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The Yelp for gov’t healthcare, Ranking state’s transparency and using virtual worlds to save real world bridges

The Yelp for gov’t healthcare, Ranking state’s transparency and using virtual worlds to save bridges by GovLoop Insights

Tuesday March 27, 2012:

Happy Tuesday…

We have to start out with the historic debate at the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday over the health care bill — the first of three days of talks. The Washington Post notes that Monday was just the warm-up — arguments about whether the Supreme Court should take up the health-care case at all. Today, the focus is on mandates: Essentially, can the federal government require that all people buy health care. And Slate says that the arguments Monday showed the Supreme Court at its best. Slate says that arguments Monday showed that court doing what it does best: Taking complex old statutes and asking practical qauestions. Dahlia Lithwick says that while protesters outside were hollering about religion and freedom, the justices were boring those inside almost senseless with statutory construction. And, she says, “sometimes, check that, most of the time, boring is what the justices do best.”


And we go from talking about how benefits of being boring… Well, here is a reason to go online… You’ve probably heard of the Twitter feed… well, it is S my Dad Says… Yes, use your imagination. It is the Twitter feed that was a short-lived TV show. Well, now there is S that bureaucrats say… hat tip to GovLoop member Mike KujawskiWe have the link online… and my guess is this will go viral and be much discussed around government water coolers… and yes, it is safe for work.

On today’s program…

  • They’re debating health care at the Supreme Court. What if there was something like a Yelp of Government Healthcare… something that could help veterans navigate the confusing world of healthcare with dashboards.. and sharing information. We’ll talk about that…
  • Making budgets transparent. It has been the goal of the federal Web site, USAspending.gov. But state and local governments have been doing this for some time… and there are some new rankings out… grades, really… for how they are doing. We’ll talk to the people behind the budget transparency grades…
  • And yesterday we told you about the virtual worlds conference. And I heard some of you roll your eyes and say that this is just game playing. Today, we’ll talk about how these tools can actually be used — and, yes, how they can save you money.
  • And later in the program… What do Conan O’Brien, Cory Booker, Sesame Street’s Grover, Suze Orman, Ted Leo, Neil Patrick Harris and NASA have in common? We will tell you about an award that NASA has won.

The stories that impact your life for Tuesday the 27 of March, 2012… your government world in 120-seconds…

  • House Republican leaders canceled a vote Monday on a bill that would extend transportation provisions for three months. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he wanted the extension to give Congress more time to debate points in a permanent bill. But Politico says he couldn’t get the votes. Congress has until Saturday to pass any bill to keep transportation authorized. Otherwise, federal highway and transit programs shut down and the government can’t collect gasoline taxes. The Senate has already passed a $109 billion bill to keep transportation going until the end of fiscal 2013.
  • The Defense Department is looking for “cost-conscious” contractors. Federal Times says the Pentagon’s contracting officers are being asked to more thoroughly analyze the costs companies propose and to justify the contract decisions they make. The Defense Department’s contracting official Shay Assad says the goal is to make contracting officers more informed about what makes up a program’s cost and how to drive down those costs.
  • The Obama administration has directed a health insurance company to cover the same-sex spouse of a federal employee. The Washington Post reports that the case involves a federal court employee in California, Karen Golinski, who had requested coverage for her wife. OPM initially said her spouse could not be covered, but OPM has now changed that position.
  • Do you remember the horrible Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine explosion from two years ago? The explosion killed 29 people. Now an independent panel says that explosion could have been prevented if federal regulators had implemented the agency’s own regulations. The Washington Postsays, an independent investigation by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says that the Mine Safety and Health Administration failed to heed warning signs. But the Mine Safety and Health Administration is fighting back. They say Massey’s mine management routinely used illegal tactics to conceal violations from inspectors.
  • In a rare show of bipartisanship, the Senate has passed the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act. The goal is to stop insider trading by senior government officials. But Washington Technology says, unlike the Senate’s original, this bill doesn’t include a provision requiring analysts to register as lobbyists. The bill also falls just short of naming contractors as lobbyists. The House’s version of the STOCK Act asks the Government Accountability Office to assess the use of “political intelligence.” and then make recommendations on narrowing the definitions.
  • Federal buildings are going green. The General Services Administration is looking for contractors across the country to make energy retrofits to 30 federal buildings. The Washington Post says, the “Deep Retrofit Challenge” is a step in the government’s push to save money on its real estate costs by making federal property more energy efficient— an expensive up-front investment the Obama administration hopes will save money in the long run. [GSA release]
  • The Federal Information Systems Management Act — the 8-year-old act that lays the framework for federal cyber-security — it could be getting an update. The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Darrell Issa wants to formalize the post of chief information security officer within federal departments and agencies. GovInfo Security says the bill would also establish stronger oversight through automated and continuous monitoring of cyber-security threats and conducting regular threat assessments. The bill has strong bipartisan support.
  • The IT supply chain might not be as secure as the government would like it to be. A new Government Accountability Office report found that IT products made overseas could open the government up to an attack by foreign intelligence agents or counterfeiters. GovInfoSecurity says each of the key threats could create an unacceptable risk to federal agencies. But the Energy, Homeland Security, Justice and Defense Departments say the costs to determine if such threats exist may outweigh the potential risks posed by the supply chain.
  • US support for the war in Afghanistan is steadily dropping. The New York Times says after a series of violent episodes and setbacks, support for the war has dropped sharply with both Republicans and Democrats. The poll by the New York Times and CBS found that more than two-thirds of those surveyed think that the United States should not be at war in Afghanistan. That number is a significant increase from just four months ago, when 53 percent said that Americans should no longer be fighting in the decade-old conflict.


