Editor's Notebook

tclark@govexec.com

Timothy B. Clark

The third annual Government Technology Leadership Institute is a month away. Sponsored by Government Executive, the Council for Excellence in Government and the Brookings Institution, among others, this educational event is designed to give senior agency managers a quick course in what they should know about technology's continuing conquest of government.

It's a truism to say that federal agencies are vitally dependent on technology to keep pace with the demand for better service. But it is equally clear that many of them are far behind the curve. Everyone knows technology horror stories about such major agencies as the IRS and the Health Care Financing Administration, and for every one of these, there are a dozen lesser-known tales of missed opportunities, wasted spending and deepening obsolescence. Congress (and common sense) has ordained that technology programs are now the province of program managers and other agency leaders, not the exclusive preserve of technical specialists. The Institute's program addresses this audience-and the conference promotes a fuller conversation between managers and their technology advisers.

Making this connection is critical to any hopes government may have of gaining public esteem. Government, as Harvard University's Elaine Kamarck has said, is suffering from a performance deficit in comparison to the private sector. Kamarck, who served for years as Vice President Al Gore's senior policy adviser, observes that in the 1950s and 1960s, "when trust in government was high, your experience as an individual interacting with government was likely to be similar to your experience interacting with a bank, a department store, or a private insurance company. You had to go to businesses or government agencies during certain hours. Both used paper-based systems, and so on.

"When America's private sector began to change-to be more customer-friendly and responsive, and better able to tailor responses to you-the government didn't change. Certainly by the end of the '80s, you have a very responsive, adaptive private sector that is always anxious to meet you halfway, and to fulfill your needs for the right price. But the public sector is still pretty much on the one-size-fits-all model: Do things on our schedule, on paper, between 9 and 5. The disparity between what people see in the private sector and in the public sector has contributed to the growing distrust in government."

Here's an example of Kamarck's point. Last month, when agencies began to release their lists of jobs that could be outsourced, as required by the Federal Activities Inventory Reform Act, no central agency put them all together for easy use. The only central source for the data as of mid-October was our own Web site, GovExec.com. Another piece of evidence: Federal executives, Brian Friel reports this month in his story on agencies' use of the Web, are generally not convinced that Web projects are worth more than a modest investment.

Good reasons, it seems to me, to consider attending the Government Technology Leadership Institute Dec. 1-2. How can you find out more about the program? On the Web, of course, at www.govexec.com/gtli. Or, if your browser is broken, you can retreat to the old-tech solution by calling (703) 288-3035.

Tim sig2 5/3/96
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    View
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    View
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    View
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    View
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    View
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    View
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    View

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.