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Government Doesn’t Suck event piggybacks on Stewart-Colbert rally

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From GovLoop

Are you a fed tired of the knee-jerk government bashing that’s so in vogue these days? The social networking site GovLoop thinks its time for all of you to stand up and yell at the top of your lungs, “I don’t suck!”

Yes, GovLoop is holding a “Government Doesn’t Suck” rally tomorrow, alongside Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity/March to Keep Fear Alive event. Go to the south end of the Air and Space Museum and look for the people with green shirts with “Chicks Dig Govies” sign.  (Apparently that’s an official GovLoop rally slogan. And I really, really hope they don’t start singing government-themed anthems inspired by Joan Osborne — the “What If Gov Was One Of Us?” sign fills me with dread.) GovLoop promises “some swag and solidarity” for feds and fed supporters who swing by to express “reasonable indignation.”

The official rally itself is shaping up to be a pretty good mixture of music and comedy. The Roots are the opening act, Sheryl Crow will play, and (best of all) soul legend Mavis Staples will perform with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. If you attend any of the events tomorrow, sound off about your experience below.

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DoD app monitors health issues

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The Defense Department released a free smart phone application for service members, veterans and their families to track emotional health issues, according to a DoD news release.

The T2 MoodTracker application differs from others on the market in that it focuses on deployment-related behavioral health issues such as post-traumatic stress, brain injury and depression.

Using a set of 10 descriptions or feeling anchors for each health issue, users can rate their feelings and make note of events or experiences that affect their health. This information can be tracked over days, weeks or months and used as a self-help tool or to share with healthcare professionals, according to the National Center for Telehealth and Technology, which developed the app.

For now, the application is available  for smart phones that use the Android operating system. The application should be available to iPhone users early next year.


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Takai named DoD CIO

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One unknown at the Pentagon has finally been answered.

Teri Takai, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the Defense Department’s chief information officer, will finally assume her new role on Nov. 7, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Tuesday. 

“The new CIO position will be central to these efforts as the DoD continues to transform its IT capabilities to meet the enormous mission critical needs of the U.S. military,” according to a DoD news release

There was some uncertainty about Takai filling the position after her nomination hearing, set for Aug. 3, was canceled.

Under Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ cost-saving plan, it’s unclear whether the CIO position or its functions will move with the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) to Fort Meade, Md.

Gates has said the reorganization plan will strengthen the role of the CIO, but how that will play out is yet to be seen.


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Feds, industry talk cyber, healthcare and procurement

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I’ve heard several remedies in the past few days for curing government’s acquisition woes.

The latest: turn the tables and create an industry scorecard for government’s past performance on acquisitions. At least that’s what one fed proposed during the Executive Leadership Council CXO Roundtable event on Tuesday.

The candid discussion among nearly 500 feds and industry covered healthcare, cybersecurity and consolidation issues facing government.

Here are some of the results from a poll conducted at the event:

- 53 percent think the implementation of meaningful use requirements (financial incentives and rewards for meaningful use of certified electronic health records) will increasingly challenge healthcare over the next several years.

- 53 percent said that to a very large extent extreme oversight causes a culture of fear that stifles innovation and risk taking in favor of compliance and cost, preventing agencies from taking advantage of new business models.

- 37 percent said a strained acquisition workforce is the major acquisition challenge blocking initiatives that are important to the organization’s success.


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Cybersecurity…what is it?

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Top government officials agree that far more cybersecurity professionals are needed to defend the nations networks and solve one of its most pressing issues: hiring and retaining a qualified cyber workforce.

But defining exactly what those roles are and what skills are needed is the challenging part.

“That’s really the issues,” said Nancy Kichak, associate director of strategic human resource policy at the Office of Personnel Management at the Executive Leadership Conference on Tuesday. “Despite the fact that we all use the terminology cybersecurity, just what does it mean? And how do you definite it, and how do you identify these special skills that the cyber workforce has?

Kichak said the government is still determining whether it can hire cyber professionals under the current pay structure and what job positions comprise the cybersecurity workforce.

OPM hopes a recent cybersecurity survey, which wrapped up this month, will help answer those questions. The survey looked at critical tasks and competencies for cybersecurity workers. The agency also led focus groups for human resource managers.

“A lot of people want to be cyber security, but do they have the right training and skills to claim the right occupation, Kichak said.”

Short term, agencies need to offer job training for the current workforce and hone their skills, said David Wennergren, assistant deputy chief management officer in the Secretary of Defense’s office.

Agencies must also attract and invest in younger talent early on by offering scholarship programs and internship opportunities, Wennergren said.

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Which fed just won an award for IT management?

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On Oct. 25 at their annual Executive Leadership Conference ACT-IAC honored private sector workers and feds for outstanding performances in different areas of IT management.

The American Council for Technology (ACT) and the Industry Advisory Council (IAC) is a public/private non-profit partnership dedicated to improving government through better IT management.

David Wennergren, deputy assistance secretary of defense and the Defense Department’s deputy chief information officer, won the President’s award for his efforts to encourage government managers to pursue collaboration opportunities with the private sector.

Chairman Andy Robinson said that this year’s awardees represent forward-thinking in IT management and leadership in public/private collaboration.

