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03.26.2012 DorobekINSIDER: Cyberwar: hype or reality; the import of CISOs; and evolving virtual worlds

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Happy Monday… did you have a good weekend? Here in Washington, it was rainy and relatively cool… I say relatively because it was close to 80 on Friday.

Photo: Flickr member CrazyGeorge

On this date 20 years ago — 1982 — there was a groundbreaking ceremony for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The design was controversial at the time — the names on slate layed into the ground between the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument… but the site has become one of the most popular memorials in Washington. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was officially unveiled in November 1982.

Remember earlier this month, we introduced you to Jennifer Pahlka of Code for America. She is a remarkable person working to make government better. Code for America is a non-profit that provides fellowships for technology experts to work in city government. Well, CNN spoke to her over the weekend. And she told CNN that reforming city halls in America requires the talents of a new generation of technology and design experts. Remember she told us about Adopt-a-Hydrant — it’s one of the apps that a Code for America fellows wrote last year for Boston. And it allows Bostonians sign up to dig out a fire hydrant when they’re covered with snow. Good work.

A busy week ahead… Wednesday is Federal Computer Week’s annual Fed 100 Awards gala… some really remarkable winners this year. Read the full list of winners. It’s a great opportunity to remember some of the hard work that has gone on.

And then on Thursday, I’ll be at the Acquisition Excellence conference sponsored by the American Council on Technology and the Industry Advisory Council. I’m moderating a morning panel that focuses on Acquisition Strategies in the age of austerity and how agencies can balance their needs with the reduced budgets. It should be a fascinating discussion.

But here today… we have a good program…

  • Cyberwar — hype or reality? We’ll have an assessment of a professor of war studies.
  • And then a very different perspective… as everybody looks to do more with less, some state and local governments are cutting their Chief Information Security Officers. We’ll look at that issue… and ramifications.
  • It sounds like something out of Star Trek — remember the halodeck… but the future of Virtual Worlds is serious business. The 5th annual Federal Consortium of Virtual Worlds Conference is coming up in May. We’ll take a look at how these virtual worlds have changed and evolved over the past five years.

All that ahead…

But after the break… we start with the stories that impact your life for Monday the 26 of March, 2012… your government world in 120-seconds…

  • The Democrats are working on a new budget proposal to counter Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget that was unveiled last week. Rep. Chris Van Hollen says House Democrats’ plan also would reduce the federal deficit. But he says it would preserve Medicare. Van Hollen criticized the Republican budget released last week as giving tax breaks to millionaires and ending the Medicare guarantee. The Hill newspaper says the Democrats’ plan would cap overall discretionary spending at the levels set by last summer’s debt-ceiling deal, even though some on the left of the party say that’s too restrictive.
  • And The Hill says that House Democrats may support the alternative plan, despite some deep reservations.
  • The House will take up the 90-day transportation stopgap measure during a special vote today. The bill will need two-thirds vote  to approve it. Republicans think the vote might fail. Politico says the Republicans would need dozens of Democratic votes despite their vocal opposition. But delays would also open Democrats to Republican criticisms that they voted for a shutdown. DOT programs and the gas tax expire Sunday without congressional action. The Senate would also need to clear a stopgap this week.
  • In a change of administration, focus on certain appointees first. That’s the message from a new bipartisan recommendation. The Aspen Institute-Rockefeller Foundation Commission to Reform the Federal Appointments Process panel says Congress and the next president should do everything possible to vet, nominate and confirm appointees to the government’s 100 to 150 “most time-sensitive” positions by May 1 of the new term. That’s a tight window but the panel says lengthy delays in the Senate confirmation process — due in large part to politics and legislative tactics — leave agencies operating at less than full power and discourage qualified individuals from entering public service.
  • The Postal Service is taking aim at what it calls a flawed study of its revenue streams. Government Executive says that the report, commissioned by Postal Service, estimated that service cuts included in the Postal Service’s business plan would result in $5.2 billion in lost revenue for the first year of implementation. The Postal Service says  the survey is flawed because it “asks respondents about a scenario that would never be implemented at the same time.” The Postal Service is sticking to the savings and costs estimates from its five-year business plan over the new survey.
  • Two workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs have been suspended for violating the Hatch Act. That’s the law that prohibits feds from being involved in politics while at work. The two workers admitted to using their work email accounts to campaign for then-candidate Barack Obama back in 2008. The Office of Special Counsel [PDF] says they did that, despite daily reminders from the agency about the Hatch Act and its restrictions. One employee served a two-week suspension; the other served three weeks. Read about the Hatch Act from the Office of Special Council. Meanwhile, there have been calls to reform the Hatch Act.
  • And it’s a big day at the U.S. Supreme Court today. The high court is opening up oral arguments in what many longtime court observers are calling the biggest case of our generation. The case calls into question the constitutionality of the President’s Affordable Care Act. We have a number of resources. The Washington Post has background on the provisions that are in question — and the arguments… and a guide to the oral arguments that are going on. And Politico has five things you need to be on the lookout for… like what role politics plays in the decision… and six potential endings to this story.
  • Is your Facebook profile off limits during job interviews? There have been reports of interviewers asking for the Facebook password of potential job hires. The Washington Post says, two U.S. senators have asked Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate whether employers asking for Facebook passwords during job interviews are violating federal laws. Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer and Richard Blumenthal also want the Justice Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to launch investigations. The senators are sending letters to the heads of the agencies.

