Blog brief: Air marshals, gripes about the mail, and distracted driving

Air Marshals in Action
Transportation Security Administration
April 8, 2010

Blogger Bob knew this opportunity was too good to miss.

Earlier this month, several federal air marshals dropped their anonymity ever so briefly to help the crew of United Airlines Flight 663 deal with a potential security threat. As it turned out, there was no threat at all — just a diplomat with a nicotine addiction and a lousy sense of humor — but that would be sorted out later.

The quiet and efficient response of the air marshals showed that they are “highly trained to be aware of their surroundings and react in a moment’s notice,” wrote Blogger Bob the next day.

The blogger notes that marshals receive some of the most rigorous training in federal law enforcement and brush up their skills quarterly on full-size aircraft simulators “complete with role players and a wide variety of threat scenarios.”

Automation Refugees at the Postal Service
USPS Office of Inspector General
March 29, 2010

When the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General opened its blog to a prominent customer, Jim O’Brien, vice president of distribution and postal affairs at Time, used the opportunity to take USPS to task for failing to fully automate its handling of periodicals.

The Time exec noted that when USPS automated many operations in the 1990s, many displaced workers ended up being shuffled off to periodicals mail. That has kept the processing costs on the rise, which in turn leads to higher postal mailing rates — or less money — for publishers who are already hurting.

“Yes, the recession did result in fewer advertising pages and lower revenue from periodicals-class mail,” O’Brien writes, “but the 20-year-old elephant in the room continues to be the unanswered question of automation refugees and their impact on cost coverage.”

This issue “would make an excellent subject for the OIG to investigate,” O’Brien adds. The OIG’s blog notes that the views of the guest blogger “do not necessarily represent the views of the United States Postal Service or the Office of Inspector General.”

A Pulitzer Much Prized by Safety Advocates
Transportation Department
April 13, 2010

The "Fast Lane" blog salutes New York Times reporter Matt Richtel for nabbing a Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles about the safety risks associated with using cell phones or other devices while driving.

The folks at the Transportation Department have been trying to drum up interest in this topic for a long time. But Richtel, with the Times as his bully pulpit, put the issue front and center with his “Driven to Distraction” series. One of his articles highlighted a DOT-financed study on the risks of texting while driving.

“Finally, thanks to Matt, the public saw evidence that distracted driving raised crash risk to dangerous levels,” Fast Lane’s anonymous blogger writes. “From there, discussion about the harm caused by distracted driving entered the national conversation.”

Profile: Edward O’Hare
Great Government Through Technology

Edward O’Hare describes himself as “an old dog who loves new tricks.” The new trick, in this case, is his blog, “Great Government Through Technology.”

As assistant commissioner at the General Services Administration’s Integrated Technology Service, O’Hare has plenty to keep him busy. But he sees the blog as part of his job description. Given the Obama administration’s emphasis on Web 2.0 technology, “I would be remiss as an executive if my organization were not leading by example,” he wrote in an e-mail message.

The key, he said, is making the blog part of his routine. “Blogging should not be an incidental or ancillary task,” he said. “I would like it to become part of the very fabric of how I want to do business.”

O’Hare notes that his blog is not strictly personal: It needs to align with “the messages we want to promote as an organization.” With that in mind, he maintains “an iterative, collaborative discussion,” O’Hare said. “When I come up with ideas, my communications team acts as a sounding board. They do the research and fact-checking, and we discuss how the posts fit into the overall vision of ITS that I want to promote.”

To read the complete text of the e-mail interview with O’Hare, check out the FCW Insider blog.

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