Federal Times Blogs

Delivering transformation: Down at the Executive Leadership Conference

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So what exactly is the Executive Leadership Conference? Well its a gathering of about 850 federal managers and private industry representatives in Williamsburg, VA both today and tomorrow. There are panel discussions related to IT issues, sustainability, management as well as special speakers.

Keep reading the website for stories related to this conference, so that you can get a bit of that information yourself. Of course, we know how busy our readers are, so we will be condensing and covering a lot of this on your behalf. Some key themes so far.

1. Collaboration. Almost every speaker has touted the importance of collaboration, with coworkers and managers within your agency as well as private industry and academic stakeholders whenever possible.

2. Flexibility. Make sure your office is open to new ways of operating and trying new approaches. Many speakers have said that one of the key issues facing agencies is changing the culture.

And stay tuned for more information as the event progresses.

I will be going to sustainability forums and be listening to a panel discussion about the next two years for the Obama presidency. Anything you want me to ask?

Just leave your questions in the comments section below.

TechAmerica to release IT reform ideas

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Next week, the TechAmerica Foundation will release its recommendations for reforming the procurement and management process for federal information technology.

The recommendations follow the Obama Administration’s decisions last June to freeze spending on all large financial systems modernization projects and launch reviews of high risk IT projects.

A group of 32 senior IT and federal aquisition experts from industry and academia collaborated to propose reforms, which will be released at a press conference on Monday. 

The hope is to have the recommendations factored into the administration’s 2012 budget planning.

OSC issues Hatch Act reminder

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Yes, political passions are at fever pitch this election season, but federal workers are risking their jobs if they cross in the line into activity banned by the Hatch Act, the Office of Special Counsel warns in a news release. The agency is responsible for enforcement of the act, which generally bars partisan politicking on government time.

As evidence, the agency cites two cases that it took to the Merit Systems Protection Board. Both involved workers who in 2008 sent fund-raising e-mails while at work on behalf of then-presidential candidate Barack Obama.

In one of those cases, involving an IRS agent, the board in August ordered a 120-day suspension. In the other, where a Bureau of Printing and Engraving contracting officer sent fund-raising pitches to three contract workers over whom she had “authority and influence,” the board in June ordered her fired after a 38-year government career.

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2 postal workers killed in West Tennessee

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The FBI is one of several local, state and federal agencies looking into the fatal shooting of two women postal workers on Monday morning at a post office in Henning, Tenn., according to a CNN report.

A dispatcher from the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department told CNN that the shooting occurred at about 9 a.m. on Monday.

The names and ages of the victims have not been released.

The Commercial Appeal, a community newspaper in Memphis, is reporting that the women were working at the front counter of the post office when a robbery attempt occurred. But the attorney general of the state’s 25th judicial district declined to confirm if a robbery had taken place, according to the newspaper. 

The Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department, FBI, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Henning Police Department and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are involved in the investigation, according to CNN.

Anyone with information about the crime can contact the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation at 1-800-824-3463 (1-800-TBI-FIND) or postal inspectors at 1-877-696-5322.

Washington Post survey to feds: You make too much

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Attention feds, if you have read the Washington Post recently, a new poll there delivers a message in the form of a survey. Stop making so much money and working less hard.

I know, I know. The survey results are here if you want to see.


The survey of 1,002 adults found 52 percent think federal employees are “overpaid for the work they do” while 33 percent think they are paid the right amount, and 9 percent think they are underpaid.

According to the Washington Post poll, 49 percent said feds work less hard than peers in the private sector, with 39 percent saying equally hard working and 7 percent say harder working.

It gets weirder from there though.

Would they recommend a federal career to a relative or close friend just graduating school?

A 57 percent majority said yes, with 33 percent saying no.

Only 35 percent of respondents said they have had contact with a federal employee, but out of those, 73 percent rated the fed’s job performance “very well” or “somewhat well.” Only 26 percent gave ratings of “not so well” or “not well at all.”

So what do all of you guys think? Is there a disconnect here or is there more to the story?

Is there an angle the Washington Post should have taken, or something left out?

OPM leads cyber workforce focus groups

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The Office of Personnel Management is hosting a series of focus groups to garner solutions for beefing up the government’s cybersecurity workforce.

Starting today, OPM called on dozens of cybersecurity professionals and hiring managers to discuss strategies and best pratices for recruiting and retaining highly skilled workers. During the three-hour sessions, participants were given a list of potential solutions and asked to rank them as being the best or worst options for attracting cybersecurity workers.

Possible areas of focus include:

-Establishing a governmentwide cybersecurity certification process

-Mapping a governmentwide cybersecurity career path

-Create a new occupation definition, classification,  qualification and standards

-Invest more in students

- Boost pay and use flexibilities

The focus groups are an extension of OPM’s work under the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE). The goal is to “ensure that federal agencies can attract, recruit and retain cybersecurity employees,” according to the NICE website.

Sessions will continue on Wednesday morning.

Guffey to lead Postal Workers Union

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Cliff Guffey will be the new president of the American Postal Workers Union after capturing 69 percent of the ballots cast in a three-way race, the union announced in a news release.

