Eye Opener: Are old computers slowing down feds?
Happy Friday! Almost one year into the Obama administration and officials seem to have figured out what's wrong with the government: technology.
“Improving the technology our government uses isn’t about having the fanciest bells and whistles on our Web sites -- it’s about how we use the American people’s hard-earned tax dollars to make government work better for them," President Obama said on Thursday at a forum for business and government leaders about modernizing the government.
Obama called federal employees "some of the hardest-working, most dedicated, most competent people I know."
"But all too often, their best efforts are thwarted because the technological revolution that has transformed our society over the past two decades has yet to reach many parts of our government," he added. "Many of these folks will tell you that their kids have better technology in their backpacks and in their bedrooms than they have at the desks at their work."
Obama got an Amen from Office of Management and Budget Director Peter R. Orszag: “Twenty years ago, people who came to work in the federal government had better technology at work than at home. Now that’s no longer the case."
“The American people deserve better service from their government, and better return for their tax dollars," Orszag said.
Even Orszag's deputy, Jeffrey Zients, echoed those sentiments before the event, calling the public and private tech gap "one of the biggest barriers to efficiency and better customer service to the American people."
"If a company had these antiquated systems, they would have been out of business long ago," Zients said.
Beyond bad technology, business and government leaders discussed streamlining government operations, and some CEOs suggested forcing accountability on federal workers or paying bonuses to government workers.
The government is "extraordinarily constrained" in its ability to offer raises or fire poor performers, said Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel B. Poneman.
In response, Peter Darbee of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. suggested that public workers need to "find a catalyst." He suggested that for federal workers it might be that they're frustrated, "because they're not getting anything done," according to a pool report of the meeting.
Bill McComb of the Liz Claiborne Co. said government departments that save taxpayer money should see those funds go into "a bonus pool."
But White House Cabinet Secretary Christopher P. Lu reminded attendees that the government doesn't provide incentives to agencies that save money.
"The result of saving money is next year, your appropriations go down," Lu said.
Plenty of heavy stuff for top officials to consider, and OMB promised to issue a report on modernization efforts in the near future. Stay tuned.
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• Cabinet and Staff News: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton versus Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) on USAID funding. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates headed to Pakistan. Mrs. Obama's chief of staff huddles with her Bush-era predecessors. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke defends the Fed's oversight role. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke travels to Alaska today for trade and Census meetings. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar makes it clear he's staying put. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood discusses consequences for feds who text and drive.
• $133 million ad campaign promotes census participation: Some ads will be featured on high-viewership television shows such as the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday and the Super Bowl in early February. But more than half of the budget will go to media outlets that target groups undercounted in previous censuses.
• Pentagon steps up talks on ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’: The discussions, centered in a small group assembled by Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are in preparation for a possible Senate hearing on the 1993 law this month.
• Perry turns down national education funds: The Texas governor is not applying for up to $700 million in federal stimulus dollars for his state’s education fund.
FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION:
• Judge orders FDA to stop blocking imports of E-Cigarettes from China: A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit brought by two distributors of the so-called e-cigarettes, which are battery-powered tubes that heat liquid nicotine into an inhalable vapor and are meant to simulate the taste of tobacco.
• Governments’ go-to vendors get it done: Amid her homemade pickles and jams, Nicole Corey keeps New York City agencies and those of its neighbors supplied with flock-lined latex gloves, safety vests, watches and disposable smocks. Inmates need new open-toe socks? Done. Just $3.65 a dozen.
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY:
• Possibility of plots prompts more checks for explosives at airports: DHS moved to increase random checks for explosives at American airports after officials cited a heightened concern over possible terror plots against the aviation system.
• Panel told of FBI efforts to fight financial crime: The need for tighter federal regulation was the dominant message sent on Thursday to the panel established by Congress to examine the causes of the financial crisis.
• First Lady Michelle Obama visits Labor Department: She talks Haiti, shows off her new hairdo and reads to children.
• Consumer Protection Agency in doubt: Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd is considering scrapping the idea of creating such an agency.
| January 15, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: Eye Opener
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