Posts Tagged ‘GSA’

Transparency in Contracting

August 21, 2009

Government Executive’s Robert Brodsky says the Obama Administration plans to raise the bar on making more government contract information available in his article, “Administration Says It Is Committed to Posting Contracts Online.”

The public already has access to some details about government contract awards via, which is a database of federal grants and contracts.  Even more is on the way via, which tracks dollars associated with the implementation of the Recovery Act.  But rarely are the actual contracts available.

Then-candidates Barack Obama and John McCain had co-sponsored legislation last year, The Strengthening Transparency and Accountability in Federal Spending Act of 2008 (S.3077) that would have required agencies to publish more details about their contracts.  It did not go anywhere, and Brodsky reports that it will likely not be actively considered this year, either.  However, President Obama could administratively require agencies to do so.  

Contractors are concerned about potentially exposing proprietary information and agencies are concerned about the overwhelming administrative burdens of redacting such information.  For example, the Defense Logistics Agency alone signs 8,000 contracts a day.  Brodsky notes that it took the General Services Administration two weeks to release a redacted copy of the contract when requested.

Transparency and government watchdog groups are strongly supporting the potential move. . . .. It’ll be interesting to see how far transparency can go, and how this will change both business and oversight!


Obama Tech Agenda

June 9, 2009

computer-chipThe 2008 Obama presidential campaign laid out a series of exciting ideas for the use of technology in government and proposed the creation of both a Chief Technology Officer and a cybersecurity czar.  This was accompanied by the campaign’s own successful use of technology.  During the Transition, the “Technology, Innovation, and Government Reform” working group had its own video.

The opening months of the new Administration has seen top talent being recruited to help lead these initiatives, including Vivek Kundra as the government’s chief information officer (CIO) and Aneesh Chopra as its chief technology officer (CTO).  Via the fiscal year 2010 budget and a series of speeches and initiatives, they’ve begun to lay out their priorities.  Here’s what I’ve gathered so far.  If there is more, feel free to add in the comment section:

FY 2010 Budget.  According to the NextGov blog, the budget proposes increases in the federal government’s technology investment by 7 percent, to nearly $76 billion.

CTO Chopra.  CTO Chopra laid out his priorities at last week’s Management of Change conference in Virginia Beach.  Here’s Federal News Radio and Federal Computer Week’s snapshots of Chopra four priorities:

  • Invest in technology-based innovation to transform the nation’s economy. This includes relooking at the federal research and development agenda and figuring out how to drive innovation through policy.
  • Use “innovation platforms” to bring game-changing ways to address the President’s priorities such as health care, climate change, energy, economic improvement and education. These include:  (1) creating a culture of open standards that can be shared and easily replicated so as to accelerate innovation; (2)  re-directing federal R&D investments to be more applied, and more toward the middle ground “south of procurement and north of R&D;” and (3) expand the use of “crowdsourcing” to gather new ideas and fuel innovation.
  • Deliver a reliable, resilient and trustworthy infrastructure. Chopra will focus on helping to develop a broadband plan by February 2010 and act on a cybersecurity initiative that will emphasize “game changing research and development, and collaboration with the private sector” to improve critical infrastructure and create bug-free software.
  • Create a culture of open and innovative government. Chopra says he will continue to work with federal chief information officer Vivek Kundra, the General Services Administration and others to “build capacity in the federal government for a culture of openness transparency,” to help advance the executive order Obama issued Jan. 21 that “commits the government to greater transparency, citizen participation and collaboration.”

Government Computer News also noted that Chopra “suggested one possibility of working with the General Services Administration to develop an ‘innovation sandbox’ where project ideas could be tested and shared across the government.”

CIO Kundra.  Vivek Kundra, in his maiden speech in March before the FOSE 2009 conference described the Administration’s “four pillars:” transparency via Web 2.0 tools; engaging citizens more effectively in their government; lowering the cost of government operations; and finding and exploiting innovations.

In addition, he has launched several initiatives:

  •  Kundra quickly moved to replicate an initiative he sponsored in the DC Government, which he has called “”  This entails posting raw government data on the internet and allowing it to be downloaded and used by citizens and businesses.  When it was launched on May 21st, there were under 100 data sets.  Kundra hopes to have 100,000 up by the end of this week.
  • IT Project Dashboards.  Another DC Government innovation was the monitoring of individual IT projects to ensure they were on track.  He says he will replicate that effort across the federal government and release a beta version of the dashboard by the end of June for the 25 largest federal agencies.
  • Cloud Computing.  The FY 2010 budget includes an ode to cloud computing (see section 9 of OMB’s Analytical Perspectives), lyrically noting:  “Cloud-computing is a convenient, on-demand model for network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”

Currently, the General Services Administration has a “request for information” out to industry to help define the parameters of cloud computing, hopefully in more understandable terms!