A Yelp for government health
Stu Rabinowitz, Senior Director, Technology and Architecture for CCSi

Navigating the confusing world of government healthcare services is an almost overwhelming task… and particularly for active military and veterans returning home from war. What if there was something like a Yelp for Yelp of government healthcare. Stu Rabinowitz is the senior director of Technology and Architecture forCCSi. He has been pondering this idea… I asked him how it would work…


Grading budget transparency
Phineas Baxandall is the Senior Policy Analyst for Tax and Budget issues for the Public Interest Research Groups

Follow the money. It’s the iconic line from “All the President’s Men.” But it reigns true for states trying to track their spending on transparency sites. And the grades are just out on how states are doing on making budget data open and transparent. And there are some real lessons for governments at every level. You’ll be surprised to learn that some states did better than others.

Phineas Baxandall is the Senior Policy Analyst for Tax and Budget issues for the Public Interest Research Groups. They have graded the 50 states in providing online access to government spending data. And he told me how they did.

More information:

On GovLoop: State Governments Get Their Grades!


Virtual worlds at work
Meredith Perkins is a Senior Instructional Systems Designer at Sevatec

Using virtual worlds to solve real world problems. It’s part of the National Highway Administration’s push for more realistic and engaging trainings. Meredith Perkins is the Senior Instructional Systems Designer atSevatec, which is a contractor for the National Highway Institute. She told me about the two projects that they are currently working on…

On GovLoop: Using Virtual Worlds to Solve Real World Problems…Like Preventing Bridge Collapses
Previously on GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER: It’s not outer space…but it is a Virtual World

Before we finish up… a few closing items…

  • NASA’s shortie: What do Conan O’Brien, Cory Booker, Sesame Street’s Grover, Suze Orman, Ted Leo, Neil Patrick Harris and NASA have in common? NASA last night won a Shorty Award — these are awards for the best Twitter feeds… and yes, @NASA was the winner in the government category.
  • Tweeting contracts… Speaking of Twitter… Should the government tweet out opportunities? That is what one British community is doing. In Norfolk county, the council has started publishing all of its contracts… on Twitter. The Guardian newspaper reports that the council believes the Twitter feed makes it easier for local businesses to bid on council contracts… and that it cuts down on paperwork.
  • Government iPad users guide: Many government organizations are trying to figure out how to work iPads — or tablets — into their organizations. Well, Utah found that a growing number of government workers were relying on the device — and they decided to be proactive. Utah’s IT team, led by David Fletcher, has produced a user’s manual for state employees [PDF]… in fact, they did it back in August 2010. The document has become a go-to guide for iPad users in the state and was updated in February.
  • FTC on privacy: The Federal Trade Commission has new guidelines for protecting privacy online. The framework called – Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change [PDF] — lays out best practices firms should take in order to secure data online. This commission’s guidelines are directed at companies and consumers, but they sure lay out a framework for how federal agencies may have to treat privacy as well. The commission recommends a “do not track” feature and improved mobile security measures.
  • Digital hording: And finally… storing e-mails and photos and files. The Wall Street Journal says that hording has gone digital.

Coming up tomorrow on GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER… We kick off our Career training framework with Frank DiGiammarino.

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