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A Few of This Week's Federal Nominations and Confirmations: Good News for the Technology Industry

I've already written a bit about Obama's high level focus and Dr. Peter Orszag's confirmation hearing as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). However, I didn't want a few other points to slip through the cracks while everyone is focused on the economic stimulus legislation. Of the three positions/panels I'd like to evaluate, only the Federal Chief Technology Officer (CTO) remains vacant. Obviously there are still nominations and hearings to take place before the entire administration is confirmed and in place. However, over the past week, we have witnessed the hearing for Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) with General Eric Shinseki and the creation of Obama's Technology, Innovation and Government Reform (TIGR) Team which will shed some light on the role of technology and information technology (IT) in the new administration. I'll try to use this information to inform a few comments about the federal CTO as well.

Shinseki to Modernize VA

The fact that a retired Army general will be heading VA is already making active and retired military personnel happy. As for the IT industry, the Secretary's two main goals are update VA's information technology network and move toward an electronic records system. He understands and respects veterans and their needs as well as his desire to create a proactive, "21st century organization." Since we know he'll have the support of the Obama administration when it comes to technology, e-records and efficiency implementation, it is likely that we can expect Shinseki to have a quick and significant impact in the department.

Technology, Innovation and Government Reform (TIGR) Team

The new TIGR team has two main focuses early on: innovation and transparency. The team's goal in innovation seems to be two-fold. Combine members with both public and private sector backgrounds to evaluate new ideas and technologies while allowing government programs to place effectiveness and efficiency above all else. The TIGR team also launched the "Citizens' Briefing Book" in an effort to allow citizens to submit proposals regarding government policies, programs, etc. According to GovTech, the TIGR team wants to improve who the new administration accepts and implements IT but also support innovations as they come along – mash-ups and cloud computing – to name a few. Lastly, an interesting note. One of the potential candidates for the Federal CTO position, Washington, DC CTO Vivek Kundra, is one of the members of Obama's TIGR team. It will be interesting to see if by early February he has double duty as the nation's first CTO.

The Federal CTO

The rumors and murmurs continued this week regarding Obama's choice for CTO. I think it's obvious that the economic climate and stimulus package have trumped many pieces of the President's early agenda. However, we are anticipating this nomination to be made public and at that point, we will have analysis regarding the impact to policy, budget and the technology community. In the meantime, the Obama administration has shown no signs of shying away from topics such as Health IT, technology implementation and innovative solutions. Whether this individual is from the public sector or a private company, it is unlikely they will be a technology newbie. On the other hand, many agree it's also unlikely this person will have much budget authority. Marcus Fedeli, Business Architect at NASA (and my former colleague here at GovWin), wrote on MeriTalk.com, "The notion that the new CTO will be a budget-controlling, tech-savvy administrator of technology across all agencies is unrealistic." He says, and I agree, this will be a much more collaborative position which is meant to pass technology and best practices between the agencies, work with the CIOs across the board and advise the administration on implementation costs and timeframes. As the CTO is announced and confirmed, technology and IT will be a part of almost every strategy across the federal agencies. So the new CTO will be able to be involved in things like the economic stimulus implementation, energy innovation, and Health IT before they even begin to look at Obama's agenda for the position (wireless/broadband priorities, open internet, IT security). The agenda is certainly big enough, so hopefully this delay in naming a CTO will allow the right person to be chosen with the correct level of impact and authority to help promote technology solutions across all federal agencies.

$149 Billion worth of "Ready to Go Projects" across the U.S. Cities

Today the U.S. Conference of Mayors released the fourth in its series of reports on infrastructure projects that are "ready to go" in cities across the nation – projects that meet local infrastructure needs and contribute to local economic development goals, that can be funded quickly through existing federal channels and start quickly when funding is received, and that can generate the significant numbers of jobs that are needed to counter the severe economic problems we face today in our metro areas and our nation as a whole.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors reported that, in 779 (2% of all Municipalities; in 2007, Census reported there were 36,011 municipalities) cities of all sizes in all regions of the country, a total of 18,750 local infrastructure projects are "ready to go." These projects represent an infrastructure investment of $149,758,339,126 that would be capable of producing an estimated 1,604,371 jobs in 2009 and 2010. These are the cumulative totals of projects, required funding, and jobs to be created that have been reported in the four surveys of cities conducted by the Conference of Mayors over the past three months. The populations of the 779 cities submitting projects total 77,946,664.

