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A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

Email Is Dangerous

One week ago, a group of European security researchers warned that two obscure encryption schemes for email were deeply broken. Those schemes, called OpenPGP and S/mime, are not the kinds of technologies you’re using but don’t know it. They are not part of the invisible and vital internet infrastructure we all rely on.

This isn’t that kind of story.

The exploit, called Efail by the researchers who released it, showed that encrypted (and therefore private and secure) email is not only hard to do, but might be impossible in any practical way, because of what email is at its core. But contained in the story of why these standards failed is the story of why email itself is the main way we get hacked, robbed, and violated online. The story of email is also the story of how we lost our so much of our privacy, and how we might regain it.

OpenPGP is hard to use, and S/mime can only be maintained by IT departments. These tools were never popular, will never be popular, and don’t even encrypt most of the metadata leaked by email. Most stories about these encryption schemes have focused...

OMB Wants To Strengthen a Learning Culture in Government

Amazon, Apple and Google are examples of Fortune 500 companies that are known as learning organizations. They relentlessly pursue knowledge creation and transfer, leading to improvements in products and practices. By actively managing their institutional learning, they serve their customers’ needs—and their bottom lines.

In government, on the other hand, deliberative strategic planning around learning happens far too rarely. Even though the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act requires agencies to develop strategic plans, its implementation has never met the original expectations. There are good reasons why learning approaches differ between the public and private sectors, but every organization can learn and apply that knowledge to improve results.

A few federal agencies are showing that it can be done. The Labor Department, for example, requires its operating agencies to develop learning agendas that identify high-priority research studies that those agencies would like to have done. The U.S. Agency for International Development launched a learning office with agencywide policies that encourage grantees to develop learning plans. And in just the last two years, the Small Business Administration has made notable progress, launching an evaluation office and creating an agencywide learning agenda.

Fortunately, more agencies may soon be catching up...

These Two Activities Can Improve The Mind And Body

A meditation and stress reduction program may be as effective at getting people to move more as structured exercise programs, according to new research.

And for people with depression, a second study points to the benefits of resistance training.

The first study compared two intervention programs—mindfulness-based stress reduction and aerobic exercise training—with a control group and measured changes in exercise, general physical activity, and sedentary time. Jacob Meyer, an assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University, says people assigned to the two interventions were more active than those in the control group, logging roughly an extra 75 minutes a week of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity following the eight-week interventions. The results appear in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Meyer and his colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Mississippi Medical Center say helping sedentary adults get those 75 minutes of exercise can extend life expectancy by nearly two years. Researchers expected the exercise intervention to increase physical activity more than the meditation training.

Meyer says it was somewhat surprising to see similar results from the mindfulness intervention. “Structured exercise training is something as a field we have used for decades to improve physical activity...

Why Introverts Might Actually Be Better Networkers

“I’m an introvert,” someone inevitably tells me when I speak about building a professional network. “Networking is just not for me.” These people assume networking belongs solely in the domain of the extroverts.

Presumably, extroverts are more excited by going to mixers and events and meeting new people. But recent research from the world of network science suggests that introverts might actually be the better networkers.

To understand why, we first have to debunk a common misconception about introverts: They don’t hate people. They just prefer to interact with them differently than extroverts do. The series of small chit-chat conversations that are so common at networking events might, for an introvert, be draining. Instead, introverts crave deep and meaningful conversations. And this preference can actually be an advantage when it comes to networking. 

Research from the domain of network science, psychology, and other social sciences implies that we prefer relationships where there is more than one context for connecting with other people. We want to know more about them than we learn from superficial questions such as “who are you and what do you do?” We want to know more than their thoughts on the weather. We want...

Do Your Programs Still Fit?

From President Ronald Reagan’s Grace Commission to President Bill Clinton’s National Performance Review to various presidents’ management agendas, administrations for decades have been trying to reform government programs. Add to those endeavors the efforts of multiple congressional oversight committees, the Government Accountability Office, agency inspectors general and a host of performance officers, councils and commissions, and you will conclude the federal government has more oversight than any entity on Earth. Yet proper program alignment, along with efficiency and effectiveness, remain elusive.

While all the initiatives and oversight have contributed to an environment of reform, they have yet to create a culture of reform, or a structured process by which reform may be achieved. An efficiency and effectiveness approach for each program can be defined, but before government can begin to address that, it must first determine program fit: Is the program a proper function for the federal government and should it continue to exist in its current form? To assess fit, officials must identify and review, in an unbiased way, each program in their inventory to determine its efficacy.

Every year, the chief operating officer of each agency should schedule and review a selected number of programs to...