People on the move, events in the news

 

RECENT EVENTS

Roger Baker, chief information officer at the Veterans Affairs Department, is drawing on Arlo Guthrie’s 1967 folk song “Alice’s Restaurant” for inspiration these days.

At the AFCEA International Bethesda chapter’s Outstanding Achievement awards luncheon May 13, Baker called on government employees to “practice random acts of defying the bureaucracy,” taking a cue from Guthrie’s war protest song.

Baker received the Outstanding Achievement Award for a Civilian Executive. He returned to government a year ago after a stint as chief executive officer of Dataline, an information technology services and integration company. Before his work in the private sector, Baker was CIO at the Commerce Department.

On his return, Baker started to think about why it is so hard for the government to change. “We have to find a way to break the bureaucracy,” he said. And that's when he began to paraphrase Guthrie's song, particularly a section toward the end that urges draft resisters to walk into the military psychiatrist's office, sing a bar of "Alice's Restaurant," and walk out.

Baker said if he is the only one doing it, people might find it amusing and dismiss him. If two people do it — say, Baker and his deputy, Stephen Warren — then they will think it’s just two IT guys and ignore them.

If 10 people do it, then the powers that be might say, “What’s going on here?” And if a roomful of people defy pointless bureaucracy — well, then, that’s a movement. “The Alice's Restaurant Better Government Movement,” Baker said.

“We are the government,” he added. "We should want to change it."

AFCEA honored Baker for his leadership in helping to change how VA deals with veterans — from the start of their careers to their final resting place. The Bethesda chapter’s Government-wide Initiatives Excellence awards are presented to individuals or groups of individuals who have made outstanding contributions to activities that are significant beyond their agency or organization.

Will cloud computing make the information technology department and chief information officer obsolete? If not, it will surely change their roles.

After seeing how easy it was for a relatively untrained user to set up his own computer and define an IP address online without the help of an IT department employee, James Harvey, an enterprise architect at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, began to think that cloud computing could make IT employees obsolete.

At WMATA, there are people whose job it is to fill out paperwork that describes which IP addresses are assigned to users. “If that work can be eliminated and turned into productivity, that is a good thing,” Harvey said. Ultimately, IT has to be on the side of getting more value per dollar rather than on the side of people who fill out forms and copy them over and over, he added.

Harvey spoke as part of a panel discussion May 4 that focused on cloud computing successes, which was sponsored by 1105 Government Information Group.

The CIO's role is bound to change because “you’re not going to be primarily operating servers that you own in a data center,” said Chris Kemp, NASA’s chief technology officer and the force behind Nebula, NASA’s cloud computing environment.

“But I think the role changes significantly and will become more difficult," he added. "You actually might need more resources to pull it off."

“If you can’t provide a service to your employees for less than what Amazon offers, then they’re going to bring that into your enterprise,” Kemp said. "The role of the CIO is game time."

CIOs have to figure out how to deliver services for less money and more conveniently. As a result, enterprise architecture will become more significant for helping with problems of integration, interoperability and portability, he added.

COMMUNITY

The patio deck atop the State Department is always an inspirational spot for social gatherings in Washington. But the crowd that gathered there May 6 was the main source of inspiration as the government’s leading dignitaries came to recognize this year’s recipients of the 25th annual Presidential Distinguished Rank Awards.

Considered the nation’s highest civil service awards, they recognize an elite group of accomplished senior executives, scientists and professionals who serve the federal government.

The nearly 80 individuals honored this year collectively saved the federal government more than $49 billion, said Carol Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association, which sponsors the banquet.

This year’s event attracted a distinguished guest list of public servants, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who delivered the keynote address; deputy secretaries from the Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs departments; and the directors of the National Security Agency, Office of Personnel Management and Defense Intelligence Agency.

The Senate confirmed National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander to lead the Defense Department’s new Cyber Command, which will integrate the military’s offensive and defensive cyber capabilities.

In approving Alexander to lead the command, senators agreed by a voice vote to elevate him from a lieutenant general in the Army to a four-star general.

Alexander detailed some of the new command’s responsibilities and roles during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee in April. The command will be located at Fort Meade, Md., which is the headquarters for NSA.

Bill Piatt, former chief information officer at the General Services Administration, is returning to work at GSA’s Office of Governmentwide Policy, according to a news report.