SECTOR PROJECTS FUNDING JOBS

Community Development Block Grants

4,028

$26,507,901,425

385,256

Energy Block Grants and Green Jobs

1,378

$30,604,966,149

151,811

Transit Equipment and Infrastructure

807

$11,304,982,392

137,770

City Streets/Metro Roads

4,724

$35,954,375,822

433,574

Airport Technology and Infrastructure

529

$5,462,483,130

47,061

Amtrak

50

$1,194,260,000

4,583

Water and Wastewater Infrastructure

4,029

$23,494,889,132

271,429

School Modernization

1,066

$7,082,502,544

108,336

Public Housing Modernization

634

$2,474,602,762

25,160

Public Safety Jobs and Technology

1,505

$5,677,375,769

39,391

TOTALS

18,750

$149,758,339,125

1,604,371

Source: U.S Conference of Mayors

Below is a breakdown of the number of projects by State and total funding. GovWin reviewed and analyzed all 18,750 projects and determined roughly 762 projects were Information Technology centric (4% of all projects) :

STATES PROJECTS IT Projects FUNDING

Alabama

318

4

$3,675,415,952

Alaska

46

14

$415,682,000

Arizona

743

10

$5,574,052,875

Arkansas

199

34

$1,059,150,739

California

1971

66

$23,194,387,939

Colorado

201

5

$2,447,922,050

Connecticut

449

18

$2,650,247,918

Delaware

7

0

$52,000,000

District of Columbia

8

0

$91,700,000

Florida

1752

99

$15,621,854,723

Georgia

266

13

$2,622,606,849

Hawaii

316

18

$2,390,826,407

Idaho

348

6

$884,584,750

Illinois

1031

7

$3,109,044,659

Indiana

713

23

$2,598,965,203

Iowa

51

45

$185,815,080

Kansas

139

3

$528,306,308

Kentucky

524

19

$1,519,552,364

Louisiana

433

21

$3,852,297,626

Maine

72

12

$219,461,480

Maryland

54

3

$405,439,000

Massachusetts

266

6

$1,072,920,450

Michigan

782

22

$2,761,596,551

Minnesota

335

13

$983,556,873

Mississippi

552

12

$2,433,551,120

Missouri

403

16

$3,760,293,488

Montana

57

0

$249,272,000

Nebraska

154

13

$380,458,519

Nevada

163

4

$1,521,987,323

New Hampshire

0

8

$0

New Jersey

261

12

$2,685,299,407

New Mexico

215

7

$2,937,146,132

New York

289

12

$1,272,563,215

North Carolina

319

13

$1,976,159,268

North Dakota

61

27

$95,217,000

Ohio

847

4

$4,215,768,587

Oklahoma

223

1

$1,746,435,944

Oregon

159

12

$909,352,610

Pennsylvania

352

9

$4,448,759,122

Puerto Rico

340

8

$22,093,053,785

Rhode Island

116

18

$779,277,080

South Carolina

271

1

$1,462,423,970

South Dakota

30

5

$471,900,000

Tennessee

103

59

$338,370,000

Texas

1240

17

$10,772,423,091

Utah

298

13

$1,698,190,676

Vermont

61

2

$145,075,439

Virginia

400

12

$2,302,209,175

Washington

368

14

$1,713,748,644

West Virginia

1

0

$700,000

Wisconsin

358

2

$1,234,364,261

Wyoming

85

0

$150,636,500

Source: U.S. Conference of Mayors & GovWin

It is important to understand that the MainStreet Economic Recovery plan calls for funds to flow quickly and directly to cities through 10 federal funding streams that are already in existence; many of these have demonstrated their effectiveness over many years. The 10 infrastructure investments the US Conference of Mayors are recommending are:

