05.08.2012 DorobekINSIDER: What the sale of GTSI means for IT contracting; Why video makes changes telework; and A Virtual Tour of the Newseum
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On Today’s Show for Tuesday May 8th, 2012
- GTSI — the company has been a staple of government IT contracting… and it has now been bought. Insights and analysis about what happened and what it means from Nick Wakeman of Washington Technology.
- Could video be the key to telework success? Maybe yes. Find out why.
- The technology behind the Newseum’s new Media Gallery…could be used for government. You’ll learn how with HP.
- We told you last week about how House Republicans were considering a bill that would protect increased defense department spending. Politico says House Republicans have decided to push ahead with plans to protect increased defense spending without raising taxes, largely by cutting more from domestic programs, including aid to the poor. Politico says the bill won’t sit well with Senate Democrats, who are open to “buying down” a portion of the cuts but believe time, the law — and President Barack Obama — are on their side, unless Republicans show some movement on revenues.
- Feds will pay more for their pensions under a new House budget bill. The House Budget Committee approved a bill to avoid the automatic budget cuts scheduled for next year. Government Executive says the alternative budget plan heads to the full House for a vote later this week. Federal News Radio says the bill is designed to skip sequestration by overriding the Budget Control Act now in effect. The new bill includes a 5 percent hike in the amount federal employees contribute to their retirement costs. That raise would be phased in over five years. The White House has vowed to veto the bill should it come to the president’s desk.
- Merit Systems Protection Board’s [PDF] policies are getting a makeover. Federal News Radio says the board is looking at how the board is organized, how members make decisions and its practices and procedures for hearing and deciding cases. Chairman Susan Grundmann called the revision a “watershed event.” The agency has already gathered ideas from staff and outside stakeholders. It will publish a proposal in June to give the public time to comment.
- Former Federal CIO Vivek Kundra warns that Facebook could be the end of conferences as we know it. Kundra, speaking at at the Excellence in Government conference sponsored by Government Executive, said the federal government needs to use social networks to bring people together from all around the world, not more conferences. He says agencies — many of which are “multi-national” with foreign offices — establish online communities where U.S.-based staff, overseas co-workers and their customers can informally connect anytime, anywhere
- The House wants to clear up any confusion with the Pentagon’s new cybersecurity role. NextGov reports, House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Howard McKeon has called for legislative language to clarify that the Pentagon can launch secret cybersecurity operations to support military efforts and guard against network attacks. In a release of his draft bill of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2013, the Republican lawmaker pushed for a clause to confirm that the Pentagon has “the authority to conduct clandestine military activities in cyberspace.”
- Hackers for good? That’s the idea behind the new group of hackers called the Unknowns.Government Computer News says the group hacked into NASA and Air Force computers to help those agencies patch up security holes. In a blog post on Pastebin, the group said that unlike hacker group Anonymous, it is not against the U.S. government. The Unknowns posted the names and email addresses of government employees but then sent emails to those same employees telling them how they could protect themselves in the future.
- And on GovLoop, we’re asking you does your team resemble the Avengers? How many of you have been on a team with team members that resemble one of the Avengers? Take Tony Stark (aka Iron Man), for example. He’s a man who knows everything, has ego for days along with a complimenting sarcastic attitude; or Dr. Bruce Banner (aka The Hulk) a guy who struggles hard to hide his demon under a veneer of cool, and is a recluse (and not much of a team player) because of it; or Thor — the demi god who comes down with a big hammer and acts without complete information most of the time. What do you think? Does your team resemble this group?
- Why is austerity so unpopular in Europe? The Washington Post says because, at least so far, it hasn’t worked. Europeans are rebelling against austerity. That’s the read on Sunday’s elections in Greece and France. But why do voters loathe austerity? Perhaps because, as economists have found, efforts to rein in budget deficits can take a wrenching toll on living standards, especially in a recession. And the Washington Post highlights a recent paper for the International Monetary Fund that looked at 173 episodes of fiscal austerity over the past 30 years. These were countries that, for one reason or another, cut spending or raised taxes to shrink their budget deficits. And the results were typically painful: Austerity, the IMF paper found, “lowers incomes in the short term, with wage-earners taking more of a hit than others; it also raises unemployment, particularly long-term unemployment”.
