FCW Insider


Pivotal policies of the past 25 years: What say you?

Think back over the past 25 years and figure out what policies have been pivotal in the shaping of federal IT.

We’re asking because Federal Computer Week is 25 years old this year. As part of an upcoming special issue, we’re going to examine the people, policies and technologies that have shaped the landscaped during that time. We’re looking for people and ideas that still hold sway today, not yesterday’s passing fads.

We’ve identified a few policies we think have been among the most significant, but we’d like your help. Look over the list below and then, in the comments, tell us what ones you think we’re missing, which ones we’ve named but should not have, and any other thoughts you have about what makes a policy pivotal.

Our ideas so far:

Procurement reform: Although it’s not a single policy, a number of procurement reform measures have changed the system in ways that still affect the ways in which the government buys products and services.

The President’s Management Agenda: The George W. Bush administration instituted this effort to apply metrics to government performance in ways that led to running agencies more as businesses are run. The Barack Obama administration has continued using the concept, as shown by the TechStat and PortfolioStat programs.

The Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996: Perhaps best known for creating the office of the agency CIO, the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 actually contained a full set of IT management reforms, including the creation of a capital planning and investment control process linked to budget formulation and a mandate for agencies to rethink their business processes and improving them when possible before investing in information systems.

Homeland security: In the wake of the Sept. 2001 terrorist attacks, the Bush administration not only established the Homeland Security Department but also kick-started numerous initiatives to improve information sharing across the federal government and with state and local agencies and the private sector. The work goes.

The Federal Information Security Management Act: Part of the E-Government Act of 2002, this effort to apply standards and best practices consistently across government put a new framework around agencies’ approach to security that has been refined over time. But what about the E-Government Act itself? Should it be on our list? If so, why?

Cloud-First Policy: This is a new one, but it could shape federal IT buying for years to come, shifting the preference away from agency-based dedicated systems to shared services, consolidation and remotely hosted applications.

So, let us know. Do we have the right list? Tell us why or why not, and what you’d add or remove.

Posted by Michael Hardy on Apr 10, 2012 at 12:18 PM1 comments


GSA's stop-the-presses moment

Well, that was a whirlwind of a Monday afternoon.

The news that Martha Johnson had resigned her post as General Services Administration administrator broke around 3:40 Monday afternoon. By that time of day, we're usually taking stock of our stories and beginning to plan out the lineup for the next day's e-mail newsletter.

But the GSA turmoil changed all that. In the days when the news media consisted of daily newspapers and broadcast, it would have been a "stop the presses!" moment. Nobody doubted that we needed to chase the story and try to nail down some information useful to our unique group of readers.

In a case of very bad timing, our GSA reporter Matthew Weigelt is on vacation this week. Instead, we put Camille Tuutti and Alice Lipowicz on the story, and I, your humble news editor, took part as well. Over the next two hours we talked to Bob Woods and Jonathan Aronie, found Johnson's resignation letter and studied the Inspector General report for details. We republished our story several times, adding detail and clarification with each iteration.

Finally, as afternoon was giving way to evening, we published the final version and called it done. Such moments can be exhilarating, and also exhausting. But these are the stories that matter most to our readers, and delivering accurate and timely information to people who want or need it is at the heart of what we do.

Posted by Michael Hardy on Apr 03, 2012 at 12:18 PM0 comments


Was I wrong about journalists?

Maybe I spoke too soon.

On the same day I wrote and published an entry assuring public affairs officers that most reporters are responsible professionals just trying to serve the public, media watchdog Jim Romanesko published this item: A reporter for the Daily Caller apparently threatened to make up a source’s response to a question if the source didn’t respond to inquiries.

The question pertained to whether Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, still has confidence in Attorney General Eric Holder in the wake of the Fast and Furious scandal. Reporter Matthew Boyle wanted a comment from Brad Woodhouse, communications director of the Committee. And when he didn’t get one, Romanesko reports, Boyle told him: “I’m giving you until 10 a.m. tomorrow to answer this question, then I’m reporting Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is not supporting Holder. “

When other reporters asked Boyle to explain what looks like a blackmail attempt, he told BuzzFeed that wasn't the case. “I wanted to give Brad plenty of time to respond before we reported, correctly, that the DNC would offer The Daily Caller no verbal support for Eric Holder," he said in BuzzFeed's report.

Well, maybe. But his e-mail to Woodhouse clearly says that what he planned to report was that Wasserman Schultz “is not supporting Holder,” which is different from “would offer The Daily Caller no verbal support…” One is a definitive statement of a position, the other expresses insufficient information. Not really the same thing.

So there was that, and then there were some reader comments on my earlier post telling me that I must not know how many reporters operate these days. One anonymous commenter advised me, “You need to survey the public affairs specialists on the crap journalists pull.”

OK. Challenge accepted. Public affairs officers, private-sector PR pros, and reporters too … comment here or e-mail me your stories at mhardy@fcw.com. Am I too idealistic about the high ethical standards of many in my field? Or are the senationalizers and ethically-challenged a rare exception?

If enough people have enough to say, I’ll highlight the best stories in a future entry and possibly in our print edition as well. 

Posted by Michael Hardy on Mar 15, 2012 at 12:18 PM4 comments