Focusing on six words: Helping government do its job better

DorobekINSIDER: GovLoop Insights Issue of the Week: Finding needles in haystacks — and the changing government market

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GovLoop InsightsHey there — I’m Christopher Dorobek — the DorobekINSIDER — and welcome 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’ve talked about the challenges of dealing with big data. We’re going to tell you about a company that is going just that — for the intelligence agencies… for the Recovery Board… it’s a story of the Silicon Valley coming to Washington successfully, and it may also be an indication of the direction of government contracting. We’ll talk about the company Palantir.

And as we head into the weekend, we’ll have your weekend reading list… weekends are a 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 be innovative… to think outside of the box. We’ll have information about the DorobekINSIDER Book Club — it’s coming up on Tuesday Wednesday at the Adobe Government Assembly… and we’ll have details.

But… after the break… we start off as we do every week with a look at the week that was for government… for the first week of February 2012…


And we start with your pay… which will be frozen again… through 2013, at least if the House of Representatives has anything to say about it. House lawmakers voted this week to freeze their pay and the salaries of congressional staffers and civilian federal employees.

The bill still needs to to be approved by the Senate before it would become law.

The Obama administration has called for an end to the federal pay freeze and has included a 0.5 percent pay raise for feds as part of its 2013 budget proposal. The White House will release its full budget proposal in next week — get ready for that.

Meanwhile, remember the budget supercommittee that failed to reach an agreement last year. As a result of that, the budget law requires $1.2 trillion in cuts starting in January — about half of which would come from the Defense Department. There was a move by Republican senators this week to tinker with those automatic cuts. The plan would given DOD a one-year reprieve of those cuts and instead cut the federal workforce by  5 percent and extend the pay freeze through 2013. That would have saved $127 billion, Republican leaders say. That move failed, but we’ll keep watching it.

How Would a Pay Freeze Affect You and Your Family? – GovLoop – Social Network for Government –
All of this comes amid new numbers on how fed pay compares to the private sector. An assessment by the Congressional Budget Office says that that comparison is difficult, but that the biggest variable is… education. It said that federal employees on average make more than their private sector counterparts, but CBO said that it is different when you analyze the numbers by education levels. So civilian works with a high school education earned about 21 percent more then their private sector counterparts, but federal workers with professional degrees — lawyers, for example — of PhDs… they earned about 23 percent less then the private sector.

As you can imagine, there was a lot of comment. Colleen Kelley, the president of the National Treasury Employees Union, in an op-ed in the Washington Post, questioned CBO’s research — and argued that the salary and benefits for federal employees… she argues that not only is the federal government a laggard, but that pay levels are nowhere near the relative importance of the jobs that are being done.

And government contractors aren’t dodging any bullet on this one. The Obama administration this week renewed its effort to cap the pay of government contractors.

And what about state and local government workers? A few months ago the Center for State and Local Government Excellence found that state and local government worker salaries lag behind the private sector. [PDF]

As you can imagine, all of this has spurred a lot of discussion… and it’s GovLoop, so we want to hear from you. We are looking for your insights about what a pay freeze means to you — how does it impact you and your family your thoughts on the Congressional Budget Office research… and whether there should be restrictions on contractor pay.

Other headlines from the week…

* Defense Secreary Leon Panetta confirmed to reporters traveling with him that U.S. troops would end their combat mission next year and switch to an advisory role through the end of 2014;

* President Obama will ramp up his efforts to help unemployed veterans find jobs by calling for $6 billion in spending aimed at service members returning home from the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan;

* NASA has released it’s first multi-player Facebook Game;

* The Labor Department and outgoing federal Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra launched a open innovation initiative to eliminate the gender gap in pay.

* And speaking of Chorpa… as he gets ready to leave government next week, Government Technology asks whether his departure signals problems for the open government initiative? And at GovLoop, we’re asking who will be the next CTO? Frankly, with all the changes going on at OMB right now, I expect they’ll name a OMB director before they get to the CTO or the head of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

* Oh, and don’t miss Federal Computer Week’s 2012 Fed 100 Award winners. They were announced this week. If you want to be heartened by the good work going on in the government community, it’s good to recognize these people.