- Meanwhile, what can be done to put GSA back together again? Federal Computer Week has a column from former GSAer Bob Woods who says there is reason for hope. While it could get worse before it gets better, Woods says this is an opportunity to look at how business has been done — and do a real assessment about whether there is a better way. And he says, streamlining GSA’s regions is one obvious step.
05.07.2012 DorobekINSIDER: And the SAMMIES nominees are…; EPA turns trash into energy; and the Newseum’s New Media Gallery
On today’s program for Monday May 7th, 2012:
- The nominees are in for the Oscars for Federal Employees — The Service to America Medals award.
- Turning garbage into energy at the EPA — just one of the amazing SAMMIES nominees.
- Taking an inside virtual tour of the Newseum’s new media gallery here in Washington… and what it means for government.
Big federal government contracting news this morning: GTSI, which government marketing guru Mark Amtower called the grand-daddy of government resellers, is being sold. GTSI announced this morning that Unicom, based in Los Angeles, is buying the company for $77 million. Washington Technology says it is quite a fall from grace for the company, particularly after the company’s run-in with the Small Business Administration over its small business sales.
Did you see 60 Minutes last night? CBS News correspondent Leslie Stall spoke to two Air Force pilots who refuse to fly the F-22 Raptor — the most expensive fighter ever — because it has been plagued by a mysterious flaw that causes its pilots to become disoriented, apparently from a lack of oxygen.
- 12.1 — that’s the percentage of spending cuts agencies could see next January if Congress does not come up with an alternative to sequestration. Federal News Radio says the cuts are based on agencies’ fiscal 2012 discretionary budgets. The Budget Control Act passed last August called for reducing federal spending by $1.2 trillion over the next decade with half of the cuts come from defense spending. Congress returns today, and the House will take up an alternative to sequestration.
- There could be another rounds of base closures. The Washington Post says the Defense Department is gearing up for consolidation once again, putting local companies and lobbying firms on alert. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta says that despite the controversy that normally surrounds such moves, “it is the only effective way to achieve infrastructure savings.”
- Former Immigration and Customs Enforcement intelligence chief James Woosley pleaded guilty for part in a scheme to file almost $600,000 in false travel expense reports for contractors. MSNBC says Woosley must surrender over $180,000 of his profits in a scheme that also included several other ICE employees and contractors. He faces 18 to 27 months in jail and a potential fine.
- We told you about this last week, but the Washington Post is reporting this morning that the Air Force plans to restart the IT contracts after protests from losing companies. The April 16 award for network equipment is valued at $6.9 billion. General Dynamics and technology company GTSIwere among nine contractors picked to share the network equipment contract. The Government Accountability Office says the Harris Corp and Dell, were two of those contractors challenging the deal.
- Speaking of contracting – government relationships….The White House has just released a second round of advice for how government and its contractors can communicate more freely. Federal News Radio says the announcement is part of a new memo from the Office of Federal Procurement Policy that outlines eight myths plus eight realities to dispose of them. The so-called Mythbusters 2 is signed by acting procurement chief Lesley Field. The new memo emphasized industry misconceptions. The original 2010 Mythbusters memo dealt with myths held by government.
- ‘Tis not the season—to be moving Christmas trees, that is. The National Christmas Tree succumbed to “transplant shock” after being moved from the White House lawn, the National Park Service reported Saturday. The Park Service says it already has a replacement in mind for the Colorado blue spruce that occupied a spot on the White House’s South Lawn, and it will be in place by the time the holiday season rolls around next winter. The new tree reportedly will not be planted until October.
- And on GovLoop, we go myth busting with the federal sector equal employment opportunity (EEO) complaint process. Yeah, it doesn’t sound like all that much fun. But it’s an important part of government that many people don’t understand. We separate fact from fiction in a post by GovLoop member David Grinberg.
