Editorial: Relishing the spotlight

Clinton’s speech on government reform

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The operation and management of government agencies are typically not issues in presidential elections. Often candidates debate whether there should be more or less government, or whether government should be bigger or smaller. But the business of government is usually not a high-profile topic during presidential campaigns. That’s mainly because running on a platform of good government doesn’t win candidates many votes.

But the road leading to the November 2008 election appears to be different. Government performance issues could become fodder for presidential campaigns because of controversies surrounding the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, its conduct of the war on terrorism  and, yes, procurement issues.

A speech this month by Democratic front-runner Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) is the latest and most obvious example. Speaking at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire, Clinton outlined a 10-point plan for reforming the government. Like many such plans, Clinton’s contained some good ideas, including a proposal to establish a public service academy. Other ideas, however, were mainly geared toward satisfying political interest groups, including her proposal to cut 500,000 government contractor positions.

But because such issues will be in the spotlight, the government information technology community must be prepared to speak out about the ideas that work, those that don’t and what can be done to address any concerns.

We have repeatedly called for a debate and strong leadership on some issues, especially those related to the federal workforce. And although we do not believe the federal procurement system is broken, we agree that there is room for improvement.

The system has a handful of true leaders, people like Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Jim Williams, commissioner of the General Services Administration’s Federal Acquisition Service. And we were pleased to learn that Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) has been asked to come up with some procurement reforms that could be included in the upcoming Defense spending bills.

But the White House needs to show some leadership on this issue, too — something that hasn’t happened since Steve Kelman left the federal government.

The government IT community has an opportunity to share its ideas for making agencies more effective and efficient. If our community is going to be in the political spotlight, let’s take advantage of it.


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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