Two examples of why federal executive leadership matters

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The government can be slow-moving, but it’s not static — not when the people in leadership positions get things moving.

Here are a couple of cases in point:

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At the Small Business Administration, someone new has joined to run its Office of Women Business Ownership. It rhymes with oboe. The program started during the Carter Administration by executive order. It tries to foster women’s entrepreneurship with a variety of services, including training in how to win federal contracts.

In an interview, the new assistant administrator, Sery Kim, told me she’s there to reinvigorate the program. One way, she said, is to delve more deeply into the data SBA collects on women-owned businesses. She wants to better understand the patterns and whether business ownership is fully available to minority women.

Kim said the data show that of the businesses touched by SBA’s 7a and long-term 504 loan programs, 76% are owned by men.

“That data set is actually tremendously interesting,” Kim added. “That’s a data set I want to make more 50-50.”

Kim said she’s also launching a project with the Census Bureau to get more detailed data on women who both own traditional “storefront” businesses and who self employ as micro businesses or independent contractors.

“That’s the type of data we have not thought about in the entire United States government,” Kim said.

People serious about racial or gender equality understand that one of the principal barriers to wealth formation is access to capital. Kim said SBA wants more women to access SBA loans, but also “to feel comfortable in presenting their business plans, being able to connect themselves to a micro lender as well as a larger business that interacts every day with Treasury and the Federal Reserve.”

Will it work out? Too early to tell. But Kim sounds like a committed person and has started a business of her own. The daughter of immigrants from South Korea, she earned her law degree at 23.

Another example is Cynthia Daniell, who is working to change things at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, where she’s the director of research. A CalTech PhD, she’s worked in both industry and government, with stints at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and in the DARPA analog at the Department of Homeland Security.

NGA is discovering it’s getting tougher to maintain a military edge in geospatial intelligence. GEOINT has become a commodity, with dozens of commercial publishers of detailed data from satellite and other sensors. Commercial entities are launching dust clouds of cheap, capable low earth orbit satellites. Probably 90% of what NGA knows is available on your smart phone.

So, given what seems to be a fast deteriorating world political environment, the NGA director wants sharpen the edge and put it out further beyond adversaries. Daniell is therefore leading an initiative to bring new thinking in through research grants, contracts, and other transaction authority awards.

The broad agency announcement sounds arcane, and it has the ungainly acronym BIG-R BAA. Her interviews airs Monday on the Federal Drive at 1500 AM in Washington and online here. When described by Daniell, the BAA and its aims sound both ambitious and important.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Alazar Moges

The five Olympic rings logo — designed in 1912 by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, a cofounder of the modern Games — represent the five continents that participated in those games while the colors — blue, yellow, black, green, and red on a white background — are said to represent the flags of the countries that participated in the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm.

Source: Britannica