DorobekInsider: What happened in the federal government when we were away on vacation

Tuesday - 9/8/2009, 3:43pm EDT

Let’s admit it — we just don’t pay as much attention over the summer. But there were all sorts of things that did go on this summer — even aside from fuming at health care town halls.

But it actually was a somewhat busy summer.

I hope you got to participate in the fifth meeting of the Federal News Radio Book Club, talking about the book Payback: Reaping the Rewards of Innovation by James P. Andrew and Harold L. Sirkin. Joining us in Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Studio 1-A was the author, Jim Andrew, and federal chief technology officer Aneesh Chopra, who was the one who suggested the book. You can read more and hear the book club meeting here.

Some things that happened — or didn’t happen — this summer…

* No cyber-czar
One big thing that did not happen this summer — the appointment of the Obama cyber czar. In fact, it has been more than 14 weeks… 101 days, to be exact — since President Obama announced the creation of the post. And, in fact, one of the leading candidates — Melissa Hathaway — has since announced that she is leaving government.

* NSPS
The other big event this summer was all the brouhaha around the Defense Department’s National Security Personnel System. The Defense Business Board formed a task group to make recommendations on what to do with DOD’s controversial pay-for-performance system. Essentially, the Defense Business Board task group said that NSPS is broken, and it cannot be “fixed” but instead needs to be “reconstructed.” Read those recommendations here.

* VA IG report… and VA IT
All sorts of… well, stuff… going on about the Department of Veterans Affairs IT organization. A report by the VA inspector general found all sorts of problems within the organization. The reports essentially found that former high-ranking information technology officials at VA gave preferential treatment to certain contractors, engaged in nepotism in hiring and, in one case, took advantage of a relationship with a supervisor for personal gain.

Of course, it comes as the new VA CIO Roger Baker has been working to rework the agency’s IT organization. Earlier this year, Baker put a hold on 45 IT projects because they were behind schedule or over budget.

* GSA
Something that didn’t happen this summer — confirmation of Martha Johnson to be the new administrator of the general Services Administration — although we did learn that Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) who has put a hold on Johnson’s nomination.

But meanwhile, there has been a lot of developments at GSA. Among them… the merger of the Office of Governmentwide Policy and the Chief Acquisition Officer’s office… the appointment of Michael Robertson to lead those organizations — hear Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s interview with Robertson here… the appointment of Dave McClure to lead GSA’s Office of Citizen Services… hear Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s interview with McClure here… the appointment of Bob Peck to head GSA’s Public Building Service

* Recovery.gov
There are still a lot of people watching the Recovery, Accountability and Transparency Board redesign of the Recovery.gov Web site. But this summer there were — and, frankly, still are — lingering questions the contract award. Read more here.

I have also asked the editors of the government focused publications for their thoughts on the top stories.

I have only heard from Steve Watkins, the editor of Federal Times. His big stories:

The biggest stories of the summer for our readers were both agency specific: the Postal Service’s continuing financial flame out, and the near-death of the Pentagon’s National Security Personnel System. Both are continuing stories and we’ll see how they roll out from here.

Meanwhile, there are a couple ongoing governmentwide stories that affect our readers a lot yet have oddly not prompted many headlines (no doubt because they are far less flashy): the continuing quiet execution of the government’s gigantic stimulus projects and the gradual filling of senior leadership posts by Obama appointees.

Finally, the Obama administration has foreshadowed for us a few stories sure to attract much attention — big reform initiatives targeting the important areas of pay, hiring and contracting — but it’s still too early to see exactly where those are heading.

Finally, the Obama administration has foreshadowed for us a few stories sure to attract much attention — big reform initiatives targeting the important areas of pay, hiring and contracting — but it’s still too early to see exactly where those are heading.