  • Community Development Block Grants – CDBG would be used to create jobs through: the construction of public facilities and improvements, water and sewer facilities, streets, and neighborhood centers; the conversion of school buildings for eligible purposes; activities relating to energy conservation and renewable energy resources; and assistance to profitmotivated businesses to carry out economic development and job creation/retention activities.
  • Energy Block Grants and Green Jobs – The new Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program would be used by cities, counties, and states to create thousands of energy efficiency and renewable energy production projects. These projects could include energy retrofits of public and private buildings in local areas, installation of solar panels or wind turbines for the production of electricity on local buildings, deployment of new energy distribution technologies (such as distributed generation or district heating and cooling systems) that significantly increase energy efficiency, and development of systems to capture and generate power from methane at landfills.
  • Transit Equipment and Infrastructure – Transit funding would be used to purchase buses, street cars, rail cars, and other rolling stock and equipment needed to create additional capacity; help stabilize fare increases; and improve reliability. It would also be used to restore and maintain facilities and infrastructure in a state of good repair through projects that could, for example, expand station capacity, improve rail tracks, and provide customer information screens.
  • City Streets/Metro Roads – Highway funding must be distributed through the Surface Transportation Program (STP); this ensures that it will provide maximum flexibility to cities, counties, and states to undertake bridge, bus and rail, and road projects in metropolitan areas.
  • Airport Technology and Infrastructure – Projects funded through the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) would include runway and taxi rehabilitations, extensions, and widening; obstruction removal; apron construction, expansion and rehabilitation; rescue and firefighting equipment and facilities; airside service or public access roads; and noise mitigation and abatement (Part 150) associated with aircraft operations, including voluntary home buyout, which would fuel the local housing market, and residential and business insulation programs.
  • Amtrak – Amtrak would use infrastructure funding to make necessary upgrades to tracks, bridges and tunnels, electric traction, interlockings, signals and communications, and stations on the Amtrak system. In addition, Amtrak could refurbish rail cars that are currently in storage and return them to service.
  • Water and Wastewater Infrastructure – Local governments contribute 98 percent of the total investment in wastewater and 95 percent of the investment in water infrastructure. Water and wastewater infrastructure grants would be used to assist with rehabilitating aging water and sewer infrastructure, complying with sewer overflow issues, and promoting source water protection and availability.
  • School Modernization – Federal school modernization funds would be used to repair and modernize school buildings in both large- and small-city school districts, improve their energy efficiency, and equip them with first-class technology.
  • Public Housing Modernization – Public Housing Capital Funds would be used for repair and construction projects, including safety repairs.
  • Public Safety Jobs and Technology – Providing COPS hiring grants to local police departments would allow them to put additional police officers on the streets and in the schools as school resource officers. Additional Byrne Justice Assistance Grant funding could be used to hire personnel, support those personnel, and purchase equipment and new technologies which make law enforcement personnel more effective in their jobs.

The National Association of Counties released a similar survey on December 15, 2008. While the survey was not as indepth as the U.S. Conference of Mayors and did not include project specific details, the data was still very interesting. A snap-shot survey of 104 counties from 30 states reported that 2,805 infrastructure projects totaling an estimated $24.1 billion are "ready-to-go," which would create jobs and stimulate the national and local economies if funded by a new federal economic stimulus package currently under consideration by Congress. The responding counties represent more than 51.5 million U.S. residents or about 17 percent of the population. Projects in the survey include airports, housing, roads, highways, bridges, clean water, sewer, sidewalks, public transit systems, communications technology, county government buildings and schools. Key survey responses showed:

  • 868 road and highways projects totaling $10.3 billion
  • 218 bridge projects totaling $393 million
  • 68 public transit system projects totaling $308 million
  • 73 airport construction projects totaling $432 million
  • 187 water system projects totaling $1.2 billion
  • 124 sewage treatment plant projects totaling $1.4 billion
  • 258 school construction projects totaling $4.3 billion
  • 366 county building projects totaling $3.3 billion
  • 34 hospital and health clinic projects totaling $285 million

Read the latest GovWin Analyst coverage of Economic Stimulus Funding on GovWin's Economic Stimulus website.

Defense Satellite Programs: Lessons Learned from Navigating the Storm

The strategy of the new Presidential administration's approach to military funding has been revealed, in part, by the funding that has been approved for the Department of Defense (DoD) in the recent House-passed stimulus bill. Green energy Research, Development, Test & Evaluation (RDT&E) programs and Operations & Maintenance (O&M) programs have been granted $350 million and $4.5 billion, respectively, to help stimulate sustainable military technologies, provide for baseline costs, and support organizational redesign efforts such as the Department of the Army Base Re-alignment and Closure (BRAC) initiatives. The Senate's version of the bill, which will likely be voted on the week of February 2, includes Defense-wide RDT&E funds and an allottment of O&M funds comparable to the House bill.

