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OMB Openness Directive: The State & Local Take

John Slye of GovWin posted Wednesday about the "OMB's Open Government Directive – Beyond Transparency" with regard to Federal Agencies. These directives also involve associated overlaps that will affect State & Local agencies as they trickle down from the Federal Level. We have seen this trend in the past. For example, after the implementation of Data.Gov by Federal Agencies, individual states later adopted similar websites in keeping with the Federal Government. The OMB hopes to see States and Localities integrate the directives listed in the OGB in the future as well. Transparency made the Top 10 IT Priorities for 2009 by State CIOs, already illustrating the Federal Government's influence.

The OGD illustrates the type of out-of-the-box thinking that their CIO, Vivek Kundra, has a reputation for using. Kundra, as the CTO of the District of Columbia, tried a small scale open dataset experiment for the City in 2008-2009. Kundra created the " Apps for Democracy " program to find innovative technologies in what was termed the "digital public square." The first edition of this program yielded 47 web, iphone and Facebook apps in 30 days. By engaging citizens to help solve a city's problems, Kundra created a more efficient and impactful method for a fraction of the cost. Apps created solved a variety of problems, from finding carpooling groups to finding the nearest grocery store/cleaners. Other States and Localities, by using some of the Directive's ideas and implementing their own openness-driven dataset websites, could see similar such results.

For Healthcare the Open Government Directive could mean a healthier and more informed public in the future. Using open datasets, further analysis could be conducted similar to the "disease tracking systems" used by the Center for Medicare and Medicare Services ( CMS ). Our State hospitals could become collaborative and interconnected with a systems integration dataset. This could lead to more a more educated allocation of resources in hospitals, better patient tracking, and perhaps a greater understanding of uncured diseases through the collaboration of a national research/observations database. With states transferring over to Electronic Health Records Systems, goals such as these are very attainable.

For the Justice/Public Safety market we have seen interoperability measures taken very aggressively on the S&L level, from Consolidated Dispatch Centers, to Radio and Communications Systems. Much of the JPS data is becoming electronic, through Records Management Systems, Case Management Systems and Electronic Monitoring. The integration of multiple systems has been already in use by a State/locality and connecting them to a "digital public square" like Kundra did with the District of Columbia, and the possibilities are boundless. Through integration of the produced data sets from these technologies, enforcement officials could see trends and share information across the country easily. The Apps for Democracy Program illustrated just how much citizens could do in the JPS market with these datasets, producing many crime-related apps based on geographical region etc.

On the State and Local level, one of the major problems that could pop up would be the instance of few people able to manipulate and access the data. More people would need to engage with the information not for their personal benefit, but for the benefit of the public as a whole. If Americans are to take advantage of newly available data sets, community institutions need to alert them to the ways in which they can do so.

State transparency websites will be very useful to most people dealing with the Public Sector. The possibilities for convenient catalogs and live data feeds available to the public are endless in the realm of new technologies and metrics for the government. Through unique analysis and manipulation of the data, processes can become streamlined and more efficient. On the State and Local Level, research and studies would be less likely to be duplicated, and states could more easily coordinate their knowledge into time and cost savings.

DHS releases grant application guidance for $2.7 billion in FY10 grant programs

On Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano released their FY 2010 grant guidance for 13 DHS-specific grant programs. The grants totaled more than $2.7 billion in assistance to state, local, tribal and territorial, and private sector partners. The grants, like always, aim to fund projects that improve national security, enhance emergency capabilities, and assist in the preparation and mitigation of emergencies. The grant guidance can be found HERE and below is a list of the grant programs and their funding amounts.

-Homeland Security Grant Program- $1.78 billion and includes the following:

  • State Homeland Security Program ($842 million)
  • Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) ($832.5 million)
  • Operation Stonegarden ($60 million)
  • Metropolitan Medical Response System Program ($39.3 million)
  • Citizen Corps Program ($12.4 million)

-Tribal Homeland Security Grant Program ($19 million)

-UASI Nonprofit Security Grant Program ($19 million)

-Emergency Management Performance Grant Program ($329 million)

-Interoperable Emergency Communications Grant Program ($48 million)

-Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program ($33.6 million)

-Emergency Operations Center Grant Program ($57.6 million)

-Buffer Zone Protection Program ($48 million)

-Driver's License Security Grant Program ($48 million)

-Port Security Grant Program ($288 million)

-Intercity Bus Security Grant Program ($11.5 million)

-Freight Rail Security Grant Program ($15 million)

-Intercity Passenger Rail Grant Program ($20 million)

The total of these grants represents a roughly 13% decrease from FY 2009 levels. Priorities are clearly changing within DHS as some grant programs have seen decreases like the Port Security Grant Program, while others are seeing increases like the Tribal Homeland Security Grant Program and the Emergency Operations Center Grant Program. Vendors should work quickly with their public sector counterparts to ensure that applications are submitted on time as some grant programs have application deadlines of January 2010.

