The 99 Percent

In late June, President Obama felt compelled to stick up for federal employees, albeit in a somewhat odd way.

“Are there some federal workers who do some boneheaded things? Absolutely,” Obama said at a town hall meeting in Minneapolis. The president recalled something that former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told him: “One thing you should know, Mr. President, is that at any given moment on any given day, somebody in the federal government is screwing up.” That, said Obama, “is true, because there are 2 million employees . . .
If 99 percent of the folks are doing the right thing and only 1 percent aren’t, that’s still a lot of people.”

Lately, it seems, there’s been a lot of focus on that 1 percent. Now more than ever, when federal agencies find themselves in the spotlight, it’s for all the wrong reasons—whether it’s at the
Veterans Affairs Department, the Internal Revenue Service or Health and Human Services.

Meanwhile the 99 percent toil in obscurity—sometimes deliberately so. For example, at the Central Intelligence Agency, officials have spent several years crafting a behind-the-scenes plan that could dramatically change not only the intelligence world, but the way lots of other large agencies approach how they purchase and use information technology. In this issue’s cover story, Frank Konkel reports on the CIA’s massive deal with Amazon Web Services to shift much of its information technology infrastructure to the cloud.

The contract not only opens up a whole new world of on-demand computing, it holds out the promise of transforming the way the intelligence community shares information. And if the holders of government’s most sensitive information can find a way to move data to the cloud securely, other agencies will doubtless feel pressure to speed up their shift to cloud computing.

In the other feature story in this issue, Patrick Tucker explores how the Internet of Things—with a host of new devices gathering and sharing unprecedented amounts of information online—is fundamentally changing the relationship between government and its citizens. That’s especially true at the state and local levels, where public officials closely interact with citizens on an ongoing basis.

You’ll be seeing more stories like that from Government Executive starting this summer. That’s because we’re launching a new State and Local channel on GovExec.com. Throughout the 45 years we’ve been writing about the business of government, the question we probably have been asked more than any other is, “Do you cover state and local government?” Finally, the answer is, “Yes.”

GovExec State and Local will focus on news, information and analysis about innovation at the state, county and local levels. It aims to facilitate the sharing of best practices and new ideas among decision-makers who are creating highly effective government programs, policies and institutions for the 21st century. Our areas of coverage will include information technology, health care, citizen services,
infrastructure, transportation, finance and security.

We’ve got a talented editor heading up the initiative in Michael Grass. He was a founding co-editor of
DCist.com, served as deputy managing editor of the New York Observer’s ambitious Politicker.com site (editing posts filed by reporters in 17 states), and managed local news coverage in D.C., Maryland and Virginia for
The Huffington Post. He’s building a team of correspondents to provide
coverage across the country.

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