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Tech talk: Rethinking government Innovation and a how to guide for Apps. contests

On today’s edition of the DorobekINSIDER

Chris was in Gambier, Ohio this weekend, the home of Kenyon College. He proudly sits on the Board of the Kenyon Review — the prestigious literary journal, which, by the way, you can now get delivered on the Kindle for $12 a year. A bit of a plug there. But it is always interesting visiting a college campus — smart people discussing the big issues.

Georgia Nugent is the president of Kenyon College and a professor of classics. They were talking about technology and the role of technology and how many people immediately recoil at the thought of new technology. And Georgia Nugent has actually written on this topic — she titled it, If Socrates Had E-Mail. She argues that this is not all that new. “We are not unique in this era, with respect to our concern about new technologies and, to put it bluntly: technology is not the problem; people are the problem.” She notes that Socrates actually argued that the written word — as opposed to the spoken word — would be the technology that would undermine society.

(In honor of Father’s Day, here is a pick of Chris’s son Nick at Kenyon)

About 10 days ago we shared Tom Fox’s leadership summer reading list. The editors of the Kenyon Reviewhad their recommendations. I have that linked up as well.

Congress returns to Washington today, and The Washington Post notes lawmakers have a whole bunch on the agenda. Of course, there are budgets but there is also that highway bill — the much delayed highway bill. And Congress hasn’t been able agree on much — even relatively simple issues, so it is unclear how much will get done.

The SEVEN stories that impact your life for Monday the 18th of June, 2012

  1. The Highway spending bill is running out of steam. The Hill Newspaper reports that negotiations between the House and Senate have stalled. Lawmakers have until June 30 to reach a deal on transportation spending before the current funding mechanism for road and transit projects runs out. If Congress does not reach an agreement the government’s ability to collect the 18.4 cents-per-gallon gas tax that supports it – will run out.
  2. Meanwhile, the White House is challenging Congress to “do its job” and prevent the automatic spending cuts that are looming for the Pentagon. The Hill Newspaper says Republican lawmakers have criticized the Obama administration’s decision to include funding for the war in Afghanistan in the “sequestered” budget cuts that are on tap for 2013. The White House fired back at the criticism, arguing the war funding was never off the table for the automatic budget cuts.
  3. The Defense Department has released the second version of its mobile device strategy. Signal Magazine says the new version includes three main goals: Advanced 4G mobile service, the use of personal mobile devices and its own dedicated apps.
  4. Northrop Grumman is taking a step back from technology services, including military base operation support, to focus on higher-margin opportunities. The Washington Business Journal says the shift is part of the Defense Contractor’s decision to better align with Pentagon priorities. But Northrop Grumman still plans to pursue the highly secretive long-range strike bomber, which has an estimated price tag of $6 billion, or $550 million per unit.. The company also plans to compete for the new fire control radar for the F-16.
  5. The Secret Service’s prostitution scandal in Colombia was not a one-time event. Yahoo says hundreds of documents dating back to 2004 describe allegations that agents not only used prostitutes but also leaked information, committed sex assault, published porn and more. The most recent complaints were just last month. All are detailed in more than 230 pages released Friday to media organizations under the Freedom of Information Act. Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman says the public should withhold judgment until the agency’s inspector general finishes investigating. It’s not clear how many of the accusations were found true.
  6. The Postal Service wanted postmasters off its payroll, but now it wants them back. The agency is offering part-time work to employees eligible for retirement. Government Executive says it will consider others, but it needs postmasters for their knowledge and community connections. The Postal Service wants to reduce hours at thousands of post offices. That’s where the part-time postmasters would work for about $12 an hour. They would still be able to receive their retirement pay. The Postal Service has offered buyouts to 21,000 postmasters as part of its recovery plan.
  7. And on GovLoop, last week we spoke about streach goals — and whether they spur people to do things they might not do otherwise, maybe things that aren’t good for the organization. And we got a lot of comments. Joe Williams said he disagrees that stretch goals are bad — and he said he felt the author seemed to “either-or” proposition between the kinds of goals that provide direction, are rewarding, are inspiring, are vivid, and are eventual (DRIVE), versus pursuing the low-hanging fruit of quick victories. Any team or project needs both, and to ignore one or the other is to the peril of the team or project’s success.

A Few Closing Items:

  • It’s the birthday of… Uncle Sam… well, kind of. It’s the birthday of the person who created Uncle Sam. James Montgomery Flagg, creator of this illustration of Uncle Sam, was born on June 18, 1877. Flagg claimed that his illustration, an indelible American icon, had become the most famous poster in the world. Dressed in his own Uncle Sam suit, he used himself as the model for this poster and his other Uncle Sam illustrations.
  • The New York Times… Tyler Cohen writes that it is a lack of trust that is driving austerity on government jobs. He writes: Since President Obama took office, 780,000 private sector jobs have been created, while the number of public sector jobs has fallen by about 600,000, mostly at the state and local level. A quick look might suggest that we need only to bolster the number of public sector jobs to have a healthier economy, Cohen writes, but there is a deeper way to think about the problem. State and local governments are controlled by politicians and, indirectly, by voters. And for better or worse, those voters have lost faith in the social returns of these jobs and our ability to afford them. The voters have responded by looking to cut expenses, and they’ve chosen state and local government employment as a target…The reason that we aren’t getting more expansionary macro policy is fundamental: a lack of trust. It’s not an easy problem to fix, but the place to start is by recognizing it.”

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