“This year’s winners signify a year of accomplishment for ACT-IAC,” Robinson said. “We’re just very pleased, very deserving bunch.”

The other winners included:

Deirdre Murray, Business Development Principal at Qwest Communications, won the Janice K. Mendenhall Spirit of Leadership Award for her longstanding commitment to advancing government through IT solutions.

Habib Nasibdar, USMAX Corporation, was recognized as ACT-IAC’s Rookie of the Year for his efforts in forging a strong relationship with the GSA on cloud computing issues.

For a complete list go online to www.actgov.org.

GSA to create virtual meeting centers

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Starting early next year, federal agencies will have access to telepresence centers at General Services Administration buildings across the country.

The technology will initially span across 14 GSA buildings including 11 regional offices and central offices, GSA Administrator Martha Johnson told reporters today at the Executive Leadership Conference in Williamsburg, Va.

“People appear much more life like” and “they engage in eye contact with each other,” said Johnson about the new technologies. “The sound really works, and you feel as if you’re sitting at the same table even though you’re sitting virtually.”

The systems will be set up in rooms throughout select buildings, and services will be offered to other federal agencies using a scheduling system, she said.

Rooms will likely include three high-resolution screens, and a half-circle table with chairs designated for each screen or a stadium style seating arrangement, said Michael Robertson, GSA chief of staff.  “It creates the illusion that users are at the same table. It’s the next level in video conferencing.”

Specific details about the costs and the contract amount were not readily available, but Johnson said “pricing will be such that people will think twice about getting on a plane.”

AT&T is going to manage and develop the virtual network under GSA’s Networx Enterprise contract.

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Bass leaving OMB Watch

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It’s happy trails time for OMB Watch Executive Director Gary Bass, who plans to leave the influential watchdog group he founded in 1983 to head the Bauman Foundation, according to a mass e-mail sent out this afternoon.

From his experience in the nonprofit sector, Bass said in the message, “I have learned there comes a time when an organization’s founder needs to move on in order to strengthen the very organization the founder loves.”

Bass added that he is “confident that the group’s commitment to high-quality work and smart policy advocacy will continue, and I have no doubt that OMB Watch will not miss a beat during the leadership transition.”

That transition won’t happen quickly: Bass said he will start his new gig “no later than” next fall.  The OMB Watch board has begun a search for a replacement.

Created to “bring sunshine” to the secretive Office of Management and Budget, the left-leaning organization now also focuses on regulatory policy, access to government information and budget issues, according to its web site. The Washington, D.C.-based Bauman Foundation is one of its funders.




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Uplifting quote of the day: Executive Leadership Conference edition

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Has all this talk about federal pay and public perceptions of federal workers got you down? During a panel discussion on sustainable employment practices such as telework, Danette Campbell, a senior advisor for telework at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, said that federal workers have gotten a really bad wrap.

She said in her career in the private sector, sometimes her thoughts about federal employees ran negative as well. But then she joined the federal government, and was impressed with what she saw.

I have never worked with such hard working, dedicated, professional individuals in my career.

Keep checking back for more coverage of the executive leadership conference. Feel free to comment on this post, go to the forums, or follow us on Twitter @federaltimes or follow #elc2010 to join in the conversation.

Time to nominate those IT programs you like

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For those of you interested, you can follow the conference on Twitter #elc2010 and us @federaltimes to get in on the conversation. Now on to your previously scheduled blog post.

The American Council for Technology and the Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC) opened their nominations for its 2011 Exellence.gov awards for outstanding government IT programs. Some of the categories include apps as well. So if youir agency has a mobile application that you think is the bee’s knees, then submit it.

Nominees are accepted through Dec. 10, 2010. Categories include:

1.    Excellence in Enhancing the Customer Experience – Programs that create a customer-centric culture that emphasizes continuous improvements to delight citizens and businesses that  interact with the government organization.  Examples: a service that permits on-line, 24/7 processing of applications; making it easier for customers to reach the right person in the agency and get a correct answer.

2.    Excellence and Innovation in the use of Social Media – Programs that use new social media to achieve the agency’s mission or better serve a particular constituency.  Examples: use of new media to solicit public input on a regulatory or similar issue; creating a community of interest using social media.

3.    Excellence in Intergovernmental Collaboration – Programs that were designed and/or operated with close cooperation and coordination between different levels of government.  Examples: social service programs that are funded and overseen by the Federal government but implemented by state and/or local governments; emergency response programs that require cooperation between various governments.  (Note: intergovernmental programs may also be nominated for the other categories.)

4.    Excellence in Improving the Workforce – Programs that use technology to improve the quality of the government’s workforce or the working environment  for employees.  Examples: improved hiring processes; more efficient and effective training; telework programs.

5.    Excellence in Improving the Operations of Government – Programs that improve the internal operations of government organizations.  Examples: financial management systems; inventory systems; programs supporting the warfighter.

6.    Excellence in Going Green – Programs that use technology to protect the environment and enhance sustainability.  Examples: smart buildings; use of cloud computing and other new technologies.

For more information, go to the website at http://www.actgov.org/education/awards/exgov/2011/Pages/default.aspx