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Mapping out the Digital Government Strategy and the ongoing debate surrounding government spending

On Today’s Edition of the DorobekINSIDER

  • We’re talking maps — yes, really! People say a picture is worth 1,000 words. Well, maps are ways of making sense of data — perhaps the best example is if you needed to go to a hospital. If you had a list of addresses, it doesn’t mean that much. But put that data on a map and well, it’s magic. We’re going to talk to the Geographic Information Officer for the FCC about what maps mean, how they can help you make decisions, and their connection to the Digital Government Initiative. Click here for the full story.

But up front: There’s been much talk about government spending — and somehow this election seems to be a debate about the role of government. But there is a certain sense that things are different — regardless of what happens in November. USAToday reports that state and local governments are keeping the tightest lid on spending in three decades, even though tax revenue is rising again and powerful interest groups are asking for more money.

The Fiscal Times says many states are remaining in austerity mode — even as tax revenues increase.

One area where that is playing out is with government benefits. We saw the big battle in Wisconsin. The Pew Charitable Trusts has just determined that States face a $2.73 trillion bill for retiree benefits. And many states and localities are cutting back on benefits.

There are a number of implications here… how do you hire the best and the brightest with a growing gap between the public and private sector… and, of course, how much money you’re going to have to accomplish your mission. And much of this is why we continue to look at not just doing more with less, but finding new ways of doing things — better ways of doing things.

Challenging times, but we’ll try to help you with all of that.

The SEVEN stories that impact your life for Wednesday the 20th of June, 2012

  1. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey is mapping out the sequestration cuts at the Defense Department. Dempsey says the automatic cuts would have to come from military operations, maintenance, training and modernization.Government Executivesays cuts to “overseas contingency operations” in Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf are not options. Also not on the chopping block, were personnel cuts and base realignment and closure.
  2. The deadline is looming for Congress to make a decision on the Postal Service. The agency is currently in danger of missing its two retiree health benefit prefunding payments due this year, risking default. Government Executive says a 2006 law requires USPS to pay $5.5 billion annually to prefund retiree health care benefits. Its fiscal 2011 payment deadline was extended from last September until August 2012. Postal officials say they do not have that money.
  3. A showdown between the Justice Department and a Republican congressman may be heading to a close. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa says he would meet with Attorney General Eric Holder. But Issa says he wasn’t going to call off contempt proceedings against Holder. The Justice Department agreed to turn over more documents concerning Operation Fast and Furious, a botched gun-tracking program, but Issa said that wasn’t enough. He wants even more documents plus a description of them, the dates they were created and a list of those that the Justice Department is withholding.
  4. The trial of the Army psychiatrist accused of going on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood could be delayed because of a beard. The military judge overseeing the trial said he would bar defendant Maj. Nidal Hasan from the courtroom unless he shaved. Hasan would have to watch his trial on closed-circuit TV. Federal News Radio says growing a beard violates Army rules. Hasan’s lawyers said they will seek an exception based on religious beliefs. Although a few exceptions have been made in recent years for Sikh combat doctors. Hasan is Muslim. The Fort Hood shootings three years ago left 13 people dead and more than 30 injured. Hasan faces the death penalty if convicted.
  5. NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration have set a regulatory framework for overseeing commercial space travel. Companies heading to the International Space Station or low-Earth orbit will have to get licenses from the FAA. Federal news Radio says agency will regulate launches and landings, but NASA will oversee crew safety and mission assurance of any flight it’s paying for or somehow involved with. The two agencies have signed a memo of understanding to avoid stepping on each other’s toes when it comes to regulating the nascent industry.
  6. A new service focused on government users allows law enforcement, first responders and other personnel to access an interpreter from their mobile devices. Government Computer News says the AT&T On Demand Interpreter service provides professional interpreters skilled in more than 170 languages that can be reached 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
  7. And on GovLoop, have you signed up for our Optimizing Services With Big Data training? The webinar focuses on how agencies should think through how to acquire, organize, and analyze diverse data sources. The event kicks off this tomorrow at 2pm.

One Final Item

  • The current Congress has worked just as many days as its legislative predecessors. It just has a lot less to show for it. According to a CNN analysis of congressional records that looked at bills that became law and the number of days lawmakers worked, members of the House have spent more than 150 days and the Senate just more than 140 days in session so far, comparable to previous Congresses at this point in the term. Click on the CNN graph to enlarge it.

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