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Terror at the Navy Yard - Plus the DorobekINSIDER's 7 Stories

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

  • What metrics define a successful procurement? Is it the time it takes to go from an RFP to a new contract? Is it the number of disputes on a particular contract? The metrics around procurement are murky at best. But the National Association of State Chief Information Officers is trying to clear up some of the confusion. They have just released a new report that looks at the biggest procurement risks for states.

But up front: Innovation in the Public Sector

As agencies work to be more innovative, Thomas Friedman, the columnist for The New York Times, had a fascinating column on Sunday on that subject -- focusing on innovation going on at corporation research centers around the country. The piece, however, has implications for government and innovation:

When Complexity Is Free

Friedman quotes Luana Iorio, who oversees G.E.’s research on three-dimensional printing: “Complexity is free,” she said.

From Friedman:

In the old days, explained Iorio, when G.E. wanted to build a jet engine part, a designer would have to design the product, then G.E. would have to build the machine tools to make a prototype of that part, which could take up to a year, and then it would manufacture the part and test it, with each test iteration taking a few months. The whole process, said Iorio, often took “two years from when you first had the idea for some of our complex components.”

Today, said Iorio, engineers using three-dimensional, computer-aided design software now design the part on a computer screen. Then they transmit it to a 3-D printer, which is filled with a fine metal powder and a laser device that literally builds or “prints,” the piece out of the metal powder before your eyes, to the exact specifications. Then, you immediately test it — four, five, six times in a day — and when it is just right you have your new part. To be sure, some complex parts require more time, but this is the future. That’s what she means by complexity is free.

“The feedback loop is so short now,” explained Iorio, that “in a couple days you can have a concept, the design of the part, you get it made, you get it back and test whether it is valid” and “within a week you have it produced. ... It is getting us both better performance and speed.”

As the speed of innovation gets faster, how does government keep up?

Interestingly enough, this month’s Harvard Business Review has a profile of DARPA

“Special Forces” Innovation: How DARPA Attacks Problems

  • “Over the past 50 years, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has produced an unparalleled number of breakthroughs. Arguably, it has the longest-standing, most consistent track record of radical invention in history. Its innovations include the internet; RISC computing; global positioning satellites; stealth technology; unmanned aerial vehicles, or “drones”; and micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS), which are now used in everything from air bags to ink-jet printers to video games like the Wii. Though the U.S. military was the original customer for DARPA’s applications, the agency’s advances have played a central role in creating a host of multibillion-dollar industries.
  • “What makes DARPA’s long list of accomplishments even more impressive is the agency’s swiftness, relatively tiny organization, and comparatively modest budget. Its programs last, on average, only three to five years. About 100 temporary technical program managers and a vibrant mix of contract “performers”—individuals or teams drawn from universities, companies of all sizes, labs, government partners, and nonprofits—do the project work. The support staff comprises only 120 people in finance, contracting, HR, security, and legal. The annual budget for the roughly 200 programs that are under way at any given time is about $3 billion. With its unconventional approach, speed, and effectiveness, DARPA has created a “special forces” model of innovation.

The challenges of being innovative.

The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. Several people are dead and others are injured after a shooting at the Washington Navy Yard Monday morning. D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier says one shooter has been killed but there may be two additional shooters still at large. D.C. police would not confirm the total number of fatalities. The Associated Press says at least six are dead. Lanier said witnesses at Navy Yard reported seeing two additional gunmen, both dressed in military-style clothing. One is described as a white male, last seen around 8:35 a.m with a handgun, wearing a "khaki/tan military uniform, short-sleeved, with a beret hat," Lanier said. Lanier described the second potential suspect as a "black male, about 50 years of age, who may have been in possession of a long gun. That person was wearing an olive, drab-colored possibly military-style uniform. We have no reason to believe that either of those folks are military personnel, but we do have information that those people are wearing military-style uniforms."

  2. Representative Jim Moran (D-VA) projects that a long term continuing resolution for the 2014 fiscal year will more than likely include a 2014 defense appropriations bill. Moran goes as far as to say that the defense spending bill will be the measure that carries the continuing resolution through Congress. The Federal Times reports that Congress is likely to adopt a full defense appropriations bill by spring of next year.

  3. Federal employees are eager for the implementation of OPM’s phased retirement plan, which would allow employees to work half time while getting half of their pension. The Federal Times reports, however, that many HR managers are wary of the early retirement initiative, stating that they need more information about how the policy will be implemented and which employees will qualify.

  4. The Federal sector is expected to cut 100,000 employees next year due to sequestration-forced budget cuts. This is in addition to the 71,000 jobs that have been cut over the past year. The Federal Times reports that this loss in employees will occur despite the improvement in the economy due to the fact that many federal agencies have been avoiding initiating permanent job cuts and now will have to do so during the upcoming year.

  5. House Republicans have released new evidence demonstrating that high level IRS employees in Washington, DC targeted conservative groups for political reasons. The evidence comes in the form of emails, especially those from IRS official Lois Lerner. The Washington Post states that according to the evidence, DC IRS employees may have helped to develop the controversial procedures used to apply extra scrutiny to certain tax-exempt applicants.

  6. Representatives Bill Young (R-FL) and Pete Visclosky (D-IN) have urged Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to conduct a thorough analysis of defense spending before implementing the Pentagon’s plan to reduce its headquarters staff by 20 percent. The Government Executive reports that the bipartisan pair of lawmakers have also asked Hagel to conduct a cost comparison before replacing civilian employees with contract workers.

  7. A recently released Gallup poll shows that less than 50 percent of Americans trust the government to effectively handle international and domestic issues. Specifically, only 49 percent of those surveyed said they trusted the government in international matters, and only 42 percent on domestic issues. The Government Executive states that the debate over Syria is more than likely the cause of the drop in trust in international matters, with public confidence in the government falling from 66 to 49 percent in the past month.

DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder

  • Boston Globe: The psychology of superheroes (and villains)

  • WSJ: Zients to succeed Sperling on National Economic Council

* Photo by William F. Yurasko

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