A Few Closing Items:
- It hasn’t happened since Richard Nixon was president — the government shrank. The New York Times’ Floyd Norris reports that for the first time in 40 years, the government sector of the American economy has shrunk during the first three years of a presidential administration. Spending by the federal government, adjusted for inflation, has risen at a slow rate under President Obama. That increase has been more than offset by a fall in spending by state and local governments, which have been squeezed by weak tax receipts. In the first quarter of this year, the real gross domestic product for the government — including state and local governments as well as federal — was 2 percent lower than it was three years earlier, when Barack Obama took office in early 2009, the Times says. The last time the government actually got smaller over the first three years of a presidential term was when Richard M. Nixon was president. That decrease was largely because of declining spending on the Vietnam War.
- A budget update:The Hill reports that House Republicans will bring their budget up for a vote this week. The Hill says that House lawmakers will return to a familiar debate over the deficit when they come back to Washington today. Republican leaders are planning to bring up a $260 billion measure to slash the budget gap and replace across-the-board spending cuts set to take effect in 2013. And we mentioned this earlier, but… The bill, known as a ‘reconciliation’ proposal, is the product of six House committees and will be combined into one piece of legislation by the House Budget Committee… Principally, the GOP measure would replace $78 billion in sequestered cuts resulting from the failure of the congressional ‘supercommittee’ to strike a bipartisan deficit deal last fall… In addition to the $78 billion in sequester replacement, the bill contains an additional $180 billion in cuts aimed at reducing the deficit. Among the federal programs hit are food stamps, funding for the 2010 healthcare and financial regulatory laws and the refundable child tax credit.
- The Human Capital League has a wonderful post… Top 10 HR Lessons from Star Wars -Number 10: Nepotism doesn’t work… and they have Darth Vader saying, ‘Luke, you know, I really think you should reconsider Imperial employment. We pay competitively, and we have a great benefits package.
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.
Happy Star Wars Day — yes, Star Wars Day… it’s May 4th, so May the 4th Be With You!
There has been much going on this week.
- There was more skirmishing about budgets on Capitol Hill, although it seems very unlikely that agency budgets will get passed on time. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank notes that by the time the Republican-led House returns next week, members will have been working in Washington on just 41 of the first 127 days of 2012 — and that was the busy part of the year. They are planning out of session for 17 of the year’s remaining 34 weeks, and even when they are in town the typical workweek is three days.
- The federal CIO, Steven VanRoekel, has released the Federal IT Shared Services Strategy. Speaking at InformationWeek’s Government IT Leadership Forum, VanRoekel said that agency CIOs should look first to IT spending within their agencies for commodities such as e-mail and storage — and after that, they should look to consolidate HR and financial management with other agencies, NextGov reports.
- With all the bad press public servants have seen in recent weeks, it’s good to see people making a difference… and saving the government money. The nation’s highest civil service awards — the Presidential Ranks of Distinguished Executive and Distinguished Professional — were announced last week at the Senior Executive Association’s 27th annual awards banquet. The Senior Executive Association notes that the 2011 award winners’ nominations show that they saved the federal government more than $36 billion.
But our issue of the week, HR… Yes, human relations… chief people officer… chief human capital officer… they’re all terrible names for a job that SHOULD be so important, but too often at agencies — and many organizations, it is a role that is mostly regulatory, not strategic.
Liz Ryan is a strategist on the people relationships — her company, Ask Liz Ryan, focuses on the new-millennium workplace — yes, the new world workplace. She is also a former Fortune 500 HR executive.
She says that HR — human capital — is still not fully understood or appreciated.
Your Weekend Reads
- It’s graduation season — and I love commencement speeches. It really is an opportunity to step back and ponder what makes a successful life… offer advice. Of course, the best of the best was Steve Jobs commencement speech to Stanford University in 2005. If you haven’t seen it or heard it, it’s 15-minutes long and well worth a few hours. Watch it a few times.
- That being said, there were two pieces looking at commencement speeches that I saw this week. Charles Wheelan, author of the book 10 1/2 Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said writes in The Wall Street Journal about what they don’t tell you at graduation. Things like… yes, some of your worst days lie ahead. Wheelan says that graduation is a happy day. But he says that his job is to tell you that if you are going to do anything worthwhile, you will face periods of grinding self-doubt and failure. Be prepared to work through them. He also says the goal should be to not make the world worse…
- The other piece by Steve DeVaughn about the commencement speech that he says he’s never been invited to give, and he offers advice like: Reserve the right to be smarter tomorrow than you are today.