Transparency: Promising Practices

May 14, 2009

If you haven’t read the GSA Intergovernmental Solutions’ Spring 2009 newsletter, it’s worth downloading and reading.  It’s about 40 pages of articles.

This issue’s theme focuses on transparency and provides a useful snapshot of where government is at.  It provides President Obama’s directive, an overview of the effort, and potential directions in coming months, such as the proposed site that is a vision of the new federal CIO, Vivek Kundra.

The issue also provides some examples of what other governments are doing in the transparency arena, include Texas, Georgia, and New Zealand.

Fast Action on Stimulus Implementation

March 12, 2009

recovery1The Obama Administration recognizes the importance of the Recovery Act and doing a credible job in its implementation.  The initial emphasis was on accountability to ensure the monies were not ill-spent. 

President Obama emphasized this in his meetings with both governors and mayors. In speaking to state governors on February 23, President Obama said:


“. . . I’m announcing today that I’m asking my Vice President, Joe Biden, to oversee our administration’s implementation efforts.  Beginning this week, Joe will meet regularly with key members of my Cabinet to make sure our efforts are not just swift, but also efficient and effective.  Joe is also going to work closely with you, our nation’s governors, as well as our mayors and everyone else involved in this effort, to keep things on track.  And the fact that I’m asking my Vice President to personally lead this effort shows how important it is for our country and our future to get this right, and I thank him for his willingness to take on this critical task. In the coming weeks, we’re also going to appoint some of the nation’s best managers and public officials to work with the Vice President on this effort.”


He’s been known to call Vice President Biden the “sheriff,” in overseeing the Recovery Act.  There’s been a lot of emphasis on accountability, with the creation of and the creation of the Recovery Act Transparency Board, headed by Earl Devaney.


But it’s increasingly clear that accountability can’t be the primary emphasis.  Obama needs a “trail boss,” not a sheriff!  The Washington Post’s Alec MacGillis says this will be a chance for public servants to show government can work.


The lack of some key appointees has been part of the challenge.  The “normal” government would have seen the deputy director for management at OMB and the deputy secretaries taking the lead in implementing an initiative of this scale.  But these positions are still being filled.  So another approach is being used.


Today, Vice President Biden hosted a conference of state budet officials to describe progress so far on the Recovery Act’s implementation.  He said the President will announce new implementation rules tomorrow.


Here are some of the key pieces of the evolving governance structure that have been developed so far:


Vice President’s Office.  Vice President Biden convened his first meeting on February 24th with an emphasis on transparency and accountability.  But the meeting quickly shifted to implementation, with a high concern over whether the contracting workforce can handle the anticipated increase in their workload (for example, the General Services Administration’s budget is increasing by 1,130 percent, without much of an increase in contract staffing).


Office of Management and Budget.  OMB has taken an early lead by publishing initial guidance, mainly for the reporting requirements in the Act.  Government Executive published a helpful “Economic Stimulus Checklist” to keep the various reporting requirements in line.  Agencies’ first weekly reports on the Recovery Act were due March 3rd.


OMB is also flagging potential problems, such as yesterday’s announcement that the governmentwide portal for grants applications,, could be overwhelmed if steps are not taken to ensure it has the capacity to process the number of expected grants applications.  Agencies have until March 13th to assess their grants management systems.


Office of Personnel Management.  OPM knows that getting the right people in place is going to be a key element of success. It has been pressed to delegate certain authorities to agencies, and in response convened a governmentwide meeting to work out the details.


Agency Recovery Act Coordinators.  The White House asked agencies to designate a point of contact for their agencies.  Lacking political appointees in many agencies, this started slow, but agencies are now making progress. For example, Interior Secretary Salazar named his choice recently.  Agency finance officers are seeing major challenges, as well, according to Government Executive’s Katherine Peters, who says agency chief financial officers are facing staff shortages already, and have a growing workload from other programs, as well.


