Posts Tagged ‘Chris Dorobek’

Obama Appointees: Not Yet Halfway There

August 24, 2009

“Seven months into his presidency, fewer than half of his top appointees are in place advancing his agenda,” notes Peter Baker in a New York Times story, “Obama’s Team Is Lacking Most of Its Top Players.”

He goes on to say: “Of more than 500 senior policymaking positions requiring Senate confirmation, just 43 percent have been filled. . . . ”  He notes that Obama is trying to fix the financial markets but has no assistant secretary for financial markets.  He is fighting two wars but has no secretary of the Army, and is holding a summit on nuclear nonproliferation but has no assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation.

Dr. Terry Sullivan, executive director of the White House Transition Project, told Baker “If you are running G.M. without half your senior executives in place, are you worried? I’d say your stockholders would be going nuts.”

Baker also describes how there is more progress in putting officials in place than in other recent administrations and how the finger-pointing for the slow pace is “being freely passed around” between the executive and legislative branches.  The White House personnel office offers a higher count of appointees; other sources (such as the Washington Post’s Head Count website) offer lower counts, depending on what positions are included or excluded from the counting.

In a separate story, Chris Dorobek describes how the confirmation of Martha Johnson as administrator of the General Services Administration is being held up in the Senate.  He offers several reasons that are bipartisan in nature:  Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) is mad at GSA for discouraging government conferences in resort locations, like his home state city of Las Vegas, and Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) is blocking action because he wants a federal office building built in Kansas City. . . . meanwhile GSA has no top leader while the agency is facing an historic challenge to effectively manage  a 1,100 percent increase in its spending for the coming year under the Recovery Act.


Progress on Obama Transparency Efforts

March 3, 2009

President Obama signed a directive in his first full day in office committing his Administration to “creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.” He directed the Chief Technology Officer to, within 120 days, create recommendations for an Open Government Directive.


Well, 120 days is May 21st and there’s no Chief Technology Officer. So Beth Noveck, in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, is filling in the breech. When she was a law professor before joining the Obama Administration, she participated in a number of cutting edge approaches to opening up government, so she’s got a passion for this already. I’m sure she’s working with Vivek Kundra, the OMB e-government administrator who is equally passionate about this topic.


To date, there’s been a note to agency officials who already monitor this topic to provide their ideas on greater transparency. This is being done via a membership-restricted government website that was originally created for agency budget officers to communicate with each other. They have until March 6th to provide their ideas.

LATER ADDITION:  Here’s the actual note.

After March 6th, a government website will be created for citizens and others to provide their ideas for how government should be more transparent, participative, and collaborative. But that hasn’t stopped others from forging ahead in advance!


The Administration has already undertaken several transparency initiatives, as noted by blogger Chris Dorobek. The most prominent are associated with the Recovery Act, with the creation of, as well as agency-level web links tracking Recovery Act monies and projects (see, for example, the HHS Recovery Act webpage).


Also, a number of agency heads are writing their own blogs, including the Director of OMB, Peter Orszag. Other high-visibility bloggers include the White House, the State Department, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.


Here are some ideas already on the table to expand the Obama efforts:

  • The Strengthening Our Nation’s Democracy Coalition issued a white paper to the Obama Transition team back in November, recommending the creation of a White House Office of Citizen Engagement. While that hasn’t happened, the White House did designate Kate Stanton as the director of citizen participation.
  • There was a “Transparency Camp” held this past weekend among advocates of greater transparency. One of the participants, David Stephenson, offered a presentation on “Democratizing Data” where the federal role would be to provide raw data feeds of as much data as possible, allowing citizens to create their own mashups of information. This approach was taken by Vivek Kundra when he was the chief technology officer for the District of Columbia (see DC Data Catalog). Interestingly, Stephenson points to experiences in other countries where increased data sharing lowered government administrative costs.

  • There is a wish list of different transparency ideas published by the Sunlight Foundation, which is a strong advocate of transparency. Some of these are statutory, but some are simple, such as having the president post any signing statements on the White House website 72 hours before he signs a bill.

Still, much of this won’t be easy. There was a great article by Jose Antonio Vargas yesterday in the Washington Post, “Web-Savvy Obama Team Hits Unexpected Bumps,” describing the practical barriers to greater transparency because of existing government laws and policies.

From Here and There

February 12, 2009

Here’s an interesting insider’s account from the Presidential Transition policy team that dealt with Technology, Innovation, and Government Reform.  It’s by a former IBMer, Irving Wladawsky-Berger.  He provides some of the context behind the directive on Transparency and Open Government that President Obama signed shortly after taking office.


Separately, the federal chief information officers’ council released a transition guide, according to Chris Dorobek.   The 52-page guide provides a great overview as to the structure and initiatives of the council.


The Center for American Progress and OMB Watch jointly published “After Midnight: The Bush Legacy of Deregulation and What Obama Can Do.”  The report examines ways a new administration can address “midnight regulations” left behind by a departing administration.  The report may have contributed to the regulatory review order by President Obama.  While that order will not examine individual regulations, it will look at the regulatory review process.