- Facebook this week announced that you can now post if you are an organ donor. SmartMoney says this move experts say could prompt social-media companies to take on roles once reserved for government agencies. And they post others — having people posting when they vote to encourage voting… or when they pay their taxes.
- With the approaching end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, changes are coming to the military services — a transition. The Christian Science Monitor writes that the military is working on plans to retain the best and the brightest so they can be better prepared for whatever lies ahead.
- Meanwhile, the Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno writes in Foreign Affairs about the U.S. Army in a time of transition.
- How would you fix washington? The Washington Post asked the chamber’s referees, Alan Frumin, the Senate parliamentarian, who is retiring after 35 years. One of his recommendations: Speed up the confirmation process by putting key positions on a fast track.
05.02.2012 DorobekINSIDER: Why Feds and their Leaders don’t connect, What doing more with less means for CIOs and Matchmaking with the SBA and Government
On today’s program for Wednesday May 2nd 2012
- How would you rate leadership in your organization? A new assessment from the Partnership for Public Service shows — not great. We’ll find out why and what can be done.
- Doing more with less — that is the mantra these days. What does it mean for federal CIOs? An early look at the findings from TechAmerica’s 22nd annual Federal CIO survey.
- The government is trying to reach out and work with more small business contractors — how is that going? What should agency leaders be looking for?
There has been much discussion about government conference — and what impact the GSA 2010 Western Regions Conference will have on conferences over all. Jered Serbu of Federal News Radio notes that the Defense Department has called off its annual procurement conference scheduled for later this month. On the DOD Web site announcing the change, officials say that the event will be rescheduled for later this year. And, using good passive voice, they say, “More time was needed to ensure that the training courses to be provided at the conference were aligned with the Department’s Better Buying Power Initiatives.”
With all the bad press public servants have seen in recent weeks, it’s good to see people making a difference… and saving the government money. The nation’s highest civil service awards — the Presidential Ranks of Distinguished Executive and Distinguished Professional — were announced last week at the Senior Executive Association’s 27th annual awards banquet. The Senior Executive Association notes that the 2011 award winners’ nominations show that they saved the federal government more than $36 billion.
- Lawmakers are asking for more time to pass a final bill to restructure the postal service. And they’re asking to delay the first round of post office closures to make it happen. The Postal Service has put more than 3,000 post offices on the chopping block, but it has agreed not to close any of them until May 15. Backers of a bill that just passed the Senate say they need more time than that to convince the House to go along with their plan. Congress.org says senators don’t want the Postal Service to try to get some closures “in under the wire” while the House deliberates.
- Three marines are accused of injuring a Brazilian stripper after a night out. The Daily Beast says the three Marines and a civilian staffer were assigned to the U.S. embassy. In an embassy van, the men drove to a nightclub called Apple, known for music, cocktails, and sex-for-hire. According to those familiar with the venue, it was not the first time U.S. government personnel had visited the club. The incident is the third sex scandal in a string of incidents involving the secret service in Colombia and El Salvador.
- Protests on the NetCents II contracts have the Air Force rethinking its awards decision. The Air Force has asked the Government Accountability Office to dismiss a group of bid protests over its Network-Centric Solutions-2 contract. Washington Technology says the Government Accountability Office has received protests from nine companies who failed to win spots on the $6.9 billion Network-Centric Solutions-2 contract. The program supports the Global Information Grid architecture, the Defense Information Infrastructure, the Air Force, and the Defense Communications Systems’ info-structure for computer networks and telecommunications network mission areas.
- The Interior Department has selected Google Apps for Government for their cloud email and collaboration services. The move is part of a major efficiency initiative that will leverage modern technology to save up to $500 million in taxpayer dollars by 2020. We talked about that IT transformative initiative with Deputy Assistant Secretary for Technology, Information and Business Services — Andrew Jackson. You can find the hour long conversation on our website dorobekinsider dot com.