Guffey, APWU’s vice president since 2001, will succeed retiring President William Burrus. As he moves up to the top job, his immediate challenge will be nailing down a new contract with the U.S. Postal Service, which is seeking to loosen work rules. The existing contract expires Nov. 20; Burrus recently described progress on its successor as “slow.”

More broadly, Guffey’s three-year term is likely to be dominated by the Postal Service’s prolonged financial crisis. The union, which represents some 211,000 clerks, mechanics and other workers, is currently fighting the agency’s attempt to curtail most Saturday delivery.

“These are tough times for postal workers,” Guffey said in the release. “But we are committed to fighting to protect our jobs and to strengthen the Postal Service. With the support of our members–and the American people–I am confident we can succeed.”

The president’s race was one of 30 contested campaigns for national office on this year’s APWU ballot. Out of a total of 190,531 ballots mailed to eligible voters, 51,994 were returned, according to the union. The results were tabulated Friday by the American Arbitration Association.

Before becoming APWU vice president, Guffey had been the union’s Clerk Craft director and assistant director as well as president of its Oklahoma City local. Replacing him as vice president is Greg Bell, who won 75 percent of the vote. After being sworn in Nov. 6, Guffey, Bell and other new officers take office Nov. 12. The APWU is the largest of the Postal Service’s four unions.

Al-Qaida: Strike D.C. restaurants to kill feds

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The NY Daily News reports that the terrorist group Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is now calling for strikes on federal employees. In the second issue of the organization’s magazine, “Inspire,” AQAP propagandist Yahyim Ibrahim suggests wannabe terrorists open fire at crowded restaurants in Washington during lunchtime to kill feds. “Targeting such employees is paramount and the location would also give the operation additional media attention,” Ibrahim wrote.

AQAP is the Yemen-based franchise of al-Qaida and is thought to have provided training and support to the alleged Christmas Day bomber. The Obama administration says American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki is a senior leader in AQAP and, in a controversial move, has authorized the CIA to kill him if he cannot be captured.

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193 policies for securing DoD’s networks

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Good luck trying to decipher the Defense Department’s color-coded chart of policies it uses to “build, operate and secure” its networks.

The two-foot-long IA policy chart outlines 193 documents (including directives, strategies, policies, memos, regulations, strategies, white papers and instructions) that many information assurance professionals
“may not be aware of,” Noah Shachtman points out on his Danger Room blog.

Designed by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Cyber Identity & Information Assurance, the chart is supposed to help these workers familiarize themselves with the policies that govern how they do their job. I guess the legend may be a good place to start, but even that could change as the chart is updated.

Here’s what the Information Assurance Technology Analysis Center said about the chart on its website:

“Because IA Policy development is a wide-ranging and ongoing process, we ask for input from all who download this chart, advising us of any policies that may have been overlooked, but should be included. In addition, we ask for any policy updates that may not be properly reflected on the IA Policy Chart or any suggestions to improve the chart.”

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Happy … General Pulaski Day?

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Casimir Pulaski

The vast majority of the federal workforce has today off for Columbus Day, but Ed O’Keefe at the Post notes that in many other places, the tradition is falling out of favor. Some cities have canceled parades, or given workers a floating holiday in lieu of Columbus day.

It’s not only the perennial controversy over Native Americans’ post-1492 treatment sinking the holiday — cash-strapped California dropped it entirely last year as part of a budget-cutting effort.

O’Keefe’s got a poll that shows respondents are, by a nearly two-to-one margin, against the second Monday in October being a federal holiday. (But I wonder how much of that is actually due to distaste over Christopher Columbus and how much is due to the general feeling that feds have too cushy of a ride.) Some of the WaPo commenters are bantering about replacing the holiday with a day honoring Ben Franklin, Susan B. Anthony, Cesar Chavez, or (heh) Glenn Beck. But if feds need a holiday and Columbus is too toxic, why not give them the day off to honor Gen. Casimir Pulaski?

Who’s that, you ask? Why, the father of American cavalry, of course. Pulaski was a military commander in Poland who was framed for treason in 1771 and exiled to France, where Franklin recruited him to help fight the Revolutionary War. He was a skilled cavalry commander, and led a bold charge at the Battle of Brandywine in 1777 that saved George Washington’s life. Washington promoted him to brigadier general, and Pulaski led American and French cavalry at the siege of Savannah in 1779, where he was mortally wounded and died 231 years ago today.

Pulaski is one of only seven people — alongside Winston Churchill, Mother Teresa and the Marquis de Lafayette — to be made an honorary citizen of the United States. In a letter to Washington, he said, “I came here, where freedom is being defended, to serve it, and to live or die for it.” Quite a guy. Best of all, switching from Columbus Day to General Pulaski Memorial Day — held every Oct. 11 — wouldn’t even upset the holiday schedule.

And hey, it’s already got a song. Here’s indie-folk star Sufjan Stevens singing Casimir Pulaski Day (yes, the song refers to the March holiday celebrated in Illinois and technically has little to do with the general, but it’s close enough):

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