Although such funding will be received warmly, many offerors are wondering where the "meat" of the funding is for new and struggling technology programs. Support of such specified R&D funding becomes especially critical for satellite programs, many of which are experiencing greater and greater bandwidth usage and greater projected demand of such usage; these current and projected needs cannot, in many of the Services estimations, be adequately met with the current systems. However, new satellite technologies can rely heavily on such R&D funding. A good example of this struggle is the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite program, which is meant to replace the DoD's current Milstar system. According to a March 2008 GAO report (GAO-08-467SP), R&D funding for the project accounted for $1,078.9 million of the total funding amount of $1,172.9, or 92%.

So what strategies should offerors employ to win business when they help provide cutting-edge data communications solutions?

The first, and tactical, strategy is to aim at sustainment and replacement of existing satellite communications systems. One particular program to watch is the Communication and Transmission Systems program, or (CTS) (GovWin Opportunity ID: 45253). According to the Deputy Project Manager, Defense Communications and Army Systems (PM DCATS), Mr. Art Reiff, funding for this particular effort is a steady target. Mr. Art explained, "This [CTS] is not a mission requirement, but rather a purchase to meet the majority of the organization's needs." Therefore, he states, the program is "predominantly funded by OPA and OMA funding, very little from R&D." OPA (Other Procurement, Army) funding and OMA (Operations & Maintenance, Army) funding are separate from the traditional RDT&E category of funding, and maintain a somewhat steadier flow of resources. Adding to CTS' attractiveness for offerors is the fact that the procurement supports a wide variety of existing systems and has a projected funding ceiling of $30 billion on all of the awarded contracts. According to the PM, these will likely be awarded by FY10.

The second, strategic strategy is to prepare for those acquisitions which are absolutely essential to the mission of the warfighter. Falling in this category is the much-maligned Transformational Satellite Communications System (TSAT) acquisition (GovWin Opportunity ID: 53286). The program has, admittedly, been off to a rocky start: there are three sequential phases to launching the system, and although the first, the Mission Operations System (TMOS) is underway, the second phase of Development and Production (D&P) and third phase of Systems Engineering and Integration (SE&I) are on hold due a restructuring of the requirements strategy itself. Despite initial concerns that AEHF would be supplanted as a stopgap solution in the event of a TSAT acquisition collapse, military officials at the Air Force remain adamant that this requirement remains more critical than ever to replace the Wideband Gap Satellites (WGS) and to assist the warfighter in receiving reliable, protected data. In a January 17, 2009 Air Force Times article, Gary Payton, Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force Space Programs, stated: "The uniformed warfighter is adamant about getting TSAT," he said. "I'm confident that commitment and support of TSAT will continue."

Louisiana Plans for an Electronic Behavioral Health Record System

In Louisiana, the state Offices of Mental Health and Addictive Disorders are seeking to integrate their information management systems through the implementation of an Electronic Behavioral Health Record (EHR) system which will enable the sharing of data across disability areas.

The Office of Mental Health (OMH) is currently soliciting a consultant to provide technical assistance in the procurement and implementation of an EHR. Proposals were due by January 23, 2009 and are currently under evaluation. The awardee will assist the office in writing a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the actual system.

Details on the EHR procurement (GovWin Opportunity # 53404):

Purpose: OMH is in the process of transforming centrally-managed regional mental health, addictive disorders and developmental disabilities services programs to locally-operated human services districts over the next three years. To facilitate the operations and reporting requirements of the local districts the Office is seeking to implement a standardized, interoperable EHR system.

Scope of Work: The Office is seeking a scalable, enterprise-wide system which can support the needs of community-based behavioral health services, as well as, enabling continuity-of-care with affiliated programs, including psychiatric hospitals and acute inpatient care settings. Further requirements will be determined once the technical consultant is selected and engages in the needs assessment and evaluation.

Funding/Contract Value: GovWin estimates the value of the EHR implementation project will be approximately $2 million to $4 million based on similar projects with a likeness in size and scope.