State Recovery Act Coordinators.  States are designating Recovery Act coordinators as well, to serve not only as a counterpart to their federal coordinators but also to work across their own state governments.  States are creating their own Recovery Act websites as well that are being linked to the federal site.  These sites are in response to the reporting requirements in the Recovery Act.


External Efforts to Monitor Progress. External groups are also evolving to monitor the implementation of the Recovery Act.  For example, StimulusWatch is sponsored by the Sunlight Foundation.

Transparency and Open Government: Obama Style

January 27, 2009

As one of his first acts in office, President Obama signed a memorandum, “Transparency and Open Government.”  The memorandum directs the yet-to-be-announced Chief Technology Officer to lead a 120-day study on ways to act upon three principles outlined in the memo:


Government should be transparent: agencies should harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online, and solicit public feedback to identify information of greatest use to the public.


Government should be participatory:  agencies should offer Americans increased opportunities to participate in policymaking and provide their collective expertise and information.


Government should be collaborative:  agencies should use innovative tools, methods, and systems to cooperate among themselves, across levels of government, and with nonprofits, businesses and individuals.  Agencies should also solicit public feedback to assess how well they are collaborating and to identify new ways to cooperate.


The study, to be coordinated with the director of the Office of Management and Budget and the yet-to-be-named administrator of the General Services Administration, is to recommend an Open Government Directive that agencies would implement.


It was unclear from the memorandum when the 120-day study period would begin.  If you know, please respond in the comment box below!

Transition Team Resource Guide

November 4, 2008

white-house-south-lawn By the end of the day, we’ll know whose transition team picks up the keys to the transition office in downtown Washington DC tomorrow.

(UPDATED: November 15, 2008).

The transition team itself will start to grow quickly.  Based on past history, it could range in size from 300 to over 1,000 members.  Most will be volunteers, some will be paid, few (if any) will be federal employees.  So, most won’t know their way around the federal government.  Here’s a quick resource guide:

The GSA Presidential Transition Website.  The General Services Administration is the designated administrative resource for the transition team.  This site provides basic background information on the transition and GSA’s role. 

The Presidential Transition Resources Directory.  This site is a joint effort between GSA and the National Archives to provide the transition team with baseline information about how the government works.  This will be the “go to” place for government information.

The Obama Transition Website.  Here is the Transition Team’s official website. —  It encourages visitors to contribute their impressions, a blog, information on the progress of the transition, and a place to submit interest in working in the Obama Administration.

The Plum Book.  The Senate worked with the Office of Personnel Management to develop this inventory of all policy-making and political appointments.  It will be the baseline for identifying where positions will be available, by agency.  It will become a hot item for all transition team staffers.

The Prune Book On-Line.  The non-partisan, non-profit Council for Excellence in Government has created a guide to a subset of 114 key jobs listed in the Plum Book.  It describes the challenges of what previous office-holders have faced in those positions (such as the head of the IRS) and what skills would be most useful to be successful in those jobs. 

Agency Performance Links.  The Office of Management and Budget created a useful “go to” webpage with every agency’s strategic plans, performance plans, performance reports, and program-level assessments.  A useful baseline of what’s going on!

Wiki Inventory of Think Tank Transition Efforts.  The 1105 Government Information Group has created a wiki inventory of what different think tanks and other groups are doing to provide insights and recommendations related to management improvements in government.

Political Appointee Roadmap.  The Council for Excellence in Government has created an interactive roadmap for potential political appointees.  It tailors a checklist of action steps to be taken, depending on whether you’re looking for an appointment for a Presidential Appointment with Senate Confirmation, or a lower-level Schedule C position. 

The Operator’s Manual for the New Administration. The IBM Center put together this manual to help incoming agency leaders navigate their way around their agency’s main management systems.  It can be helpful to transition team members, especially those in “parachute teams” visiting agencies, to frame a quick understanding of what’s going on.

Getting It Done:  A Guide for Government Executives.  Another IBM Center resource, this guide helps incoming agency leaders gain a quick understanding of how to get things done.  It can be a useful resource for prospective appointees so they can understand who the key stakeholders are that they’ll need to be dealing with, and initial steps they can take to be successful in their jobs.

White House Staff Guide.  Brad Patterson has updated his 2000 book that inventories office-by-office what goes on in the White House complex.  For anyone working in a White House, this is a detailed “how to” manual that provides a baseline for how it works today.  This 475-page book can be order from the Brookings Institution.

If there are other great links you think would be helpful to the transition team, let me know and I’ll add them here or in the wiki!

