This is the In Depth show blog. Here you can listen to our interviews, find more information about the guests on the show each day, as well as links to other stories and resources we discuss.
On today’s show, a look ahead to 2014. Federal News Radio asks various federal experts what they see as the top three issues that will affect federal employees and contractors in the new year.
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1. Human Capital – The President’s new management agenda is expected to contain a focus on human capital. Whether or not we’re back to “making government cool again,” the focus is the correct one. The 2013 PSC Commission Report identified a major human capital crisis in government. Meanwhile, companies face growing human capital challenges both in accessing the best and the brightest (made difficult by a certain antipathy to government-related work and growing price pressures that inhibit their ability to charge rates that are necessary) and in talent management (longstanding contract relationships are often built on a team of people the customer likes, trusts, and respects; but that also means costs continue to rise with normal and natural escalation. Hence, we see more and more cases where those longstanding relationships are no longer tenable from a business perspective.)
2. Technology Access and Application – The HealthCare.gov debacle is just the latest in a series of difficult IT programs. Yet, there are also successful efforts (Recovery.gov; others honored by GCN, etc.). While it is a shame that FITARA was dropped from the 2013 Defense bill, this is a great opportunity, given recent events, to take a broader, more holistic approach toward IT in 2014.
3. The Shift to “As A Service” – While inextricably linked to the two items above, SaaS, IaaS, cloud, mobility, cybersecurity, etc., will eventually reshape the entire IT services landscape inside and outside of government. But it remains somewhat nascent with many unanswered questions (security, pricing, etc.) for both government and industry. This shift would seem to be inevitable. 2014 may be the year in which much attention is focused on what it means, and many policy and business challenges it presents.
1. The Obama Management Agenda – The White House plans to release a four-pronged management reform agenda in early 2014 centering on the economy, efficiency, effectiveness, people and culture. While it is not clear if there will be many bold, new initiatives, there will be opportunities to refresh, reinforce and expand on priorities developed over the course of President Barack Obama’s first term, such as reducing improper payments and streamlining the granting of construction permits.
2. Implementing the GPRA Modernization Act – This 2010 law is scheduled to go into full implementation in 2014, with the February release of a refreshed set of agency strategic plans, followed by new annual performance plans and agency priority goals. This year will also see the first annual reviews and assessment by OMB of agency progress toward their strategic goals, along with a government-wide plan for cross-cutting, mission-related and mission-support priorities.
3. Tracking Federal Dollars – If Congress enacts the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act in 2014, it will affect every agency, grantee and contractor receiving federal dollars by requiring common data collection and reporting standards. In addition to setting standards, the law would require quarterly reporting and the public posting of these reports, much like the dollars distributed under the Recovery Act, via the Recovery.gov website.
The Army already knows its fiscal and strategic future for 2014. At least, the department knows what to expect from itself. Raymond Chandler, Sergeant Major of the Army, spoke to Federal News Radio’s Sean McCalley about the agency’s top five priorities.
1. Adaptive Army leaders for a complex world
2. A globally-responsive and regionally-engaged Army
3. A scalable and ready modern Army
4. Soldiers committed to the Army profession
5. Building the premier all-volunteer Army
Dr. Bucci has also served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense.
1. Mobile Computing – This is a continuing trend, but it will get even bigger (and harder) this year. More and more folks are “living”, both personally and professionally on mobile devices. The BYOD trend is growing too. So is the threat. Few have good security and too often they use insecure Wi-Fi.
2. Defense Readiness – Budget cuts and sequestration have bled military readiness white. We are still “OK” for now, but the differential between U.S. forces and potential adversaries will close, and that is unacceptable. Congress and the White House have to fix readiness while turning back domestic entitlement spending — the real culprit of our fiscal crisis.
3. Special Operations and the Connection Between Title 10 (military operations) and Title 50 (Intel operations) – As budgets shrink and there is no desire for big military actions, we will leverage special operations forces and Intel to protect our interests. This is good, and appropriate, but requires a deft touch and some “appetite” suppressors.