Dr. Orszag Testimony Before Senate Committee Provides Insight to OMB’s Changing Role

The Senate recently confirmed Dr. Peter Orszag to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), so I took a look at his testimony to parse out some perspective on what to expect. Paging through the inauguration address and days of Senate testimony for the new administration can create a list mentality, it is easy for us to list the different areas mentioned which will affect our jobs or our community. Orszag's testimony was a bit different in that OMB's role and influence is interwoven in many different areas of program management, oversight, budgets and contracting. Pardon me if this sounds like a summary of the main points of his testimony, but I'm trying to pull out the valuable information while staying true to his actual comments.

OMB Version 2.0

Orszag identified his top priority as government performance; proposing an OMB Version 2.0 "where the two arms of the agency" – performance and budgeting become better integrated. As we've been pointing out, the Obama administration and many Congressional committees will be requiring a closer relationship between funding and results. As such, vendors who can provide their government counterparts with on-going metrics about a program's performances, results, and projected spending will have a much easier time supporting their work before administration and Congressional officials. Expect a greater focus on hitting incremental, measurable goals rather than waiting for a final product, report or solution to be delivered before program success is measured.

4 Topics Prior to Committee Questioning

In his opening statement, Orszag also identified the key areas his organization is likely to prioritize moving forward. These 4 are: procurement and contracting, human capital, information technology (IT), and financial management. I will quickly identify the key points in each area.

  • Procurement and contracting – As the dollar value of federal contracts continues to increase (doubling in the last 8 years); the number of contract officers has remained relatively steady at 28,000. Orszag intends to improve the quality and quantity of the federal acquisition workforce. Secondly, OMB understands a need for technology to promote transparency in this area. Vendors can expect contracting officers to have quick turn-around timeframes for posting award information (and perhaps actually contract documents) to the web. A test run of this may be implemented around the economic stimulus spending, assuming it is approved. Later in response to a question he said, "It is absolutely OMB's responsibility to provide oversight and guidance on procurement issues."
  • Human Capital – As alluded to previously in his testimony, Orszag sees a connection between improving performance and balancing the capacity of the federal workforce. An improved hiring process is likely to try to offset the retirement crisis over the next few years.
  • Information Technology – According to Orszag, both the non-classified and intelligence community spend greater than $100 Billion on IT. As IT investments, these projects can provide much better transparency and interactive with the American public. "IT investments have not been well integrated into the budget process...and have often not been aligned with agency missions," said Orszag. Vendors should expect stronger management and auditing likely leading to greater oversight by all parties and an increased focus on cyber security in all IT projects.
  • Financial Management – Lastly, Orszag identified problems with improper payments, the need for recovery auditing and an overhaul of real property management. OMB supports stronger incentives for enforcement and is looking to aggressively explore savings opportunities. Looks for some of these opportunities to be in the area of real property holdings. Vendors can look for opportunities around the selling or reconstitution of unused properties as well as the need for better real property and asset management.

Lieberman: OMB and the Proposed Stimulus Package

Senator Lieberman (I-CT) asked Dr. Orszag about oversight and management of both the remaining TARP funds and the proposed economic stimulus funding. According to Orszag, OMB is considered special oversight and auditing processes. For example, a web site created to contain information about the contracts, potentially including electronic copies of the contracts themselves. Secondly, "a special board – an oversight board" could be created composed of department inspectors general (IGs) and chaired by the Chief Performance Officer (CPO). This board would be in place for review and oversight of the web site and ultimately of the spending reports.

Collins: OMB and IT investment Oversight

Senator Collins (R-ME) asked Dr. Orszag about how OMB can better exercise oversight to get IT contracts back on track. Orszag proposed several steps from personnel to process solutions. One of the issues under evaluation is whether OMB needs a Chief Information Officer (CIO) or if the E-gov administrator is sufficient. Also, IT investments need to be better aligned with agency budgets (as we heard earlier). Orszag said the Exhibit 300s are sort of in a world of their own – agency by agency and not aligned with the non-IT part of the budget process. He would align IT and non-IT focusing on what's being accomplished overall. Lastly, he identified the need for greater oversight and auditing of performance throughout IT investments and many other areas as well in what he called "sustained focus".

