Editorial: Changing everything

It has become a cliché to say that Sept. 11, 2001, changed everything. Unfortunately, one could argue that the terrorist attacks actually changed less than we expected. One could argue that relations among partisan politicians have changed little — or that the divisions have grown deeper. That divisiveness has had an impact on the business of government.

There has been a noticeable and disappointing lack of significant or meaningful change on Capitol Hill. In the past five years, lawmakers have conducted numerous oversight hearings about what has or has not been done to protect the country from future terrorist attacks. Yet lawmakers have largely failed to take the powerful step of leading by example.

The 9/11 Commission’s report included a recommendation that Congress strengthen its oversight of intelligence and homeland security. As part of that effort, the commission recommended that Congress “create a single, principal point of oversight and review for homeland security.”

Last year the commission noted that “of all our recommendations, strengthening congressional oversight may be among the most difficult and important. Few things are more difficult to change in Washington than congressional committee jurisdiction and prerogatives.”

We agree that it is a difficult task, but it is also vitally important. Some of the changes that can go a long way toward making the country safer involve sharing information across organizations. Agencies still do not have an adequate framework for such cooperation. In part, that is because the oversight and budget processes are designed to discourage agencies from working together.

The constant underfunding of e-government initiatives is perhaps the most obvious example of how the budget process undermines agencies’ efforts. But if lawmakers worked together and looked at the budget in a more holistic way, agencies would be more likely to act cooperatively. And finding new ways of doing business can bring tremendous benefits that go beyond homeland security.

The Bush administration has made great strides toward getting agencies to adopt governmentwide systems, but those efforts still face the difficult task of overcoming an ingrained organizational structure that seems to emphasize divisions.

As the lack of a unified response to Hurricane Katrina illustrated a year ago, those divisions can have a dramatic impact on people’s lives.

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About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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