GSA Transition Effort Underway

October 28, 2008


Gail Lovelace, GSA Transition Director

Gail Lovelace, GSA Transition Director

The Federal Computer Week’s Matthew Weigelt writes in  GSA Creates Private Network for Transition Teams,” that the transition teams won’t have access to government computer networks right away, but will have immediate access to a virtual private network of their own.  

Gail Lovelace, who has been designated as the director for GSA’s transition support effort, offered a caution, though.  According to FCW: “The teams must go through clearance checks, which GSA does not conduct, to get access to the VPN, as well as the office space GSA already has reserved for them, Lovelace said. However, she couldn’t give many details about the clearance process or how long it takes to get clearance.”


The article made no mention as to whether the transition’s computer network would have Web 2.0 capabilities that the campaigns are currently using, such as instant messaging, wikis, social networking, and blogging. 


GSA, meanwhile, is expanding its transition site and including more resources as they become available.  It’s worth a visit to see it under construction!

Transition Idea: A National Dialogue

October 21, 2008

A number of advocacy groups that promote greater citizen engagement are calling on the next president to actively engage citizens in a national dialogue on key issues facing America.  Positive language to this effect has been included in both the Democratic and Republican party platforms and discussed by the candidates themselves.  So there’s a good chance this will be on the next Administration’s agenda.

How would you actively engage one million or more citizens in ways they can be heard – and can hear each other?  One approach, obviously, will be through the use of the Internet.  What are the logistics involved for the federal government to do something like this?  This has not been worked out well.  But a pilot is being launched next week to test it out so it can be ready to go for the next president. 

What’s more, you can participate in the pilot!

Starting next Monday, October 27th, a first-of-its-kind, online-only dialogue will be held on the issue of health information technology and personal privacy.   The hope is that this on-line dialog will help address a key issue:  “How can we use information technology to improve the way patients interact with the healthcare system, while safeguarding their right to privacy?”  Increased uses of technology have the ability to reduce costs and errors, and improve healthcare.  But there are concerns about tradeoffs with personal privacy.

Register at:

This dialogue is being jointly sponsored by National Academy for Public Administration (NAPA), the Federal CIO Council, the Office of Management and Budget, and the General Services Administration.  It is being facilitated by AmericaSpeaks and Delib, two non-partisan expert organizations engaging in citizen engagement and public deliberation.

Says NAPA project director Lena Trudeau, “the dialogue is designed to highlight points of agreement and emerging themes, guiding participants to consensus in real time.”  Because of the short timeline for this effort, and the fact that this is the height of the presidential campaign, the scale of the effort will likely be small.  But the biggest part of the idea is to test out the ability to create and manage this kind of a capability for the next Administration.

 * * * * * *

UPDATE:  Federal Computer Week published a story on this on Oct. 23 — “OMB Sponsors Online Discussion of Privacy Issues.”

New Transition Executive Order

October 9, 2008

President Bush signed a new executive order this morning outlining how his Administration will facilitate the upcoming transition.  The executive order creates a Presidential Transition Coordinating Council, chaired by the President’s chief of staff, Josh Bolton.  The Council is charged with collecting information about past transitions and provide assistance to the major party candidates and the president-elect.

The General Services Administration is charged with coordinating these materials as well as preparing a Transition Directory.  “Transition agreements” will be entered into between the White House, executive agencies and “the transition teams for the major party candidates and the President-elect. . . “

Similar executive orders have been issued in the past, but generally after Election Day.  Also, this new Order seems to suggest that contacts between the government and transition teams are being encouraged in advance of the Election.  I’ll update with links to media stories that might explain further.

Interestingly, a recent Huffington Post story by Sam Stein provides an update on the Obama and McCain transition efforts underway.  The story says that the two efforts are “worlds apart” in their approach.  Stein says “Sen. Barack Obama has organized an elaborate well-staffed network to prepare for his possible ascension to the White House, while Sen. John McCain has all but put off such work until after the election.”  He notes that McCain’s own staff express concern over his lack of planning.

Transition Triple-Header

October 3, 2008

On Wednesday, October 15th, there will be three different events focused on the upcoming presidential transition:

The 1105 Government Information Group:  “Today’s Strategy for Tomorrow’s Administration”
Four Points Sheraton, Washington, DC.
8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. (open registration; fees:  $295 government; $595 industry)

This conference is co-sponsored with the IBM Center for The Business of Government, INPUT, the American Society of Public Administration, Partnership for Public Service, FedSource, and ITAA.