Overall, Dr. Orszag supported much of what President Obama has been predicting regarding reporting, accountability and transparency in the budget and contracting processes. I'll say it again - vendors should expect a greater focus on performance and results. Also, any increase in oversight of contract spending could great more delays or headaches for contracting officials if it's not also coupled with efficiency reviews. I would expect there to be an adjustment period while many of these new cultural changes take place.

Deficits and GOP infighting loom in Texas; Calif. is nearly out of money

The steady decline in petroleum prices was bound to bring Texas's economy down to earth at some point. Based on the Biennial Revenue Estimate and other official comments, the Lone Star State will need to address a $9.1 billion shortfall over the next 2 ½ years. Fortunately, the state has roughly that amount in its rainy day fund. In fact, Texas enjoys the single largest remaining reserve fund among the states. This money, combined with some combination of recurring spending cuts and revenue increases, should allow the state to conduct an orderly retreat out of its current deficit. However, Gov. Rick Perry (R) will have to choose his cuts and increases wisely. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) has announced that she will challenge him for his seat in 2010. The nation hasn't seen a gubernatorial primary between two colossuses like these in many years. The Democrats smell blood in the water with the "independent" mayor of Houston (a former Clinton administration official) testing the strength of his popularity in Harris County as a launching pad for a statewide run against what is sure to be a bruised Republican nominee.

A bit further west, the clock is ticking as California's budget approaches the zero hour. The state is facing something on the order of a $40 billion budget deficit over the next year and half. According to the state controller, budget officials have fallen back on "Plan D" and will soon cease payments the state's creditors. Earlier this month, the state scraped together $650 million to pay contractors, but $2.6 billion in payments remain outstanding. This situation is more than just a show of bravado between Gov. Schwarzenegger (R) and the Democratic majority in the legislature. Revenue increases require a two-thirds majority in the assembly and the Democrats are a few votes short. However, a few Republican legislators are toying with supporting tax increases in return for concessions. Will the Democrats make the concessions or do they see them as poison pills? Tick, tick, tick...

Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide: Offender Monitoring on the Web

My Post last week highlighted the steps some states have taken to physically monitor sex offenders via GPS tracking units. This week I will take a quick look at how all states have established an online method to monitor these offenders.

Stateline.org recently published a comprehensive study of statewide sex offender databases which details the capabilities of sex offender databases nationwide. As a result of the Adam Walsh Act (see: GovWin's report:: Sex Offenders – New Federal Mandates, No Funding, and Competition-Limiting Provisions ) every state currently has a searchable online sex offender registry. Although there are no longer opportunities for vendors to build these databases from the ground up, states occasionally release solicitations for upgrades or overhauls of their databases. For example, Nevada is in the source selection phase of a solicitation for enhancements to its sex offender registry, and Connecticut is in also in the source selection phase of a similar upgrade.

With states across the county facing severe budget cuts it is important to note that any non essential upgrades to these databases are likely to be cut or put on hold.

Transparency to Become Apparent?

In two memoranda (Freedom of Information Act and Transparancy and Open Government) published this Wednesday on www.whitehouse.gov, President Barack Obama made it clear that his administration "is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government." In order to obtain this goal, Obama plans on maintaining a Government that is transparent, participatory, and collaborative.

Along these lines, "all agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government." He further clarifies this statement by explaining that agencies should take a proactive approach to disclosing information rather than waiting for specific requests. President Obama also requested that the Attorney General review and reform current FOIA guidelines as well as review outstanding FOIA reports. The Director of the Office of Management and Budget is tasked with creating an Open Government Directive, which would provide guidance for agencies in utilizing technology to improve the public release of information. The Chief Technology Officer, the Director of the OMB, and the General Services Agency Administrator are directed to coordinate recommendations for the initiative by May 21, 2009.

The FOIA, or Freedom of Information Act (Title 5 of the United States Code, § 552), gives any person the right to request federal agency records and information. Agencies are required to disclose requested information except where protected by one of nine exemptions or by one of three special law enforcement exclusions.

Government contractors should expect an increase in transparency to affect them in two specific ways. On one hand, companies will be able to obtain government market information more efficiently. On the other hand, companies will need to increase their own efficiency in order to comply with the new FOIA regulations.