Cyber-war: Hype or reality?
Thomas Rid is a professor in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London

As budgets across government are getting slashed one area is actually seeing growth — cybersecurity. The federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRokel has said that cybersecurity is one of the Obama Administration’s top five information technology priorities. But not everyone agrees that a cyber war is near. Thomas Rid [@ridt] is a professor in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. He specializes on on irregular conflict and new technologies, cyber-security, and the theory of conflict.

He has written a piece in Foreign Policy magazine headlined, Think Again: Cyberwar: Don’t fear the digital bogeyman. Virtual conflict is still more hype than reality.

He told me why he thinks we are nowhere near a cyber war…

On GovLoop: Cyber War: What Is It Good For

From the DorobekINSIDER archives: 06.09.2010: DorobekINSIDER: Is cybersecurity over-hyped?


Do we need Chief Information Security Officers?
Hord Tipton is the executive director at ISC2

We spend a lot of time talking about doing more with less, but state and local organizations have been doing that for years. And one area where some are cutting: chief information security officers. What are the potential ramifications?

Hord Tipton is the executive director at ISC2 . He told me why this is happening.

ISC2 Foundation: Harold F. Tipton Memorial Scholarship Fund

On GovLoop: Is your Chief Security Information Officer really necessary?


The evolution of ‘virtual worlds’
Paulette Robinson is the Assistant Dean for Teaching, Learning, & Technology at the National Defense University’s iCollege 

Virtual worlds, they sound like something out of a sci-fi movie but virtual worlds are more of a reality than you might think. Take the returning soldiers who are using virtual battlefields in therapy to help treat post traumatic stress disorder. Now the innovators behind various virtual worlds are coming together for the 5th annual Federal Consortium of Virtual Worlds conference. It’s put on the National Defense University’s iCollege. Paulette Robinson is the Assistant Dean for Teaching, Learning, & Technology at the National Defense University’s iCollege.  She gave me a preview of the conference… and I asked her how these tools have changed over the past five years…

On GovLoop: It’s not outer space…but it is a Virtual World


Closing thoughts…
Before we finish up… a few closing items…

  • Space is getting too crowded with junk. The Christian Science Monitor says six astronauts aboard the International Space Station – including two Americans, orbiting 200 miles above the planet — were told by ground control to scramble into two docked Soyuz spacecrafts in case a piece of a wrecked Russian satellite should smash into the ISS, which could have heavily damaged the platform as both objects were traveling at 17,500 miles per hour, which is the speed in orbit. The emergency was called off after the chunk passed by at an approximate distance of nine miles – which in space terms is a near-miss. NASA says there are about 22,000 pieces of sizable space junk – primarily bits of old satellites.
  • What is the world’s biggest employer? Anyone? Anyone? There is a big debate in Great Britain about health care — sound familiar — and some have that the Britain’s National Health Service is often billed as the third biggest employer in the world, after the Chinese army and Indian Railways. It’s an incredible claim, given how much smaller the UK is than China or India. The BBC did some fact checking. And indeed, it is not true. Sizing up the world’s biggest employers and compiling a list of the top 10, the UK’s National Health Service comes in at number five with 1.7 million workers across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland… Number four is McDonald’s — although they note that 80 percent of the restaurants are franchises so, strictly speaking, 1.5 million of these people are employed by other companies… number three is Walmart with 2.1 million employees… Number two: The People’s Liberation Army in China… 2.3 million people… but topping the list, the U.S. Defense Department with 3.2 million people.

Coming up tomorrow on GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER…

  • We spoke about the virtual worlds conference. Tomorrow, we’re going to talk about how these tools can actually be used — and, yes, how they can save you money. That’s coming up tomorrow…

That does it for us today. The producers of GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER are Emily Jarvis and Stephen Peteritas.

You can find more information about today’s program — and we’re always looking for your comments — and GovLoop Insights…
We are online:

I’m Christopher Dorobek… Thanks for being here. Go out and do good work.
And we’ll see you online…

Written by cdorobek

March 26, 2012 at 12:21 PM

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  1. […] Real World Problems…Like Preventing Bridge Collapses Previously on GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER: It’s not outer space…but it is a Virtual […]

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