Dallas Area Rapid Transit receives grant for intelligent transportation pilot project: new trend?

The Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) has received a $5.3 million grant (along with $3 million of their own funds), that will assist in the development of an intelligent transportation (ITS) pilot project. DART was selected to be one of two agencies to receive the grant, the other being San Diego, and to develop the USDOT's Integrated Corridor Management (ICM) program. While ITS projects are not new, this ICM project may push more states, in more fruitful economic times, to seek their own versions of these systems. Coupled with the future smart grid technology initiatives, counties, cities, states and the federal government will have more connectivity than ever before.

Part of the reason for these pilot projects, according to USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood, is to "show the rest of the nation that bumper-to-bumper traffic doesn't have to be the status quo." Whether these systems can provide information to reduce traffic is yet to be seen, however, it is important for future urban and suburban growth to try new methods of transportation information.

Part of the pilot project includes a provision for a 511 number, which enables commuters to call for information about traffic incidents, weather and accidents in real time. Currently, GovWin is tracking the Texas DOT 511 initiative as well as a statewide initiative in Connecticut and Illinois. Texas' 511 system was in limbo due to budget constraints, but with the grant provided to DART, Alex Power of the Traffic Operations Division, may be the funding as well as the kick-start needed to move forward with the system.

While 511 traveler information systems are important, the larger scale ITS projects are really what provides localities and states with much of their transportation data. Since 2007, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has been planning a three phase ITS project. Phase II of the project was recently awarded for approximately $8 million and Phase III is set to go out to bid at the end of 2010. In California, where it's no secret that traffic is consistently an issue, the Sacramento Regional Transit District is planning to issue an RFP for an Intelligent Transportation System at the end of 2010. While these two ITS projects are at the state level, smaller cities also are looking to develop their own systems. In Michigan, Kalamazoo is look to implement an array of different systems including Automatic Vehicle Location and an Automatic Passenger Counting System.

Across the country, more states are looking to implement their own intelligent transportation systems that fit their needs. A city like Kalamazoo may not have the need for the large scale project Dallas or Sacramento may need, but developing these systems now, even just an initial phase, will bring these localities closer to a nation with a more unified transportation network. Vendors should begin to work with counties and even small cities, on ITS projects or at the very least assist them in the development of plans for the future.

OMB's Open Government Directive – Beyond Transparency

OMB Director Peter Orszag recently released an Open Government Directive to federal department and agency heads to build upon President Obama's January memorandum on Transparency and Open Government. Orszag's memorandum stresses the Administration's emphasis on openness by federal agencies based upon three stated principles: transparency to promote accountability, participation by the public to increase informed policy-making, and collaboration among all sectors to improve the effectiveness of government. As part of the effort, executive departments and agencies are required to take several actions that include increasing the amount and quality of spending information published online and creating policies that enable and solidify Open Government practices. Throughout the document agencies are encouraged to operate within a "presumption of openness" with how they treat their spending information, limited only by concerns for legality, privacy, confidentiality and security.

What to Expect in the Near-term

The directive outlines several requirements that agencies and OMB must complete within the next few months.

Federal Agencies

  • Publish online at least three new high-value data sets and register those data sets via
  • Create and maintain an Open Government webpage where their information may be published and feedback on quality, etc. may be received from the public
  • Designate a high-level senior official to be accountable for the quality, objectivity, and management of the spending information for their agency
  • Create an Open Government Plan that will describe how it will improve transparency and integrate public participation and collaboration into its activities.
  • Issue a framework for the quality of federal spending information that is publicly disseminated
  • Submit a longer-term comprehensive strategy for federal spending transparency, including the Federal Funding Accountability Transparency Act and the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act
  • Create an Open Government Dashboard that will combine agency open government plans, statistics and visualizations to assess the state of open government
  • Establish a working group that focuses on the three open government principles within the federal government to include senior level program and management office players from across government
  • Issue suggestions to agencies on how they can incentivize the development of cost-effective ways to improve open government

GovWin's Take

What is the Cost of Transparency to Agencies?

Throughout the memo Orszag encourages agencies to ensure that they have adequate systems and processes in place to support openness and to engage emerging technologies to increase communication between the government and the public. In an age of ever-tightening technology budgets it is unclear if agencies will be given additional funding to achieve these infrastructure changes or if agencies will be expected to shift funds from other mission activities. We will be closely watching the FY2011 budget when it comes out next February.