Piatt is leaving his position as CIO of the World Bank’s International Finance Corp. to be director of OGP's Technology Strategy Office beginning May 24, the DorobekInsider reports, citing an internal announcement from OGP Associate Administrator Kathleen Turco.

Piatt, who was GSA's CIO from 1999 to 2000, is the godfather of FirstGov, now named USA.gov. In 2000, he prophesied that FirstGov would transform the structure and operation of the federal bureaucracy, FCW reported. He also said FirstGov would force agencies to be more open to the public and enable them to conduct transactions via the Internet. A decade later, both are tenets of the Obama administration.

Nine people have been named Outstanding Federal Employees by the Seattle Executive Board. The employees, called the Gettysburg 9, represent six departments and eight agencies, according to an announcement of May 5.

The team earned the honor by conducting a State Department Passport Agency Adjudication study, which they developed and performed while in the Graduate School’s Executive Potential Program. The Graduate School, based in Washington, is an independent institution that provides continuing education with a particular emphasis on federal, state and local government. The Executive Potential Program is open only to federal employees at GS-13 and above grades, and it graduates about 16 teams annually.

The State Department project lasted a year, and during that time, the team assessed the passport adjudication process and made recommendations to strengthen it. The department has evaluated the recommendations and is beginning to incorporate some of them into its strategic and operational planning process.

Florence Fultz, managing director of State's passport issuance operations, sponsored the Gettysburg 9 team for the award. "The members who came from throughout the country and represented many different agencies looked at our process with a fresh perspective, which generated some ideas we hadn't before considered,” she said.

The Gettysburg 9 are:

  • Ed Calderon, Federal Aviation Administration
  • Samantha Deshommes, Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • Jean Chaney, Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • Martha Medina, Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • Debra Fisher, General Services Administration
  • Keith Reimer, Marine Corps
  • Rodney Barnes, Energy Department
  • Chuck Kilgore, Energy Department
  • Brian Clark, State Department

Richard Pino, formerly chief technical adviser for transformation communications at the Defense Department's Space and Missiles Systems Center in El Segundo, Calif., has a new job.

Take a deep breath before trying to say his new title: deputy director for communications and networks programs and policy in the Office of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration/the Defense Department Chief Information Officer.

Brian Wilczynski is now director of portfolio management and enterprise infrastructure at the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration/DOD CIO, according to an official announcement. He was previously director of enterprise architecture and standards in that office.

Both promotions move the men into the Senior Executive Service.

UPCOMING EVENTS

Lt. Gen. William Lord, chief of warfighting integration and chief information officer at the Air Force, will speak at a breakfast hosted by FedSources as part of the organization's "Get to Know Your CIO" series. The event will be held May 26 at 7 a.m. at the Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner in McLean, Va.

Howard Schmidt, the White House's cybersecurity chief, will deliver a keynote speech at the 2010 Symantec Government Symposium June 22. The symposium will cover topics related to the need to balance the sharing of information with security.

The event will take place at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, with registration opening at 7:30 a.m

OUR EVENTS

The Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., will be the venue for two seminars in June. Cisco Systems will take the floor June 8 for the Cloud Computing Reality Tour, an interactive half-day event on how to migrate to secure private clouds. Vion takes over June 9 for "The Case for Storage Virtualization," aimed primarily at state and local governments.

For more information on these and other 1105 Government Information Group events, go to www.1105govinfo.com/events/index.html.

OVERHEARD

An anonymous FCW reader:

“We've nearly perfected security. Every time a new e-mail comes in, Outlook stops working to scan it. It may take 10 minutes to write three lines, but our security is good.”

A contracting officer’s technical representative at the Homeland Security Department in response to a proposed Labor Department rule regarding hiring a previous contractor's employees:

“If a group of contract employees has been providing marginal or substandard service, the last thing we want is to force the new contractor to hire the same slackers.”

Army Lt. Gen. Dennis Via, director of command, control, computers and communications systems at the Joint Staff, speaking at an AFCEA International event May 18:

"Sometimes new ideas aren't the biggest challenge. Sometimes the biggest challenge is getting the old ideas out. We tend to fall back on what we're comfortable with, but we have to think differently about information technology. All of the IT processes will be different tomorrow."

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