Finally, a few stories about information sharing. The head of the intelligence community told lawmakers that it will take five years to complete major impovements in the system that allows U.S. agencies to share secret information following the WikiLeaks leaks. James Clapper, the head of the intel chief, said that the changes would focus on monitoring and auditing downloads of data from intelligence agency computer systems, the Washington Times reports.

One way to protect that information — typewriters. New York City is looking to buy… a whole bunch of… typewriters. The city’s Department of Administrative Services is prepared to request a new typewriter contract — the last of which cost the city $320,000 five years ago — for the 18 government agencies, including the NYPD, that still use the ancient machines.

Meanwhile, the FBI is looking to develop an app capable of sniffing through online media sites and social networks… yes, like Facebook and Twitter.

Issue of the Week: Finding needles in haystacks — using technology

Shane Harris

Shane Harris

Coming up, we’ll talk about the DorobekINSIDER Book Club… and the role of CFOs evolving beyond just crunching numbers…

But the stories we’ve been discussing the past few minutes — about sharing information and making sense of big data — it brings us to our issue of the week, which is about big data and intelligence — or rather, making sense of all the information you have.

This week, Washingtonian magazine published a story about what they bill as the killer app — and it is about a Silicon Valley company called Palantir that has technology that helps make sense of all those hay stacks.

Shane Harris is a senior writer at Washingtonian magazine… he is the author of the book, The Watchers: The Rise of America’s Surveillance State.

My sense is most people have never heard of Palantir — even after a BusinessWeek cover story. I asked him what Palantir does…


Shane Harris is a senior writer at Washingtonian magazine… he is the author of the book, The Watchers. Find a link to his article about Palantir online…

Weekend reading

And that brings us to your 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…

And I’m actually starting with a book — it’s the book that will be the focus on the DorobekINSIDER Book Club. The book is by Peter Sims — it’s titled Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries — and it’s about how small things that you do can lead to big results. And if you haven’t participated in the DorobekINSIDER Book Club before… it’s a bit like the Oprah Book Club, but we’re more wonky. We are holding the Book Club meeting at the 2012 Adobe Government Assembly. It is being held in DC at the National Press Club on February 8 — we are first thing in the morning. And joining us to discuss the book will be the author, Peter Sims… and Dave McClure of GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies. I hope you’ll join us. If you can’t, we’ll have a GovLoop page where you can offer your thoughts on the book — tell us what you think worked for you, and what didn’t. Go read quick… we’ll talk on Tuesday Wednesday morning, OK?

Other weekend reads… The Wall Street Journal reports that CFOs are having to do more than just crunch numbers. Chief financial officers should be paying closer attention to nonfinancial drivers of their business, according to a new survey of chief executives. CEOs polled by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants  and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants said that their companies should place more emphasis on customer relationships or human capital to drive long-term growth, the Wall Street Journal’s CFO Journal reports.

And finally, this week I got to trek to New York… I sit on the board of the Kenyon Review, which is one of the more prestigious literary journals out there. And like many publications, they are seeing the world change. Coming soon, you’ll be able to get a subscription to the Kenyon Review on your Amazon Kindle — yes, I hear the groans from book lovers out there. And BusinessWeek has a story about Amazon — and the looming war about books. It isn’t directly government related, but it is about the changing world and how different organizations are dealing with those changes. I think you’ll find it fascinating.

And… that does it for us this week. 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, GovLoop, Google+… even iTunes … and DorobekINSIDER. Let us know your thoughts.

I hope to see you for the DorobekINSIDER on Tuesday Wednesday.

Thanks to Shane Harris for joining me. Until next week, thanks for being here. Go out and do work. We’ll see you online…


Written by cdorobek

February 4, 2012 at 10:34 AM

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