Welcome to GovLoop Insights Issue of the Week with Chris Dorobek… where each week, our goal is to find an issue — a person — an idea — then helped define the past 7-days… and we work to find an issue that will also will have an impact on the days, weeks and months ahead. And, as always, we focus on six words: helping you do your job better.
Memorial Day Week
- We featured a number of groups that are helping wounded warriors and veterans -- everything from day-to-day help, to taking vets fishing, to just taking them out to dinner.
- We talked at length about the White House’s new Digital Government Strategy. We heard from federal CIOs who were tasked with implementing the 29 new goals. And we got insights from mobility expert Tom Suder and from a Cisco’s Alan Balutis, who is one of the real thought leaders in this space. We talked to him about whether the plan can actually be implemented.
There were a number of stories that were in contention for the issue of the week.
The ongoing budget riff in Washington as lawmakers work to pass the 12 spending bills that operate government. The Obama administration has essentially threatened vetos of those bills if Republican lawmakers don’t back off the Ryan budget, which would make deeper cuts then were agreed to by last summer’s budget bill.
Meanwhile, you probably heard about this virus -- Flame. The Telegraph in the UK reports that Iran has confirmed that the Flame virus attacked the computers of high-ranking officials causing a "massive" data loss. The admission came as a United Nations agency responsible for regulating the internet warned that the virus is the most powerful espionage tool ever to target member states. Iran's cyber defence organisation, the Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Centre, in a message posted on its website, warned that the virus is potentially more harmful than the Stuxnet worm that attacked Tehran's nuclear programme. It is estimated that the malicious software is 20 times more powerful than other known cyber warfare programmes, that could only have been made by a state.
One other story that was in the running for the issue of the week: There have been a lot of government scandals of late -- the GSA conference, the Secret Service prostitution issue... Are these typical for government? According to those who live in Washington... maybe. That according to a poll conducted by DC radio station WTOP.
Alleged scandals among Secret Service Agents and at the General Services Agency haven't tarnished the region's view of the federal government, according to a new WTOP Beltway Poll, though a majority believes it has a culture of mismanagement. Fifty-five percent of respondents believe there is widespread abuse in the federal government, according to the poll. Two-thirds of those polled, however, say their view of federal workers hasn't been further dampened by headlines. Thirty-nine percent say the recent scandals were isolated incidents, while 35 percent now view federal workers less favorably.
But our issue of the week: pay, specifically the impact that pay has on performance. There has been much debate about pay of government workers -- and the seemingly unanswerable question about whether federal workers are paid more then their private-sector counterparts. But what to feds themselves have to say about the issue? And how important is pay anyway?
The Partnership for Public Service has been culling through the data behind the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government and it found that 59% of federal workers are satififed with their pay. That is a drop of more than 6% from two years ago.
What impact does this have? Tom Fox is Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service. Tom told me how they compiled the figures.
- An appropriations bill to fund military construction and veterans' programs calls for extending the current federal pay freeze for another year, but the White House is having none of that. In a May 30 statement commenting on administration policy, the Office of Management and Budget objected to the spending bill for military construction and the Veterans Affairs Department, saying it required “harmful cuts” to areas such as education, job training and healthcare. However, Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas), who sponsored the act, said in a written statement that the bill slashes federal spending “without compromising the high-quality services provided to our troops, their families, and our veterans.” H.R. 5854 would also extend the federal pay freeze through fiscal year 2013. “If the president were presented with H.R. 5854, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill,” OMB said in its statement.
- We all know about the Facebook IPO and it isn’t going all that well for a whole host of reasons. But what can that tell us about how government operates? There is an interesting analysis by Molly Wood in CNet who says that the Facebook IPO may be a sign of a larger problem for Facebook. She says the market is actually responding appropriately to Facebook's current situation: the site is be a behemoth of traffic and attention, a platform underlying the very fabric of the Web, and an indispensable part of the lives of millions, but that doesn't meant it's safe. Sure, Facebook has conquered the Web, but the Web as we know it may be a dying medium. The Facebook killer won't be a Website at all: it'll be born mobile, just like the generation who will use it. Implications for how you do your job?
- There were stories this week about Research In Motion -- the maker of the Blackberry -- and how it is struggling, possibly putting itself up for sale this week. Government is still the largest user of Blackberries, and mainly for security reasons. The Fiscal Times has an assessment of how BlackBerry got into this mess anyway, and National Journal looks at whether the Obama administration’s Digital Government Strategy could mean an end to BlackBerry?
- What is the truth behind transparency? Government Executive’s Joseph Marks writes in this month’s issue that many of the advances touted by government officials have been about open data: the Internet-age concept of making raw information from federal surveys, studies and satellite feeds automatically available to the public in clean, machine-readable formats.The primary consumers are private developers who can use that data to build Web and mobile applications—sometimes to improve government service delivery and help benefit the public, sometimes to turn a profit, or sometimes a combination of the two. But, he says, transparency remains difficult to define and assess.
- Finally, on this date in 1890 – The US Census Bureau begins using Herman Hollerith's tabulating machine to count census returns.