The 1105 Government Information Group will bring together senior-level government officials, leading figures in academia and public policy, and CXOs from industry, to discuss the technology business and organizational challenges brought about by a change in administration, and effective strategies and tactics for dealing with that change.
Feature speakers schooled in the art of successful transitions will address these issues:  
• How government agencies transition key leadership positions and define roles and responsibilities
• How to sustain program momentum during a transition
• What budget, program and policy planning companies should be doing now to prepare for transition
• How industry can reap the benefits of transition – from personnel to programs
• How government agencies can help prepare industry for changes in a new administration.

Speakers will include: Paul Light, New York University; Allan Lichtman, American University; and Gail Lovelace, transition director, General Services Administration.

A detailed agenda and registration details:  are available.

* * * * *

An American University Conference:  “Presidential Transitions: From Campaigning to Governing”
Location: 1333 H St., NW; Washington, DC.   9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (no registration fee but space is limited; Please RSVP to by Monday, October 13)

This conference is co-hosted by the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies, the Kennedy Political Union, and the Center for American Progress.   This conference will bring together academics and practitioners to discuss successes and failures in past presidential transitions. There will be a special focus on the promise made by both 2008 presidential candidates to “change the way Washington works.” Can it be changed? Should it be changed? What advice can be given to improve the way the next president will work with Congress?

– DRAFT Agenda –

8:30-9:00a.m.              Registration and light breakfast

9:00-9:15a.m.              Welcome:  Dr. James A. Thurber:  Distinguished Professor and Director, Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University and editor of Rivals for Power: Presidential-Congressional Relations

9:15-10:30a.m.            Panel:  Structuring a White House Legislative Affairs Office
** Chair: Dr. James A. Thurber
** Patrick Griffin:  Former Assistant to President Clinton for Legislative Affairs and Academic Director of the Public Affairs and Advocacy Institute at American University
** Gary Andres:  Former Assistant for Legislative Affairs to President George H. W. Bush and Vice Chairman of Public Policy and Research at Dutko Worldwide
** Maggie Williams (invited):  Former  Campaign Manager to Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chief of Staff in the First Lady’s Office

10:30 – 10:45a.m.       Break

10:45a.m.-12:00p.m.  Panel: Policy Making in a Polarized Congress
** Chair: Scott Lilly:  Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and former Staff Director of the House Appropriations Committee
(Other panelists to be announced)

 12:00pm-12:30pm      Buffet lunch

12:30p.m.-2:00p.m.    Clay Johnson III:  Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management Budget and former Executive Director of the Bush-Cheney Presidential Transition

1:45-3:00p.m.   Panel:  Working with Congress: Lessons from Past Presidential Transitions
** Martha Kumar:  Professor of Political Science at Townson University and co-founder of the White House Transition Project
** Jim Pfiffner:  Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University and author of The Strategic Presidency: Hitting the Ground Running
** Terry Sullivan:  Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Executive Director of the White House Transition Project
** Stephen Wayne:  Professor of Government at Georgetown University and author of The Road to the White House and The Legislative Presidency

* * * *

OMB Watch:  “Workshop on Strengthening Government Performance Systems in the Next Administration”
8:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., at the offices of the National Academy for Public Administration (invited participants only; results will be published). Co-hosted by the National Academy for Public Administration, Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute, and Accenture.

This workshop will help make recommendations for the next administration for strengthening government performance systems.  NAPA Academy Fellows Harry Hatry, Shelley Metzenbaum, Beryl Radin, and Robert Shea are playing integral roles as members of the advisory group for this project. 

OMB Watch has partnered with Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute (GPPI) and Accenture’s Institute for Public Service in this project to develop consensus recommendations for how to improve government performance measurement systems. As a part of this project, they are holding a day-long workshop to bring together a diverse group of policy experts, academics, government representatives, and outside stakeholders with the goal of finding areas of consensus, identifying areas of disagreement, and defining top priorities for the next administration.

Participants will review three short papers prior to the event that will help frame the issues and guide discussions. The focus of the day will be on providing feedback, comments, and perspectives about improving performance measurement at the federal level. The information and recommendations gathered during this workshop will serve as one of the main components in the final report of the project. For additional background documents and information, members of the informal Advisory Group for the project, and other details, visit the project website.

* * * * *

Oh yes, . . . . and don’t forget that Wednesday, October 15th is the last of the presidential debates!