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Live Blogging the 2011 Next Generation of Government Summit: Morning Keynote (Day 2)

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Stephanie Slade

P.S. I’ll be tweeting the Wellness at Work: Get Your Erg On! breakout session starting in just a couple of minutes. Keep an eye out for the #NGGS3 tag and @nextgengovt for updates.

10:30 a.m. Panel Q and A, continued.


Q: You’ve found a great new technology that will solve a problem your agency is confronting, but your legal and IT departments are against it.

A: Matt wouldn’t go all-in, but would present his superiors with clear options. Andreas says your job isn’t to make the final decision. Just present your findings smartly. Haley faces this often. She would look to build bridges with others in the office and see where they come down on the issue.

Now we’re doing a Q and A with the audience, which I won’t transcribe here. Good panel, though. Thought-provoking questions. Would love to hear GovLoopers’ take on some of them. Make your picks heard in the comment section if you want to.

10:20 a.m. Next up: “Creating Change in Government: When to Hold, Fold and Use the Cards You’ve Been Dealt,” a panel discussion by Matt Collier (Senior Advisor to Director John Berry, Office of Personnel Management), Andreas Addison (Management Analyst II, City of Richmond) and Haley VanDyck (Director of Digital Strategy and Engagement, USAID).

Q: You’re allowed to telework three days a week, but your boss doesn’t like it.

A: Andreas says he wouldn’t telework. Fold. Haley also says she’d fold. There’s a lot of pruning of the work we need to do to earn respect. Do what makes your boss happy. Matt says he’d fight just a bit. Maybe one day a week, and find out what the boss really wants

Q: Your agency wants a logo to target Gen Y but doesn’t like your suggestion, and you hate theirs.

A: Matt says it depends how important the logo is. Maybe getting the website up is more important for now. Haley would hold. Don’t win the battle but lose the war. Andreas might hold and might go all in. How big a battle is it? If it’s just a small logo, hold. If it’s driving a website redesign, play your cards.

Q: You get an awesome detail at OMB but your boss, and her boss, says no.

A: We’re all-in (including 65 percent of the crowd). Do what makes you passionate and will motivate you to work harder. Be strategic with the way you go about it. Try to work out a middle ground, maybe.

10:00 a.m. Now we’re doing a Q and A, followed by a “comic break” by USAID’s Jonathan Shepard, winner of the 2011 Funniest Fed contest.

9:30 a.m. Polls show that 80 percent of the American people disapprove of the way Congress is doing its job. That means 20 percent of people aren’t paying attention. [Laughs]

Congress doesn’t work the way you were taught as an undergraduate. The Tea Party is driving this whole debt ceiling debate. Even before they took office, during last year’s lame duck session, Obama was having to make concessions to them. That’s important to understand.

Congress will be looking for things to cut. It’s not going to be an easy time to be a Fed.

Congress has two functions: legislative and political/representative. Politicians have to balance both. What’s good for me and will get me reelected vs. what is good for the public? We’ve increasingly seen it tilt toward the representative function and away from the legislative one. Interest groups are far more powerful today. Now they’re effectively the fourth branch of government.

The landscape today is very different.

It’s exacerbated by the “constant campaign.” It begins the moment you’re sworn in. You constantly have to be raising money, every day.

“In order to save the world, you first have to save your seat.”

But that traditional adage doesn’t work anymore. Many Republican freshmen don’t care about being reelected. They’re on a mission. This is kind of a new development. You don’t read about this in the textbooks. It’s a little bit scary, because they’re disregarding the majority sense among their own constituencies. That’s the ultimate check on members of Congress. Whose interests are they acting in?

Pelosi stated her No. 1 goal was not to help people but to get more Democrats elected. McConnell stated the single most important thing he could do was ensure Obama is a one-term president. Partisanship is driving everything unlike ever before.

Civility is declining, even in the Senate, which used to be seen as a sort of “gentleman’s club.” Ideological purity is seen by some as more important than governing (that is, “the art of compromise”).

Yet, the American electorate is far more moderate/centrist. Even Republicans are. So what’s going on?

1. Redistricting -> gerrymandering (safe districts for current members) -> high incumbency rates in the House (but not the Senate, because you can’t change the borders of a state)

2 Closed-party primaries/conventions -> hard-core party activists have control over who winds up on the ballot

Moderates have almost totally been replaced. The parties are more separated than ever. It’s extremely difficult to work together. Unfortunately, the only thing they seem to be able to come together on is deep cuts in discretionary spending.

There are many conditions for increased oversight by Congress. It’s a perfect storm. Be prepared.

9:05 a.m. First, GovLoop’s own Joseph Porcelli is introducing a new high-five campaign, High-Five on Fridays, complete including pretty hilarious video in which he wears a “FREE HIGH FIVES” sign, fashioned from a Coors Light box, on the streets of D.C..

The entire room just broke out into spontaneous high-fives, complete with theme music. (Okay, maybe it wasn’t spontaneous. It was pretty awesome, though). JP is imploring us to bring High-Five Fridays to our places of employments and be sure to high-five at least five strangers every week.

Now Steve Ressler is introducing Kenneth Gold, who, we’re learning, has a PhD and will be giving a timely talk (given how all our lives will be impacted by what Congress does… or doesn’t do… in the next few days regarding the debt ceiling).

Kenneth: “I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but in the budget negotiations completed yesterday, high fives have been eliminated.” [Boos!]

The Government Affairs Institute runs classes and training for Feds. I’m going to talk about why Congress matters to you as a Fed. “The two branches are inextricably tied together.” The system only works well if we can cooperate, collaborate, etc.

8:40 a.m. Hey GovLoopers! I’m back for Day 2 of NextGen 2011. Again, I’ll be live blogging here, and you can follow the Twitter hash tag #NGGS11 for more info.

This morning will kick off with a talk from Dr. Kenneth Gold, Director of The Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown University, called “Why Congress Matters: how it affects your daily operations.”

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