Category: Politics


Since President Obama was sworn in just over two years ago, the open-government initiative has blossomed. The goal of the project was to fulfill one of his campaign promises of more transparency in the federal government.[1] Anyone who has watched the Evening News in the last couple of years has heard of the numerous challenges that this plan has created. The amount of data that the government has is entirely overwhelming. Sorting out what should and should not be released, when, how have all been particular problems for the federal employees charged with carrying out the President’s plan. There is still not a primary strategy, but the Sunlight Foundation suggests that agencies are leaning towards releasing information central to their mission and do that well.[2]

 

As of yet, the White House has not made a requirement that the many agencies of the government have to approach transparency in the same way. I believe that this level of autonomy is essential to the program’s success. The working of each agency is incredibly distinct and the employees deserve to be treated in accordance with their experience. Should they fail to meet the requirements of the initiative then further regulations would be appropriate, but allowing each agency to run in its own distinct way should add to the strength of the government.

 

The newest part of this program is the requirement that they create a plan to make the transparency guidelines “accessible, downloadable and searchable online” during 2011.[3] This particular requirement falls on the shoulders of the government IT employee to find a way to archive all of this information on their websites while improving the search function. This will entail formatting of documents and much more website capacity. And I suspect the question on every IT person’s mind is where is the funding for this project? And with everything in the government, there isn’t an easy answer. There isn’t a standing budget for the country only a continuing resolution. Rumors suggest that the new IT budgets will be released in February. Until then, federal employees must devise this program without the expectation of further funding.


[1] Aliya Sternstein, “ Open-government initiative marks two-year milestone,” Nextgov, http://www.nextgov.com/nextgov/ng_20110120_1053.php?oref=mostread, Posted on 20 January 2011.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

In light of the recent tragic events in Tuscon the political rhetoric of the US has fixated on the idea of the two political parties working together. In a significant break with tradition Republican and Democratic legislative members will be sitting together during the State of the Union address on 25 January 2011.[1] Whether or not the spirit of cooperation will last into the spring remains to be seen, but it should make for a more entertaining speech tomorrow night. Perhaps the citizens of America will watch it in hope of awkward standing ovations or that the legislators will behave as we all did in grade school when our teachers made us sit boy-girl-boy. CNN suggests that it might even turn the speech into less of a pep rally for the party of the executive branch and more of a forum where citizens to learn what is going on from their elected leader.[2] Well here’s to hoping anyways.

 

Members of the House and Senate have jumped at this bipartisanship as a platform to distinguish themselves to their constituents. Many have chosen to focus on financial reform, which almost inevitably leads to a negative tone. However Representative Gerry Connelly D-Va has chosen a different path. Working in conjunction with Rep. Darrell Issa R-Ca, he is seeking to reform and streamline the government IT procurement process.[3] Connelly is seeking comprehensive hearings to evaluate everything from the efficiency of the procurement process, the use of federal employees instead of contractors and the use of current technology.[4] He is particularly interested in exploring with government IT experts the money saving potential of cloud computing instead of data centers.

 

Having spent the last several months calling government IT workers, I think most would agree that there are both positive and negative things about the current procurement process. Depending on which agency has to be used for acquisition the choices may be drastically limited. The natural fear will be that any new legislation might exacerbate any existing problems. I believe that the potential to revise what is a confusing and frustrating system for employees into a mechanism of technology acquisition that is beneficial for all parties. A simpler faster system would improve the service provided to the tax payer and with the implementation of cloud cost could be drastically reduced while multiplying efficiency.

 

Government IT is not likely to be the blockbuster story like the tragedy of the shooting of Representative Giffords, who I am very glad is recovering in my home state. But whether or not it creates the kind of news the traditional outlets are looking for, the health of the information technology of this country is imperative as we move through this new decade. Other countries in the world, particularly China, are investing heavily in technology and the US must keep pace even if in a recession or we will be left behind.


[1] Tom Cohen, “Legislators pairing off for bipartisan seating at Obama speech,” CNN Politics, http://www.cnn.com/2011/POLITICS/01/23/congress.date.night/index.html?hpt=Sbin, Posted on 24 January 2011.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Matthew Weigelt, “Outsourcing, insourcing and partisanship, Lawmaker seeks cooperation, not conflict,” Federal Computer Week, http://fcw.com/Articles/2011/01/21/Gerry-Connelly-bipartisan-issues-James-Lankford-subcommittee.aspx?Page=2, Posted 21 January 2011.

[4] Ibid.