- It was a mixed month for the federal retirement plan funds. For April, only three of the 10 Thrift Savings Plan funds showed gains, while the others showed negative returns for the month. F Fund, which is made of of U.S. bonds, had the strongest showing in April, up more than 1 percent. The G Fund, which never has a bad day, was up 0.15 percent; and the L Income Fund, the most conservative of the lifecycle funds, was almost unchanged, up 0.01 percent. All of the other funds were in negative numbers, with the I Fund, made up of international stocks, showing the biggest decrease of 1.87 percent. For the year to date, however, all the funds are showing significant returns — many in double digits.
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency has deployed a new tool to help the United Statesbecome a more “weather-ready nation.” Federal News Radio says Rapid Refresh tests of the new tool has delivered more accurate predictions of fast-developing weather emergencies, like heavy rains that pummeled the Midwest last summer. It updates every hour with an forecast for the next 18 hours. NOAA says that’s important for pilots, as well as weather forecasters.
- And over on Govloop, we’re talking about 3-D. And graphics aren’t the only thing that come in three dimensions. When you think of Open Gov, what comes to mind? Transparency and accountability? Greater access to data? As if turns out, Open Gov isn’t that easy to define, and everyone seems to have their own opinion on which dimension is most important. We want to know what you think. So head over to GovLoop to check it out.
— Emily Jarvis
04.24.2012 DorobekINSIDER: How spies and cloud computing fit together, the future of Gov 2.0 and are you suffering from social media overload?
On today’s program for Tuesday April 25, 2012:
- Cloud computing and the intelligence community… it seems like an oxymoron, but could it be a perfect fit?
- Gov 2.0 — What’s happening and where are we going? The first real insights into where we stand on Gov 2.0. The surprising results from a new survey.
- Social media overload — with FaceSpaceTwitPlus… are you overloaded? We’ll talk about that… and how to deal with it.
A lot of news coming out early this morning:
- The General Services Administration’s inspector general who has been investigating that lavish Public Building Service 2010 Western Region Conference has told federal prosecutors an outside event planner violated ethics laws while helping to organize a conference in Las Vegas hotel, government sources tell the Washington Post. Investigators also want to know whether Michael W. Jahn, managing partner of Location Solvers, violated bribery laws by giving gifts to several GSA employees in excess of the government’s $20 limit, according to government sources, e-mails and transcripts of interviews conducted by the inspector general’s office.
- We continue to ask you what YOU would do in the GSA situation — you’re the boss. How would you handle it? If there are significant changes to be made — a wholesale restructuring of GSA — how would you reorganize?
- The Senate is set to vote on dozens of plans to overhaul the Postal Service. Again, The Washington Post says the U.S. Postal Service is asking Congress to allow changes to the mail delivery schedule and other reforms to better control costs, but a set of proposals expected to come to a vote today could place even more restrictions on when, where and how Americans receive their mail. The Senate plans to vote on dozens of amendments designed to overhaul the Postal Service, by providing nearly $11 billion to fund the buyouts of hundreds of thousands of employees and, eventually, ending six-day-a-week mail delivery. And the Post notes that this debate does not divide along partisan lines. Instead it is a NIMBY argument. Central to the Postal Service’s cost-cutting measures are plans to close hundreds of processing facilities and more than 2,000 post offices, an issue that pits lawmakers from smaller, rural states against colleagues from larger, more urban areas, where the proposed closings would have less of an impact.
- Last week we talked about budget transparency — both why one would do it… and how to do it… and we spoke to Matthew Hall of Open Plans get get his assessment. Atlantic Cities has just written a piece talking about budgets by — and for — the people. They say that in an effort to cut wasteful spending and generate political support, cash-strapped municipal officials are turning to a process called participatory budgeting, which allows residents to devise and vote on small-scale infrastructure projects. Pioneered in Brazil, it’s since been taken up by some 1,200 cities in just over two decades.
- The Pentagon is setting up a new spy service of its own. The Wall Street Journal says the Defense Department will use existing funds and personnel to increase to create the new department. DoD has wanted to increase their role in the collection of sensitive intelligence about threats. The new spy service is part of a Pentagon-wide reorganization effort.
- Hacktivists pose the biggest threat to IT security. A new InformationWeek Federal IT survey says the top threat shouldn’t come as a big surprise since hacktivists have topped the list for the past two years. The survey found that despite governmentwide adoption of new FISMA policies cyber attacks were still up by 5 percent from last year.
