Another Postal Service Default? DorobekINSIDER 7 Stories

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

  • 10 easy steps to creating a quality government mobile app. Inside tips from Agilex’s CIO Tim Hoechst. Click here for the full recap.
  • One of the more worrisome aspects of sequestration has been the lack of transparency in how these massive, across the board cuts will impact projects and programs throughout government. OMB has released a new report. But insiders are still asking for clarification. We took at look at the issue. Click here for the full recap.

But up front:
On Wednesday, Chris Dorobek got to moderate a panel about agile development hosted by the AFCEA Bethesda, MD chapter. It was a fascinating discussion about what has worked — and the challenges.

We will bring you highlights next week, but for now Federal News Radio reports:

Agencies continue to struggle with agile IT development, two years after former federal chief information officer Vivek Kundra made it a central piece of the administration’s 25-point IT reform plan.

The agile approach aims to make IT development more efficient and cost-effective. It focuses on more frequent incremental progress, letting agencies refine requirements as they go along and as technology changes. But the concept presents many challenges.

For one, agencies face difficulties holding contractors accountable, said Mark Schwartz, chief information officer at the Homeland Security Department’s Citizen and Immigration Services. “In an agile model, it’s not impossible to do that, but you certainly have to think about it very differently,” he said, because the process brings in many input groups and the requirements change frequently. Some points of accountability shift away from contractors.

We a lot talk about dealing with change.

But there is a TedTalk that is definitely worth your time featuring New York University Prof. Clay Shirky, author of the book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations.

Shirky talks is titled: How the Internet will (one day) transform government
“The open-source world has learned to deal with a flood of new, oftentimes divergent, ideas using hosting services like GitHub — so why can’t governments? In this rousing talk Clay Shirky shows how democracies can take a lesson from the Internet, to be not just transparent but also to draw on the knowledge of all their citizens.

Clay Shirky argues that the history of the modern world could be rendered as the history of ways of arguing, where changes in media change what sort of arguments are possible — with deep social and political implications.”


The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. The Postal Service will default this week on a $5.6 billion congressionally mandated obligation to pre-fund retiree health benefits, marking the second time in two months the cash-strapped agency has done this. The payment is for future retiree benefits. USPS says mail delivery will not be affected by the missed payment. And it says pay and benefits of current employees and The National Journal says last month USPS failed to pay $5.5 billion for its fiscal 2011 prepayment obligation, which originally was due in September 2011 but was deferred by Congress until Aug. 1. That was the first time it ever defaulted on a payment to the Treasury Department. The $5.6 billion due this week, on Sept. 30, represents this fiscal year’s obligation.
  2. The White House is putting the finishing touches on its cybersecurity executive order. But it’s already testing some of the ideas in the real world. Federal News Radio says it has launched two pilot programs to see how sharing cybersecurity information with the private sector would work. The Energy and Homeland Security Departments are working with electric utilities to establish cybersecurity standards. They call the effort, the Electricity Subsector Cybersecurity Capability Maturity Model. Michael Daniel, the White House cyber coordinator, says state and local officials also might join the information-sharing effort.
  3. A few months ago we told you about a string of break-ins at Republican House offices, now Hill police say the burglaries continue. The National Journal says Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., found that he had become the latest victim. Gallegly’s director of communications Tom Pfeifer unlocked the office to find one light on and the blinds drawn. He didn’t think anything of it at first, and just assumed a member of the staff had come in over the weekend to pack in preparation for Gallegly’s retirement at the end of the term. Capitol Police say they haven’t arrested anyone related to the crimes reported this year, but they continue an “active, open investigation.”
  4. A former defense contract employee has been convicted of exporting military technology trade secrets to China. Sixing Liu worked for Space and Navigation, a division of L-3 Communications in New Jersey. Federal News Radio says he was charged with taking restricted military data and presenting it at two conferences in China. A federal jury found him guilty on nine counts, including exporting defense information without a license. He was was acquitted on two counts of lying to federal authorities. Liu could face up to 20 years in prison and possible deportation.
  5. Nearly all soldiers are taking a break from their regular duties to talk about suicide and what can be done to prevent it. Federal News Radio say counselors will explain how troops can get help and will try to break down the stigmas that can prevent soldiers from seeking that help. The Army “stand down” is in reaction to a rise in suicides among soldiers. Troops in combat or serving other critical tasks will remain on duty and they will receive the training when possible.
  6. The FBI is cutting its backlog of forensic DNA cases. It’s gone from more than 3,200 to about 400 in less than two years. The Justice Department Inspector General credited the FBI for putting more analysts on the job and using automated technology. Federal News Radio says the lab conducts DNA tests on biological evidence from crime scenes and items like envelopes and drinking glasses. The inspector general warned that the FBI lab still doesn’t have a way to manage operations electronically. The Bureau has spent more than $14 million to develop an information-management system. Auditors said that system was critical to preventing future backlogs and delays.
  7. And on GovLoop, have you seen our new telework calculator? GovLoop, in partnership with HP, recently launched a telework calculator. The calculator will help you state your case to your supervisor, and show the potential cost savings by teleworking.

A few items from the DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder

  • In 2010, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the Pentagon was spending too much on studies, so he commissioned a study of exactly how much. That study was then scrutinized by the Government Accountability Office, which found the study of studies lacking. Here’s the kicker. What does the study of the study of studies conclude? More study is needed. The GAO recommends that the Pentagon “take steps to evaluate DOD’s effort to estimate costs.”
  • Federal News Radio’s Mike Causey looks to the holidays and asks, with Christmas falling on a Tuesday this year, will feds get Christmas Eve Monday off?

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Profile Photo Ami Wazlawik

We should really consider postal savings banks as an option to generate additional revenue and keep USPS in good fiscal shape. I attended a fascinating presentation on postal savings banks during the summer, and think it could work really well here in the U.S. Here’s a summary of event – I encourage folks to check it out.

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