Category Archives: Government

America At Risk

Source: Democratic Caucus, U.S. House of Representatives, February 2008

In Congressional testimony last week, military officials confirmed America is vulnerable. The U.S. Armed Forces are strained to the breaking point, our National Guard and Reserves are stressed and depleted, and President Bush’s latest budget cuts in half homeland security funds desperately needed by communities across the country. Nearly seven years after 9/11, and five years into a war in Iraq that continues to exhaust our troops with no end in sight, America may be at its most exposed. As Marine Maj. General Arnold L. Punaro said earlier this month, America now faces “an appalling gap in readiness for homeland defense.”

Homeland Security for Sale – DHS: Five Years of Mismanagement

Source: Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

From press release:
Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released a new report entitled Homeland Security for Sale – DHS: Five Years of Mismanagement (PDF; 6.9 MB), an accompanying website, and a video created and produced by Brave New Foundation. The report and video document the past five years of the agency’s most serious problems and troubling practices.

Every day, the American people read new stories about DHS and its gross overruns on projects, the worst employee morale in the federal government, the inoperability of information technology, our exposure to cyber-terrorism or FEMA’s fake press conference. CREW is releasing its report to hold those who run the agency accountable for its massive failures and to spark a public debate about how DHS can and must be improved in the next administration.

In its report, CREW details billions of dollars in waste and mismanagement of taxpayer dollars, for example:
• $24 billion has been spent, and at least $178 million wasted, on the failed Coast Guard Deepwater program;
• over $600 million has been allocated for unworkable radiation border scanners;
• $1.3 billion has been lost on the US-VISIT program, which was never fully implemented and
• projected $2 billion loss on the SBInet “virtual fence” border program.

Hack, Mash & Peer: Crowdsourcing Government Transparency

Source: George Mason University, Mercatus Center, Regulatory Studies Program

In order to hold government accountable for its actions, citizens must know what those actions are, according to this paper. To that end, they must insist that government act openly and transparently to the greatest extent possible. In the Twenty- First Century, this entails making its data available online and easy to access. If government data is made available online in useful and flexible formats, citizens will be able to utilize modern Internet tools to shed light on government activities. Such tools include mashups, which highlight hidden connections between different data sets, and crowdsourcing, which makes light work of sifting through mountains of data by focusing thousands of eyes on a particular set of data.

Today, however, the state of government’s online offerings is very sad indeed. Some nominally publicly available information is not online at all, and the data that is online is often not in useful formats. Government should be encouraged to release public information online in a structured, open, and searchable manner. To the extent that government does not modernize, however, we should hope that private third parties build unofficial databases and make these available in a useful form to the public.

Engaging Citizens in Measuring and Reporting Community Conditions: A Manager’s Guide

Source: IBM Center for the Business of Government

Dr. Ho presents two case studies – one from Des Moines, Iowa; the other from Boston, Massachusetts – where government agencies and citizen groups reported their own or their government’s performance, respectively. While each of these cases reflects different strategic approaches, they both attempt to bring together what government does and what citizens see as being important in their community. In his report, Dr. Ho examines “how government officials can engage the public more directly in performance measurement and reporting efforts and how they can communicate more effectively about the efforts and accomplishments of public policies and programs.” The goal, he notes, is to “make performance measurement and reporting more relevant and meaningful to taxpayers.”

Full Report (PDF; 3 MB)

Wikipedia For Politics? A New Site Gives It A Try

Source: Declan McCullagh, CNET, October 9, 2007

A political Web site set to launch on Tuesday plans to become a kind of Wikipedia-like destination specializing in elections, governments, and political candidates.

The idea behind is to provide a neutral, one-stop source of information about politics (and politicians) to which anyone can contribute. Changes must be approved by a staff editor before they take effect.
Related sites:
From the Center for Media and Democracy:
Coming this Week in Congress
The 2008 U.S. Congressional Elections Portal
U.S. presidential election, 2008
See also:
Beta of LOUIS (Library Of Unified Information Sources) Database

U.S. Government Manual, 2007-2008 Edition

Source: Office of the Federal Register and the National Archives and Records Administration, Revised June 1, 2007

As the official handbook of the Federal Government, the United States Government Manual provides comprehensive information on the agencies of the legislative, judicial, and executive branches. It also includes information on quasi-official agencies, international organizations in which the United States participates, and boards, commissions, and committees. The Manual begins with reprints of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. The new edition of the Manual is available annually in late summer.

Taking the Lead: 2007 State Legislative Successes in Enacting Progressive Policy

Source: Nathan Newman, J. Mijin Cha, Adam Thompson, Progressive States Network, August 2007

On issues ranging from health care to clean energy to electoral reform to assisting working families, state leaders have stepped up and delivered often precedent-setting reforms. Even on issues like the minimum wage where we have seen some federal action, many states are still delivering higher wage standards and bolder leadership. And on other national issues, states in 2007 took leadership in demanding fairer trade deals and an end of the escalation in Iraq. The bottom line is that states are driving progressive change in the nation.

U.S.: State Legislation: 50-State Legislative Tracking Web Resources

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures, July 2007

At the request of NCSL’s Legislative Research Librarians (LRL) staff section, NCSL has developed this resource of 50-state compilations covering various issues that concern state legislators and legislative staff. Here you will find a topical, alphabetical listing of legislative and statutory databases, compilations and state charts/maps.

See also:
NCSL Legislative Research Librarians Staff Section
● Publications include:
Children and the Internet: Laws Relating to Filtering, Blocking and Usage Policies in Schools and Libraries
Legislative Research Librarians Newsline

Rediscovering Federalism

Source: Pietro S. Nivola, The Brookings Institution, Issues in Governance Studies, no. 8, July 2007

From the summary:
This paper stipulates that federalism can offer government a helpful division of labor. The essay argues that the central government in the United States has grown inordinately preoccupied with concerns better left to local authorities. The result is an overextended government, too often distracted from higher priorities. To restore some semblance of so-called “subsidiarity”—that is, a more suitable delineation of competences among levels of government—the essay takes up basic principles that ought to guide that quest. Finally, the paper advances several suggestions for how particular policy pursuits might be devolved.

The Blogging Revolution: Government in the Age of Web 2.0

Source: David C. Wyld, IBM Center for the Business of Government, E-Government Series, 2007

Dr. Wyld examines the phenomenon of blogging in the context of the larger revolutionary forces at play in the development of the second-generation Internet, where interactivity among users is key. This is also referred to as “Web 2.0.” Wyld observes that blogging is growing as a tool for promoting not only online engagement of citizens and public servants, but also offline engagement. He describes blogging activities by members of Congress, governors, city mayors, and police and fire departments in which they engage directly with the public. He also describes how blogging is used within agencies to improve internal communications and speed the flow of information.

Based on the experiences of the blogoneers, Wyld develops a set of lessons learned and a checklist of best practices for public managers interested in following in their footsteps. He also examines the broader social phenomenon of online social networks and how they affect not only government but also corporate interactions with citizens and customers.
Subject: Public Sector