- The GSA conference scandal has hit the agency hard…and now the investigation is widening to include potential contractor fraud. The Washington Post says GSA’s inspector general told federal prosecutors an outside event planner violated ethics laws. Michael Jahn, managing partner of Location Solvers, is accused of violating bribery laws by giving gifts to several GSA employees in excess of the government’s $20 limit.
- Two former students of the elite military and naval academies say in a new lawsuit that they were raped by fellow classmates and then either resigned or were forced to leave because administrators didn’t take their allegations seriously. The Wall Street Journal says the women claim they were raped by upperclassmen while under the influence of alcohol and later ostracized when they reported the allegations. The Defense Department has declined to comment.
- The Veterans Affairs Department is struggling to keep up with the number of veterans seeking mental health care. The agency’s inspector general said half of its mental health patients have to wait about 50 days for a full evaluation.Federal News Radio says the agency’s tracking system is flawed. Doctors and clinicians said they don’t have the manpower to handle all the cases. The VA last week began hiring 1,900 more mental health care workers.
- The Senate is back in session debating how to keep the Postal Service afloat. Now senators are considering a couple of amendments that would mean major changes to employees pay and benefits. Government Executive says the new bill would require retirement-eligible employees to retire, increase the amount workers contribute to their health benefits and life insurance, limit executive pay and curtail the amount agencies can spend on government conferences.
- And on GovLoop, we’re talking about the future of Gov 2.0. It’s part of our newwebinar with HP where we look at where Gov 2.0 started, where it is now, and where it’s going. It’s going to be a really fascinating discussion and you can still register right now on our homepage for the Thursday webinar! The conversation kicks off at 2pm.
— Emily Jarvis
04.23.2012 DorobekINSIDER: How GSA’s getting data anywhere, at anytime, the TSP’s Roth Option and Untangling Big Data
- We’re going to talk about what GSA is actually getting it right. Last week, I moderated a discussion about mobile technologies and how it is changing work. Ahead, we’ll hear from GSA CIO Casey Coleman.
- A new TSP option. We’ll talk to the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board about the new Roth option.
- We’ll talk about how to untangle the open data debate.
We start off this week in a similar place where we left last week. There is very little good news out there for public servants.
- Over the weekend, Senator Joe Lieberman (I – CT) called for broader hearings into both the GSA and Secret Service situations. There was even word that one of the Secret Service agents connected with the alleged Secret Service prostitution scandal was staying at the Colombian hotel where President Barack Obama lodged a few days later. Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the 12th Secret Service employee implicated in the events was staying at the Hilton in Cartagena, not the Hotel Caribe, the hotel that has garnered most of the public attention. The agent is now on leave.
- But the story that is going to have broader implications is the now infamous GSA conference. The Washington Post this morning has a story headlined,GSA under the microscope. And Jonathan O’Connell says that Congress may restructure GSA’s Public Building Service as a result of the conference scandal. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA.), said they may consider trying to do away with GSA altogether. District Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) hasn’t gone that far, but she said the GSA’s dual missions of signing real estate deals and managing contracts are largely unrelated and might require separating.
Chris Dorobek has posted on GovLoop asking for your insights… Again, some of this is over the top and actually reminds me of the whole Get It Right mess — Get It Right is the 2004 program that was created to fix some contracting problems. And years later, there is now a consensus that Get It Right got it wrong.
GSA has been around for more than 50 years. It was created as a result of the Hoover Commission. We’d love to hear your thoughts:
- Does GSA need to be fundamentally changed? If so, why? If not, why not?
- How should the Obama administration and Congress handle the GSA situation?
- If you did decide to fundamentally change the was general services were administered across government, how should that be done?
The SEVEN stories that you need to know:
- We’re going to talk about the Thrift Savings Plan’s Roth option later, but… It turns out that TSP’s Roth option might not make its May 7th start date. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service has said it will not be ready for the start-up next month. The Washington Post says the delay is partly due to the time will take payroll offices to be able to separate the traditional and roth investment options and make the necessary TSP’s traditional tax treatment. And we’ll talk about that later on here on the DorobekINSIDER.
