Buzz of the Week: Got that 1993 déjà vu

We heard somebody joke recently that these are interesting times. After all, who would have guessed that in 2008, a Clinton would be running for president, we’d be fighting a war in Iraq, and there would be economic tremors going on around us.

“This reminds us eerily of back in 1993,” said Stephen Ryan, partner and head of the government strategies practice group of Washington law firm McDermott Will and Emery. There are tremendous structural deficits right now, Ryan said, speaking at Input’s annual Market View conference. And all of it has a bit of that déjà-vu-all-over-again feeling.

In recent weeks, the big market research firms have unveiled their views of the government market for the coming years. Although this data is primarily for government contractors, most agencies also keep an eye on the figures as a way of gauging how their budgets will fare in the coming years.

It is always a trying time for the prognosticators. Even in the best of times, a change of administration presents a challenge. But the 2008 crystal ball is particularly unsatisfying because for the first time in years, there is no heir apparent to the incumbent. Vice President Cheney is not running, and the Democratic presidential race remains in flux. Beyond all of that, there is a palpable feeling that November’s election will bring significant change to Washington. Unfortunately, nobody is clear about what that means in a general sense, let alone what it will mean for agency budgets.

What is clear is that agency spending is likely to remain in limbo for some time. Bush administration officials have said they are pulling together all the pieces for a budget, but they will largely leave the budget submission to the new administration. Ray Bjorklund, who controls the crystal ball at FedSources, noted that a mere 13 days separate the Jan. 20, 2009, inauguration day and the deadline for the new administration’s budget proposal. Keep in mind that that budget will be constrained by deficits and war spending and Ryan seems on the mark — it does hearken back to 1993.

So get ready to do more with less.

BUZZ CONTENDERS

#2:
CIO CouncilTube
The CIO Council has posted a video to YouTube in an effort to recruit new federal information technology employees.

The video, titled “Moving IT Forward,” appeared on YouTube April 25. The lead pitch: “The future of the government. The power of technology. The good of the nation. They all come together when you choose a career in information technology within the U.S. government.”

The video is heavy on business-speak. The words “transform,” “drive,” “diversity” and similarly dry phrases blunt the hipness a bit. Still, with the video on the Web, students searching for music videos, dogs doing funny things or dumb sports injuries might find it and be inspired to become the future of our country.

#3: Lacey out
Mary Lacey’s stint as leader of the effort to transform the Defense Department’s civilian employee management rules was a rough one. But any effort to make sweeping changes to something that affects the lives of millions of people is always rough. She got flak from unions, requirements from Congress and scrutiny from the media, and she weathered it all.

But she’s moving on in May, leaving her post as program executive officer of the National Security Personnel System for a more familiar role as deputy program director of the military’s Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense.

#4: Sing a song of architecture
Dennis Wisnosky would like the language of enterprise architecture to be as universal as that of music. Speaking at a government and industry conference in Washington last week, Wisnosky pointed out that musicians who sit down to play can read the notes on a score regardless of the language they speak, where they learned to play or what instrument they use. The notes are a clear, universal, symbolic language.

Wisnosky, chief architect and chief technical officer of the Defense Department’s Business Mission Area, said a similar language for enterprise architecture could be developed if people would work toward a shared set of standards.

#5: When the music stops...
Lurita Doan, the General Services Administration’s administrator, has no lack of confidence. While most agencies are struggling to make telework programs work, Doan committed to have half of GSA’s eligible employees teleworking by 2010. Last week, speaking at the Telework Exchange conference, Doan reported that 18 percent of GSA employees are already teleworking at least part time.

Doan breezily announced that meeting the 50 percent goal will be “an absolute cakewalk.”
It’s worth noting that when 2010 comes around, Doan will probably be long gone from GSA.

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