1. Implementation of NIST Cyber Framework – The “first final” framework is scheduled to be released in February with questions still open about what framework “adoption” means, how it will be “enforced” and what incentives will be offered to critical infrastructure sectors to jump on. This process is at an inflection point with NIST walking a tight rope to get it right and industry facing its own credibility issues if it stonewalls.
2. Reconciliation of Industry-Government Cybersecurity Information Sharing Against Political Fallout from NSA Surveillance Revelations – The issues of NSA “bulk phone record collection” and other broad anti-terrorism surveillance is negatively conflated with the imperative for industry-government information sharing about cyber threats and incidents. How will these issues be reconciled and what will be the impact on nascent efforts to integrate and automate some elements of industry-government network monitoring and analysis against cyber threats?
3. Federal Cybersecurity Management and Interagency Collaboration – To be driven by continuous monitoring and the Enhanced Shared Situational Awareness/Information Sharing Architecture (ESSA/ISA). The Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI) of 2008 called for stronger government monitoring and incident response tools against cyber attacks on the .gov domain, a requirement which has evolved into the Einstein/Domino and continuous monitoring architecture. The CNCI also called for the interagency community to “connect the centers” — the five cyber-operational centers across the DHS (US CERT), DOD (DC3), Intelligence (NSA NTOC and IC-IRC) and Law Enforcement (NCIJTF). This set now includes a sixth OpCenter – CYBERCOM. With both major CNCI initiatives beset by ongoing budgetary, bureaucratic, and cultural challenges, how will the interagency community make progress toward collaborative monitoring and incident response as mutually supporting activities?
Eric Wertheim is a former Pentagon speech writer.
1. Rebuilding Navies – The U.S. and many allied militaries spent much of the past decade fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In many cases, their navies suffered neglect at the expense of supporting those ongoing wars. These same navies are now looking to make up for lost time and refocus on their core missions like surface warfare, submarine/anti-submarine, naval aviation, and amphibious operations. This will likely be an important trend for the U.S. and allied navies as they look ahead refocusing on core missions.
2. Submarine Proliferation Around the World – The spread of advanced submarine capabilities and how that impacts the U.S. and other navies.
3. Chinese Maritime Power – How the world will be dealing with the rapid rise, strength, and assertiveness of the increasing aggressive Chinese navy and Chinese maritime power will likely be one of the biggest naval challenges that the U.S. Navy and our Pacific allies must deal with. As we were focused on the Global War on Terrorism, China’s maritime power grew exponentially and it is now exerting this power as it threatens, lays claim and seeks to enforce claims in contested islands and waters throughout the Pacific — I think this is one of the biggest challenges we face in the near and midterm.
4. Budget Cuts – How can we deal with all these naval challenges in the face of major defense and budget cuts?
1. Demise of the Federal Women’s Program – Since the inception of the Federal Women’s Program in 1969, the effectiveness of these programs was gradually eroded to the point of almost non-existence where many agencies are not even aware that they are by law required to designate a Federal Women’s Program Manager nor establish a program in their agencies. We are hoping to have the White House reissue guidance to all agency heads on the existence of this law and how agencies must comply.
2. Protection of Existing Federal Worker Benefits – Even though the budget debacle was effectively solved, there is still a great danger that stand-alone bills could be pushed through the Congress that cut or eliminate federal worker benefits, including pay freezes, increased pension contributions, COLA calculations, etc. FEW will continue to monitor these measures and fight against those that start to move.
3. Continue Promoting the Critical Services of Federal Workers – FEW will continue to educate Congress and the general public about the critical services that federal workers provide Americans each and every day in every part of the country. While we have made some progress with the public on the need and importance of these services, much work still needs to be done.
In annual findings that surprised just about nobody, the Partnership for Public Service released its annual Best Places to Work in the Federal Government study last week. The results showed that federal employee job satisfaction is at its lowest level in the survey’s history. Just two agencies improved their scores from last year and worker happiness was down in every single category.
Jeff Neal, Senior Vice President of ICF International and former Chief Human Capital Officer at the Department of Homeland Security, spoke to Jared about the results. Neal also writes his own blog on federal government HR issues that can be found at ChiefHRO.com and at FederalNewsRadio.com.