- Lawmakers are broadening the investigation into the Secret Service activities in Colombia involving prostitutes. Federal News Radio says the Senate Homeland Security Committee wants to determine whether the incident was an exception, or part of a pattern of misconduct. The House Homeland Security Committee sent Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan a list of 50 questions. Members wanted a comprehensive, minute-by-minute timeline of the event.
- A group of non-profits are looking into federal whistleblowing protection in the wake of the GSA conference spending scandal. The Washington Post says the group Cause of Action has asked the Office of Management and Budget to conduct a governmentwide audit to make sure agencies were complying with federal ethics and whistleblower laws. The GSA inspector general who investigated the agency’s lavish Las Vegas conference spending said the regional administrator at the heart of the scandal did not tolerate dissent from employees. IG Brian Miller said Jeff Neely intimidated those who raised questions about the spending.
- The House is set to debate on as many as four cybersecurity bills this week.The National Journal reports, the bills would encourage businesses and government to share threat information; increase cyber research, development, and education; and update federal network security practices. Today kicks off federal cybersecurity week.
- Another pay cut could be on the way…but this time the cut would only affect Congressman. Kansas Republican Kevin Yoder has introduced a bill to cut the pay rates of lawmakers by 5 percent. Government Executive says the bill would also prevent Congressman from getting cost of living adjustments.
- House Republicans are moving back towards the debt deal’s spending levels.The Hill Newspaper says Republican leaders who are “Boxed in by their Senate colleagues on one side and House conservatives on the other are inching closer to the spending levels agreed to in the Budget Control Act.
- And on GovLoop, Bob Gourley is talking about this new product TwitChimp. The idea is harness the power of Twitter to niche markets. We will actually be talking to Gourley later this week. But you should head over to our homepage now to check it out. And we’ll be talking to Gourley about TwitChimp later this week here on the DorobekINSIDER.
— Emily Jarvis
04.20.2012 DorobekINSIDER Issue of the Week: GSA watcher assess the impact of the conference scandal, and your weekend reading list
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.
It wasn’t a great week for public servants. There were congressional hearings into the General Services Administration Public Building Service 2010 Western Region conference — and plenty of lawmakers heaping aghast horror… then there were the stories of the Secret Service agents who were accused partying with prostitutes just before a Presidential visit to Latin America… and then there were the gruesome photos out of Afghanistan of soldiers posing — seemingly gleefully — with the body parts of Afghan rebels. Not a week highlighting the best and the brightest.
We can’t solve the problems here, but we’ll try see how the best and the brightest can rebuild in order to do their jobs better. Our issue of the week looks at GSA… that conferences… what happens now… and what it means for contractors…Larry Allen has been following GSA for decades. He is the President of Allen Federal Business Partners. He said told Chris Dorobek this is a difficult situation because it really knocks GSA on its heels — again…
- It is sometimes remarkable how quickly we forget painful situations — and I sometimes feel that way about the 2008 economic crash. Sometimes it feels like we are looking to move on — and time does move so quickly — that we haven’t taken a step back and looked at what caused the near cataclismic crash… what we learned… and what we can do to prevent it from happening again. This week, BusinessWeek magazine has a story about the Securities and Exchange Commission that essentially talks about how the SEC got its groove back. The story chronicles the recent series of enforcement actions by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and it argues that there is a new era at the agency. They are working hard, even though they are outmanned and outgunned.
- The Pulitzer Prize awards were handed out this week, but Atlantic Media also handed out its Michael Kelly award for a writer who went above and beyond. The story they selected is from The New Yorker — it’s headlined the “The Invisible Army.” Reporter Sarah Stillman tells the story of ten Fijian beauticians who were recruited for lucrative jobs in a posh Dubai salon, only to end up in Iraq giving manicures and massages to U.S. soldiers. It tells of their mistreatment, and talk about the scandal of thousands of foreign workers on U.S. military bases reduced to something like indentured servitude. It is a remarkable story that I missed at the time and was pleased to read this week.
- Finally, how do you get agencies to be innovative, whether it be some gov 2.0 application — or some different kind of procurement process? Craig Thomler writes this week about convincing risk advisers management to yes to social media initiatives — but I think it applies to more than just social media. My take: focus on doing the job better… and keep pressing.
The producers of GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER are Emily Jarvis and Stephen Peteritas.