If this all sounds a bit familiar, you might recall President Bush's "Improving Agency Disclosure of Information", Executive Order 13392. Issued on December 14, 2005, the order was built around the statement that "democracy depends upon the participation in public life of a citizenry that is well informed." The order established FOIA Public Liaisons to serve as the public's primary point of contact for information. The order also required agencies to develop FOIA Improvement Plans to ensure that FOIA offices were "citizen-centered" and required the Attorney General to monitor progress of the plans over a 3-year span.

Now that the challenge of government transparency has officially crossed party lines, it will be interesting to see if President Obama is able to make further headway. With over 3,000 active FOIA requests, GovWin will welcome any increase to efficiency. Of course, in true FOIA fashion, I will require 20 business days to process my initial opinion.

Indiana Lawmakers Push Legislation to Halt Modernization Efforts until Problems are Fixed

Despite the Governor's disapproval, both Democrats and Republicans are taking measures to stop the administration's welfare modernization program from rolling over to the remaining counties in order to hold them accountable for the systematic problems with the new system.

Last week, state Representative Suzanne Crouch of Evansville introduced House Bill 1691 to temporarily stop the expansion of Indiana's new welfare eligibility program to the 33 remaining counties it has not yet reached. So far, the privatization rollout has spread to 59 counties. Governor Mitch Daniels, who is displeased with the lawmaker of his own party, argued that such legislation would be a step backward from what his administration has worked so hard to achieve with new technology. In 2006, the Daniels administration outsourced the eligibility process for Medicaid, food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to a team of vendors led by IBM Corp and Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) through a 10-year, $1.16 billion privatization contract. The modernization efforts aimed at computerizing paper records and allowing clients to enroll for benefits online or by phone through a toll-free call center, while reducing fraud and waste. Crouch, along with other legislators, criticized the transition to the new system as being poorly managed by the Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA).

Legislators in the local rollout areas have been receiving complaints on a weekly basis from constituents, hospitals, and health care providers about the FSSA call center, web-application system, and even the remaining FSSA county offices. The high volume of complaints is a clear indication that the system needs to be fixed before it is further expanded. The list of complaints include lost paperwork or the new call center system losing critical documents; delays in enrolling patients; and issuing conflicting information. Other complaints range from eligible recipients being cut off from benefits to people experiencing long lines and long waits for assistance. Moreover, clients went from having individual case workers assigned to each person's case to multiple call center representatives. Additionally, the new system makes it difficult for people with disabilities and the elderly to navigate.

Although the House Bill 1691 would slow the management of the state's 1.1 million-client welfare caseload, these systematic problems need to be addressed. According to Crouch, the bill is intended to hold the administration accountable for what they have embarked on. As per Daniels, who disagrees with Crouch, the customer-service problems can be fixed administratively rather than legislatively. Despite the glitches in the system, he intends to move forward with automating welfare intake in the additional counties and believes that overtime, the issues will resolve themselves. If the bill does pass, Daniels will have the option to veto.

Utah Considers Dismantling the Department of Health for Budget Cut Purposes

Legislatures are furiously working to meet budget cut demands both this year and next and some are considering extreme measures, such as the possible elimination of a Department of Health in Utah.

Republican lawmakers in Utah are considering dismantling the Department of Health and doling out the various programs and services to other state agencies. Disassembling the Department would save an estimated $1.7 million in administrate costs. Lawmakers are considering the idea in an effort to cut $50 million, or 7.5% from this year's Department of Health and Department of Human Services budgets, as well as, cut $102 million, or 15%, from next year's budget.

The Legislature is trying to avoid eliminating programs and is reminding the public that the Department of Health was once a part of the Department of Human Services. The Department of Health currently oversees the state's Medicaid program, Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), obesity, disease control and other public health services. The Department of Human Services provides child abuse, child support, mental health, and substance abuse and disabilities services.

Department officials advise against the consolidation, indicating that the reason Utah continually ranks as one of the healthiest states is because of the public health system. According to American's Health Rankings, a service of the UnitedHealth Foundation, Utah ranked fifth amongst the nation in 2008. Despite efforts to avoid eliminating services, some are on the table, such as reducing inspections of licensed child care facilities, closing a pregnancy risk line and ending an autism registry. If services are cut, the public will experience a slower response to disease outbreaks, obesity problems and health promotion programs.

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