Buzz of the Week: Papal traffic a mixed blessing

Most of our parents probably told us that an opportunity is an inconvenience well-received. They might not have used those exact words, but they probably said something like it. Perhaps they used the lemonade analogy: With so many lemons, why not make lemonade?

Officials at the Transportation Department made some lemonade last week by taking an inconvenience and turning it into a continuity-of-operations opportunity. How so? Well, Pope Benedict XVI was in Washington. Having a religious leader in the nation’s capital isn’t an inconvenience until one factors in at least 45,000 people gathering Thursday morning to celebrate Mass at the new Nationals Park baseball stadium. That’s great, except the new Nats stadium is located a few blocks from DOT’s downtown headquarters building. One can only imagine the logistics nightmare of DOT employees having to spend extra hours commuting to work.

But rather than have employees sitting in bottlenecked traffic, DOT officials used it as an opportunity to do something that most of us probably don’t do often enough — put its COOP plans to the test. The side benefit is that DOT employees got a chance to try teleworking in what we suspect is one of the federal government’s largest planned telework trials.

DOT officials said they beefed up the agency’s help desk to prepare for the expected onslaught of calls from employees, many of whom might have never considered telework a viable option or opportunity.
In a way, it doesn’t really matter how well the system worked. The agency will undoubtedly learn valuable lessons. We hope and expect it will share its insights.

When the agency is ready, it should serve lemonade for everyone.

Buzz Contenders

#2: Agency employees brace for change
Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) might be the presidential candidate talking about change most forcefully, but any of the three leading contenders will bring change. As with any presidential administration transition, political appointees will be leaving their agencies and new ones coming in.

It is the career federal employees who will hold the agencies together through the transition, said Andrew Card, former chief of staff to President George W. Bush. With their store of knowledge about their agencies’ operations, missions and strengths, these senior managers provide continuity from one administration to the next.

Card, whose keynote address closed the Interagency Resources Management Conference last week, stressed the importance of career federal employees. Agency leaders should think of themselves as lobbyists advocating for the importance of their agencies and educating administration officials about it, he said. “If you’re not invited, knock on the door.”

#3: Rising Star ascends higher
Jonathan Bennett might be at risk of overdoing it. On one of his first days on the job at Blackstone Technology Group, he came to work with a sleeping bag because he figured he might have to stay overnight. The company was hard at work on two crucial bid proposals, and Bennett wanted to make sure he was ready to stay as long as needed to do his part.

That kind of dedication and superior quality work was what made Bennett one of the Rising Stars of 2007, honored by Federal Computer Week along with other young professionals in the second annual award ceremony.

Now Bennett is ready to put his skills to work for his country. He is joining the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to work on project management issues.

By the way, nominations are open for the 2008 Rising Stars. Go to for a nomination form and more information.

#4: OPM proposes to add EA to specialty positions
The Office of Personnel Management would like to add enterprise architecture to information technology management specialty titles. It’s a bid to help agency recruiters meet the growing demand for expertise in enterprise architecture.

Nancy Kichak, OPM’s associate director for strategic human resources policy, said the change is largely a matter of expanding the range of work covered under the “IT management” job title. The change would make it easier for recruiters to write job descriptions. 

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