Buzz of the Week

GSA's water torture

This is Federal Computer Week’s 11th issue of the year — and it marks the fifth time that the Buzz of the Week has involved, in one way or another, the General Services Administration. Some will argue that that statistic says something about FCW or media, but it also says something about the kind of year that GSA has been having. The past week was no exception.

The week started with two senators  — Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) — calling on GSA Administrator Lurita Doan to resign. They cited the allegations of Hatch Act violations, the now infamous $20,000 no-bid contract and her general disregard for GSA’s inspector general.

Then a report by GSA Inspector General Brian Miller that dealt with that now-famous $20,000 contract came to light.

That was followed by another GSA IG report that criticized Doan’s handling of that contract.

“Doan’s conduct…may indicate possible violations of federal procurement regulations requiring competition in the award of contracts,” the report states.

In the end, the IG report added some details that were not widely known, but the report is merely another page in the saga — something that moves the story forward but is not the end of the book.

Then came the Washington Post report that the Office of Special Counsel is expanding its investigation of potentially political meetings by White House politicals at various agencies, similar to the one held in January at GSA. The Post went on to report that at least 20 of those private briefings were held in at least 15 agencies.

In the end, it is difficult to assess what all of this means. Of course, it is never good for the head of an agency to be known for something other than being the leader of the agency. We media professionals tend to refer to these people as being scandal-plagued.

Through it all, Doan has had proponents and opponents. Yet even Doan’s supporters acknowledge that it becomes more difficult for GSA to do its job with all those distractions swirling, and people are unsure about what may come next.

The saga continues.

#2. Filling virtual classrooms
Paul Denett’s unveiling last week of a governmentwide certification program for federal program and project managers was good news for anyone who offers classroom and online courses that teach the skills and competencies the government will require of managers assigned to major acquisition programs. That includes the Defense Acquisition University, the Federal Acquisition Institute, federal agencies and, of course, countless training companies.

Denett, administrator of federal procurement policy at the Office of Management and Budget, said the government needs a more structured approach to developing program and project managers, which a certification program provides.

Most likely, many feds will earn their certification credits through online courses. The Federal Acquisition Institute taught 2,800 contracting employees in its classrooms last year.

During the same period, it provided online courses to more than 20,000 students, a substantial increase compared with all previous years, the institute reported.

#3. On the beautiful blue Danube
Charlie Havekost has had a great career at the Health and Human Services Department, where he started in 1975 as a GS-2 Junior Fellow at the National Institutes of Health.

But Havekost, the department’s chief information officer, announced to his staff last week that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has hired him as director of its information technology division.

IAEA is an independent international organization that describes itself as the center of cooperation in the use of nuclear technologies. It works with member states and global partners to promote safe and peaceful nuclear technologies.

To the regret of his many friends in the federal IT community, Havekost’s big decision means that in mid-June he will be moving with his family to Vienna, Austria. Goodbye Potomac, hello beautiful blue Danube.

#4. The big survey
The Census Bureau made mistakes when it conducted the 2000 census that it doesn’t want to repeat in 2010.

At a congressional hearing last week, Rep. William Clay (D-Mo.) enumerated some of the enumeration errors: 700,000 duplicate addresses, 1.6 million vacant housing units misclassified as occupied, 1.4 million housing units not included, 5.6 million housing units incorrectly located on census maps, and so on.

The undercount was so staggering that Congress ordered a complete overhaul of census procedures. And one of the major features of the redesigned census is the use of automated data collection devices that takers of the 2010 census will carry instead of paper maps and forms.

Stay tuned.

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