolina. And yes, the election is only 46 weeks away.

Let’s get geeky…
As I mentioned, I spent most of this week in Sin City — Las Vegas… at CES — the Consumer Electronics Show and its baby cousin, CES Government, which runs concurrently with the gianormous CES International. And yes, the Consumer Electronics Show would seem to focus on… well, consumers rather then on the enterprise. But as we have seen more and more each year, it is the consumer market that is defining enterprise technology. That is a significant change — with big implications for government. Government is used to being a market definer. The nearly $80 billion that the federal government spends on information technology each year could shape markets. But officials speaking at CES Government acknowledged that power is waning. One senior IT leader said that talks with Apple were bogged down by the government’s requirements — and the fact that the government just isn’t going to buy enough iPhones and iPads to make it a market decider. The deciders will be you and me in our role as consumers. It’s a huge change — with significant implications for government… implications that many officials are still working to get their arms around.

That’s a long way of saying that CES probably does matter to government.


Federal CIO Steve VanRoekel

The focus of this year’s CES Government show was mobility — and the Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel released the Obama administration’s plan for mobility. More on that just ahead.
Throughout the three days of CES Government, there was a lot of talk about cloud computing and issues like telework, of course… and mobility generally — even what mobility means.

A few of my take aways from four days of conferencing:

Cloud computing: To say cloud computing is a hot topic is beyond an understatement. Cloud computing is essentially as-you-need it computing power — and it is a very different model for large organization… and particularly for the federal government. Last month, I brought you highlights of a speech by an official from the Department of Veterans Affairs about cloud computing. The growing consensus is that cloud computing will come to government, but — and I know this will come as a shock to all of us — change is hard. Kevin Plexico, the market guru from DelTek’s GovWin, noted that there are a number of migrations to cloud computing, but most of them are — and will continue to be — the low hanging fruit items… initiatives like cloud e-mail. And there is a lot of discussion — and hope — around FedRAMP. FedRAMP is an initiative to create a standard assessment of cloud computing solutions with a heavy emphasis on security. But there are a lot of questions around contracting cloud computing services. It is a very different model — and there are significant questions about how the government contracts for those services.

And the federal CIO Steve VanRoekel noted that technology is a fundamental part of the government of the future — and commercial technology enables people to do more…

As I mentioned, at CES and CES Government, there was much discussion about mobility. In fact, VanRoekel used CES Government to unveil the Obama administration’s mobile plan. He said the government hasn’t focused enough on using mobility effectively.

And it’s going to move quickly. OMB posted the draft mobile government strategy this week — and they are seeking ideas. They are using the IdeaScale platform to solicit thoughts  from government… from industry… from you… You can submit your ideas:
And, again, VanRoekel said that the plan is to move very quickly…

One of my favorite parts of VanRoekel’s speech was about his experience at the Federal Communications Commission building a mobile app — and it is another one of these stories that really demonstrates how government, the government marketplace, and enterprise organizations are changing — doing more with less. He talked about the FCC app to assess broadband speeds…

VanRoekel took some questions.

Here the full speech:

And his OMB blog post on the subject: The Mobile Opportunity

Weekend reads

That brings us to your weekend reads — we know weekend time is precious, so we try to pull some stories throughout the week that are worth your time… and may just plant a seed for new ideas…

One is from the latest issue of the Harvard Business Review — they have the HBR list of what they call audacious ideas that were collected from a list of experts.

And one of them is that we should stop trying to pay for performance — because the evidence is that it simply doesn’t work. They also talk about crowd sourcing management reviews — an interesting idea.

But under the category of science challenges, they suggest giving NASA a real mission. Gregg Easterbrook says that after the space shuttle program, we need to give NASA an inspirational new mission — maybe sending people to Mars.

The entire list is fascinating. And it sure made me think about what would be the government’s list of audacious ideas…

Over at FastCompany, they have a story about the future of energy in the United States. Experts at MIT say that we should spend less time, energy, effort and money on a big bang approach, but instead we should focus on what they call the country’s energy innovation system. They say that energy solutions will come from marginal, local developments, not a big bang.

And finally, I wanted to share the cover story from Wired magazine this month. It is about the government revolts around the world — Tunisia, Egypt… Wired says that those changes were brought about, in part, by people’s access to technology — technology that enables self-organization. And Wired says it is coming here too.

And finally, want to create more jobs? How about having people work — less. That’s the idea from a few economists — yes, a 21-hour work week. The proponents acknowledge that it would require a wholesale reordering of the economy, but they also make the case that it may just happen, whether we like it or not.

And if you have ideas about stories that are worth a mention… or anything else, it’s GovLoop — we’d love to hear from you. And we’re on Twitter, Facebook, GovLoopDorobekINSIDER. Let us know your thoughts.


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