GOP Wants VA Chief of Staff Fired: DorobekINSIDER 7 Stories

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

  • Government IT is constantly evolving, cloud, big data, mobile — the list goes on and on. So how do you chart a path through the change? Insight from the Executive Leadership Conference. Click here for the full recap.
  • We are just a month away from the election and no matter who wins there will be a major transition coming to government. So how should career feds prepare? Insights from the Partnership for Public Service. Click here for the full recap.

But up front:

More on the jobs numbers — and the so-called dispute about those numbers and what that dispute says about how people view government and public service.

We posted about this yesterday, but the Hill reports that a Republican lawmaker “ is using rumblings of foul play on Friday’s surprisingly positive jobs report to push a bill he says would more accurately capture the state of the nation’s employment.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) did not directly suggest that the report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which showed unemployment dipping below 8 percent one month before the presidential election, is proof of political tinkering. Rather, he contended the controversy over the report “raises interest” in how the nation’s unemployment rate is calculated, and suggested his approach might be more accurate. “The latest unemployment report raises interest in both the method for calculation, the accuracy of the process for determining unemployment and the correlation to coinciding data,” he wrote in a letter to House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.).

We continue to hope that the questions focus on process — how are these numbers collected? Can we do it better? Is there a way this data can be more accurate?

Unfortunately the implication by some Friday was that the numbers were… well, cooked up… and those allegations were based on no information whatsoever.

From Down Under… Australia is getting pressure to reforming the bureaucracy. Australia’s ABC reports: The head of one of Australia’s leading business groups has called for a radical overhaul of the way governments are run at the top. Jennifer Westacott from the Business Council of Australia says political gatekeepers have eroded the role of the public service. She says a “culture of reticence” has affected the quality of public policy.

“The kind of custodianship of the long-term policy agenda, I think, has been eroded by what I’d call short-term thinking,” she told PM, “I sense frustration in every part of the public service, from the highest to the lowest level.”

Ms Westacott says she hears complaints from business about not being able to plan for the long term.

“[They're frustrated] that they’re at the beck and call of short-term requests from ministers’ offices [and] that their advice is second-guessed by political advisors,” she said.

“They don’t feel that they’ve got the authority and respect and legitimacy that they once would have had to give governments advice on the long-term direction of the country.”

Her solution is to halve the staff of Government ministers and give the nation’s top bureaucrats back their permanent tenure.

As we heard about New Zealand and gov 2.0 issues, the challenges sound very similar.

The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. Top Republicans lawmakers on the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees are calling on VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to fire his chief of staff. John Gingrich signed off on the budget for two training conferences last year that cost VA $6 million. The VA inspector general found about $800,000 of that was wasted. Federal Times reports the pricetag included promotional items and a video mimicking a movie about Gen.George Patton. Gingrich has accepted responsibility for the conference and admits he should have looked more closely at the details.
  2. Agencies face stricter rules for government charge cards under a new law. It requires agencies to create safeguards for detecting and stopping unauthorized purchases. Federal News Radio reports managers must run credit checks for travel card users and restrict those with poor credit ratings. Card users must also receive periodic training and reviews, to see if they still need a card. The bill was originally introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
  3. The Defense Information Systems Agency is expanding an experiment with mobile devices. Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller reports DISA has signed contracts with Verizon and AT&T to provide 1,100 new smartphones and tablets from Apple and Samsung. DISA said the device makers meet the Defense Department’s security needs, and both provide the technical means to let DISA manage and track them. DISA officials said they expected to eventually provide secure, commercial mobile devices to 1 million DoD users. It planned to test the devices it was buying now to see how well they work with their respective carriers under DISA’s strict security regime.
  4. A State Department panel is investigating the Sept. 11 attack on Benghazi. Foreign Policy reports, the Accountability Review Board is chaired by former under secretary of State Thomas Pickering. Former Joint Chief Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen is also a member. The board met for the first time late last week. The attack on the U.S. Consulate left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Also killed were information management officer Sean Smith, and security contractors Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.
  5. A former top executive at a USAID contractor has pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $1 million from the agency’s global health fund. Federal News Radio reports, Mark Adams admitted that he used his position to submit and approve false invoices. He and his wife spent the money to renovate their home and buy luxury cars. Adams faces more than four years in prison. His wife has agreed to serve home confinement.
  6. A federal employee has won the Nobel prize in physics. The Washington Post reports, David Wineland a physicist with the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Wineland was awarded the prize, “for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems.” He is the fourth person from the agency to win a Nobel Prize since 1997.
  7. And on GovLoop, take our new technology survey. We’re asking, what are the top technology trends in government for 2012? You can complete the 10 minute survey here.

A few items from the DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder

  • Where Did All The Email Sharing Go?
  • Romney national security transition team takes shape
  • ‘Sesame Street’ to Obama: Pull the Ad: Sesame Street’s letters of the day are T-A-K-E I-T D-O-W-N, O-B-A-M-A. After the president’s campaign used Big Bird to mock Romney in a new ad, Sesame Street asked Obama to pull the spot. In a statement on its blog, Sesame Street said that it doesn’t participate in political campaigns. “We have approved no campaign ads, and as is our general practice, have requested that the ad be taken down,” the blog post read. The ad cast Romney as the only soul brave enough to fight Big Bird, an “evil genius” that was not only big and yellow, but a menace to our economy.

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Ami Wazlawik

It’s unfortunate that what could have been an important conversation about process re: unemployment rate data collection has become another casualty of the hyper partisanship in Washington and the heated election season.

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