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The rise of the Chief Innovation Officer and the grim outlook for federal contractors

On today’s edition of the DorobekINSIDER

  • We have CIOs, CFOs — does there need to be a chief innovation officer? We’ll talk about what the position is and how it might work. Click here for the full story.
  • The outlook for government contractors might be grim, but there are some areas of growth. We’ll take a look with Liza Dezzutti from Market Connections. Click here for the full story.

Chris was away over the Fourth of July holiday week in Austria visiting Vienna and the small Austrian lake village of Altaussee, home of fewer than 2,000 people and sitting along the shors of Altaussee lake — a spectacular part of the world. Chris was there to celebrate the 70th birthday of his good friend, P.F. Kluge, the author who wrote Eddie and the Cruisers that became a movie… he has written other things… and he is a teacher at Kenyon College in Ohio.

Most government people know that election season gets, well, silly. Rather then focusing on what really matters, they seem to focus on issues that simply don’t matter. Jonathan Allen writes in Politico about the week in what he calls “fake Washington” and he says that it seems that posturing has become a stand in for actual governing.

How do you encourage people to think? Google may just have an algorithm for talent. Last year, Google offered more classes to more employees than it ever has before, with about a third of its 33,100-strong workforce going through what they call GoogleEDU. But the Wall Street Journal reports the company also uses “data analytics and other measures to ensure it is teaching employees what they need to know to keep profits humming.” Google uses statistics gathered from current and former employees to recommend certain courses to managers at different points in their career, say after a move to a new city or joining a new team. And it has become more exacting about when it offers classes and to whom.

The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. Buyouts are coming to Goddard Space Center. More than 100 employees will get offers this month. Most of them work in science and exploration. NASA said the buyouts were aimed at reshaping the workforce rather than trimming it. Federal News Radio says the agency was offering up to $25,000 as an incentive. Employees must sign up within 10 days and retire by October. NASA offered buyouts to more than 600 employees nationwide last fall but Goddard did not participate.
  2. The Director of the National Intelligence wants to bolster the foreign language skills in the intelligence community. Secrecy News reports, shortfalls in foreign language abilities are a recurring problem in U.S. intelligence agencies. And the new directive notes the Intelligence Community needs to not just language skills but added cultural awareness too.
  3. The government’s new intern program kicks off this week.Government Executive says agencies must transition from the current system to Pathways Programs. The Pathways Program grew out of a 2010 executive order directing agencies to make it easier for students and recent grads to pursue careers in the federal government. The new program includes three tracks: one for current students, one for recent graduates and Presidential Management Fellows. Participants will be classified under a new Schedule D within the excepted service, and each program will honor veterans’ preference.
  4. The Navy is looking for new ways to protect pilots from oxygen depletion. NextGov reports, the Office of Naval Research is envisioning “hypoxia monitoring, alarm, and mitigation systems” built out of mini-sensors that note changes in pilots’ bodies and the air and barometric pressure in a cockpit. The data will be processed with algorithms that predict if oxygen levels will plunge, so pilots can be warned in advance and react quickly. The New York Times says Since the F-22 was put into operation in 2005, Air Force pilots have experienced 21 unexplained episodes of hypoxia-like symptoms.
  5. Federal scientists are joining in the fight against the Stock Act. You might remember the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act gives the public easier access to financial disclosure reports filed by some federal employees. TheWashington Post says the scientists have a particular problem with the separate provision of the Stock Act that would require more frequent reporting of many financial transactions by those who file those reports. The Senior Executive Service has also strongly petitioned against the Stock Act saying that posting executives financials could have dangerous consequences.
  6. Colorado Congressman Diana DeGette said she will helpseasonal firefighters in their struggle for federal health care benefits. DeGette says she would introduce a bill this week that would let the firefighters enroll in the federal employees health benefits program. Federal News Radio says about 8,000 firefighters are working for the federal government on a season-to-season basis, which means they don’t receive any benefits. One federal labor union estimated it would cost the government $17.5 million a year to cover the Forest Service’s seasonal firefighters. Firefighters said without health insurance for themselves or their families, they simply pray they don’t get sick.
  7. And on GovLoop, we want to know how you shred the red tape. We talked with Tom Fox with the Partnership for Public Service about how leaders can work around red tape. But now we want to know your tips too. Head over to our homepage to check it out.

A Few Closing Items:

  • One of the books that Chris was reading is Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV by Warren Littlefield. He was the president of NBC and put shows on the air like Cheers, Seinfeld, Friends, ER and Will & Grace. Let me just say that I love books about the business of Hollywood and television. So I was probably predestined to like this book. But there are lessons there — One of Littlefield’s lessons is to hire good people — and then enable then and trust them to do good work… get out of their way! But he also said that it is important to has a mission — a mission statement, even. That mission defines what you are… and what you aren’t. And it also was very clear that success isn’t easy — in television programming or in government. It wasn’t then. It especially isn’t now.
  • One of the other things that happened over the week was the crash of Amazon Web services.The crash took out many popular sites: PC World.
  • Politico reports that it has spurred the Treasury Department to at least look at moving the hosting of Treasury.gov elsewhere. In the solicitation, Treasury points out that it inked its original cloud contract in 2010 with a 12-month base period, plus a one-year option… and that Treasury is now seeking a comprehensive contract vehicle designed to enable flexibility to manage the existing services and accommodate the dynamic requirements of the department and the bureaus moving forward.
  • There is a fascinating series in the Financial Times about Amazon. The paper notes that Amazon has long thrived by overturning the way people shop, but its shift into infrastructure is extending its power as a disruptive force to how business is structured. It is revolutionizing the way entrepreneurs can create start ups, or revive staid companies, by letting them plug their ideas into pay-as-you-go systems that cost a fraction of the investment they would need to build such infrastructure alone.
  • We don’t really cover politics, but elections matter, of course, and there is the newest big poll out today from the Washington Post and ABC News that shows President Obama, Mitt Romney deadlocked. The Washington Post says that a pair of tepid jobs reports, landmark Supreme Court decisions on health-care and immigration laws, and an unprecedented barrage of negative ads have shaped the opening months of the fall presidential campaign. The impact on the horse race: virtually none. According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney remain in a deadlocked contest, tied at 47 percent among registered voters and basically where they stood in late May. The new numbers reflect a stubborn constancy: Only twice in 13 surveys over more than a year has either candidate held a lead exceeding the poll’s margin of sampling error. Now, the campaign appears destined to remain extremely close in the final four months before Election Day.

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