How eDiplomacy is changing the State Dept. and Crowdfunding Civic Projects

Happy Monday we are just days away from GovLoop’s Next Generation of Government Training Summit happening later this week.

On today’s DorobekINSIDER

  • The State Department is the federal government’s first agency, so you talk about a culture. But the State Department has been at the forefront of what is being called eDiplomacy or digital diplomacy. And the person who is at the forefront of this new way of reaching out around the world and Richard Boly is one of the finalists for the Service to America Medals — the SAMMIES. You will get to meet him ahead and he’ll talk about his favorite phrase. Click here for the full story.
  • If you have something you wanted to get done in your community, what about crowdfunding that civic project. It is a new idea that some communities are just starting to looking at. We’ll talk to one of the founders of Neighbor.ly. Click here for the full story.

We’ve all been riveted by the coverage of the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado. While the Aurora authorities are getting kudos for their quick reactions — and even spotting the suspect leading to his arrest — there was a coordinated effort. Government Executive reports that federal agencies have also responded to assist. For example, at least 100 FBI agents were on the scene, assisting local law enforcement in the investigation.

Meanwhile, back to the mundane but important story the budget. In this political season, there is so much talk out there… and as we know, not all of it is accurate. The Wall Street Journal this weekend featured what they called essential facts about the federal budget. For example, the Journal says that the U.S. defense budget is greater than the combined defense budgets of the next 17 largest spenders. And about $1 of every $4 the federal government spends goes to health care today — a number that is rising inexorably. And the share of income most American families pay in federal taxes has been falling for more than 30 years.

But one that I think you’ll find the most interesting: Firing every federal government employee wouldn’t save enough to cut the deficit in half.

The Wall Street Journal says that the federal government spent $435 billion last year in wages and benefits for its 4.4 million employees, about 35% of whom are uniformed military personnel and another 29% of whom are civilians working in the departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security. Eliminating the federal workforce entirely would have saved a lot of money, of course, but it would have pared last year’s deficit by only one-third. So where does all the money go? A lot of what government does is siphoning money from some and giving it to others, or occasionally to the same people. About $2.3 trillion, two-thirds of all federal spending last year, went to benefits of some sort for individuals: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps. Another $220 billion went for grants to state and local governments for everything from schools in poor neighborhoods to sewage-treatment plants.

The SEVEN stories that impact your life for Monday the 23rd of July, 2012

  1. The House has approved a $606 billion Defense Department spending bill. The bill includes a pay raise for military members but not the Pentagon’s civilians. Government Executive says the bill provides $518 billion in non-war funding — that is lower than earlier estimates by more than $1 billion. But the bill might not get very far, the White House has threatened to veto the bill.
  2. A military jury has convicted an instructor at Lackland Air Force Base of raping one female trainee and sexually assaulting several others. The New York Times says at least 11 other instructors in the Air Force’s basic training system, nine from the same squadron, are under investigation in the widening case, which is the focus not only of a criminal probe but also a major policy review by a two-star general. At least 31 female recruits have been identified as possible victims
  3. Performance.gov is struggling to stay operation with reduced funding. NextGov says funding cuts in the fiscal 2011 and 2012 budgets required the White House to slow development of the Web site, which was supposed to highlight how agencies were doing. The 2010 Government Performance and Results Modernization Act says Performance.gov needs to be up and operational by Oct. 1. The Office of Management and Budget believes the site can still meet the deadline.
  4. An ex-federal official calls US classification system dysfunctional. In an interview with TheWashington Post, William Leonard, the government’s former classification czar, said that the government’s system for classifying information is “becoming dysfunctional” and “clearly lacks the ability to differentiate between trivial information and that which can truly damage our nation’s well-being.”
  5. Meanwhile, the National Security Agency may have violated the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. The Wall Street Journal reports that secret national security court found the government has acknowledged spy activities violated the constitution since the passage of a 2008 law that overhauled surveillance laws. The 2008 law came in the wake of the uproar over the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program in the George W. Bush Administration.
  6. The Office of Personnel Management has published final regulations expanding several benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees. Government Executive says same-sex domestic partners of feds now are automatically considered an “insurable interest” for survivor annuities. Federal employees in good health can opt to provide an insurable interest annuity, which is different from a spousal survivor annuity, to certain family members.
  7. On GovLoop, we are just three four days away from our Next Generation of Government Training Summit. Time is running out for you to attend this year’s conference. And we are working hard to make sure the conference is as informative and fun as possible.

A Few Closing Items:

  • Cyber-security: we talked about cyber-security on Friday, and President Barack Obama is calling from increased cooperation between government and private industry when it comes to cybersecurity and urged Congress to pass the Cybersecurity Act of 2012.In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, the President said that if the country is caught off-guard, a successful computer attack on the nation’s infrastructure could have devastating consequences. President Obama cited recent examples of minor hacker attacks, one against a Texas water plant and another against natural-gas companies.
  • From his piece: “In a future conflict, an adversary unable to match our military supremacy on the battlefield might seek to exploit our computer vulnerabilities here at home…
  • “We need to make it easier for the government to share threat information so critical-infrastructure companies are better prepared. We need to make it easier for these companies — with reasonable liability protection — to share data and information with government when they’re attacked. And we need to make it easier for government, if asked, to help these companies prevent and recover from attacks.”
  • GovExec reports that the General Services Administration staged a one-day awards conference at two hotels in Arlington, Va., in November 2010 at which some 200 guests were treated to gifts such as time-and-temperature picture frames and drumsticks, according to GSA inspector general figures House Republicans on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The estimated total cost of the conference was $268,732.
  • The new revelations came as GSA’s acting administrator Dan Tangherlini cancelled new hires and put a freeze on bonuses within the agency. And GSA is getting pressure about whether the Public Building Service can do its job effectively.

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