Reinventing Government Meets Web 2.0

Reminiscent of other recent presidents' efforts to improve government effectiveness (Reinventing Government under Clinton and E-Government under Bush) the Obama Administration's Open Government efforts seek to put their spin on the ball – namely, by incorporating their principles of openness into "the ongoing work" of federal agencies. Such a goal will require agencies to go well beyond improving the quality and quantity of data reported and building in a feedback loop for the public. Entrenching openness into the fabric of how agencies operate will involve an underlying cultural transformation that impacts how the government stewards the taxpayer dollar – not just reports it. This cultural transformation is much greater a hurdle to clear.

As local election season winds down, IT implications are clear

Unlike state governments, some city and county governments have runoff elections that can carry on well past the November general election date. Here's the rundown on the IT implications of some elections that have recently concluded.

Seattle, Washington
Challenger Mike McGinn won a closely contested race with another Democrat to become mayor of Seattle. McGinn campaigned on one of the nation's most technology-intensive platforms, including a pledge to answer the call of U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, for mayors take over failing school districts like Seattle's. He promised to blow the dust off Seattles plan for a publicly-owned fiber-optic broadband network, providing "Internet for all." He also called for intelligent enhancements to the city's mass transit system. He will use technology to make crime reporting easier along with public access to crime data. On the administrative side, he alluded to consolidating the city's major agency-based IT staff with the 200 employees in the city's central IT department and to open up all contracts to public bidding via the Internet. Zoning and permitting processes will be simplified.

Nassau County, New York
This county comprises a populous part of Long Island just outside of New York City. It has seen competitive elections between Democrats and Republicans for many decades. However, the incumbent Democratic county executive was upset by Republican challenger Ed Mangano, who won after an extended recount. Mangano's campaign platform featured his desire to fix the county's tax assessment system. He criticized his predecessor's investment of $50 million in "new technology" and "over 300 new employees" with no reduction in the annual $100 million assessment loss. He also promised to crack down on the county's "disgraceful" and "unforgiveable" tendency to hire out-of-state contractors. He plans to create an Office of Local Opportunity to increase the competition in the county's bidding process.

Atlanta is still conducting a recount in its mayoral race. Check back for the latest on that one (hopefully) later this week.

The findings in these races reflect national trends identified by GovWin. For more insight on IT implications of the 2009 city and county elections, see GovWin's recent national overview report on the topic.

States Continue to Struggle to Fund Medicaid

Despite the $87 million increase in the Medicaid Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) allocated in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) some states continue to struggle to fund Medicaid programs. These states are facing difficulties trying to maintain existing levels of health care services, not to mention address rising demands for coverage fueled by high unemployment and swine flu treatments. At the same time states are battling declining state revenues.

In North Carolina, state spending on Medicaid beneficiaries is $160 million over budget this fiscal year to date, which is approximately a nine percent increase over last year. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates the extra spending could extend $200 million above the $2.3 billion budgeted for the Division of Medical Assistance. The Department made $500 million in Medicaid cuts earlier this fiscal year in an effort to help balance the state budget. Causes of the overspending include an 11 percent unemployment rate and an average enrollee using four percent more in medical services than budgeted.

Oklahoma is experiencing similar challenges, announcing in October that the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) needed an additional $264 million in funding to maintain entitlement health care services. Lawmakers are uncertain as to whether the Agency will receive additional funding because of declining state revenues. At the start of the fiscal year, OHCA received $4.4 billion in funding, which includes $980 of state dollars and the reminder in federal matching funds.

GovWin's Take:

While funding shortfalls may continue to delay some projects, vendor technology solutions offering a robust return on investment continue to be evaluated. Health information technology (HIT) is expected to lead to increased Medicaid administrative and workflow efficiencies, as well as, cost cutting-measures and improved quality. HIT funding allocated in ARRA will be a major source of business for vendors offering innovative and effective health care solutions. Money spent on Medicaid can also help stimulate the economy; especially funding that is injected by the federal government.

A look at the Justice/Public Safety and Homeland Security market for the month of November

Last month, unlike October, the market picked up ever so slightly, even in this down economy. There was a large contract awarded in debt ridden California. Many states, counties and cities are still waiting to pass their budgets as they wait for various appropriations requests to be fulfilled. There have been some delays in grants being awarded and therefore many projects are on hold. Of course the lack of grants is not the only reason for projects being placed on the backburner – some localities are being cautious in releasing solicitations that may have to wait until next fiscal year before they are funded. Across the board, states are being careful, but when money does come along in the form of a grant, they surely are not afraid to spend it.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles for awarded a contract for a Driver's License ID Cards .The statewide license contract was awarded to L-1 Secure Credentialing, Inc. for $62 million over the 9 year term. The new driver's license cards are expected to be more secure and provide features that go along with some of the REAL ID requirements. Despite California's budget woes, this was a necessity and not just pie in the sky project.

California was not the only state to tackle their licensing needs. In Minnesota, the Department of Public Safety issued an RFI as part of the License and Registration System (MNLARS) project. Responses for the RFI are due in mid-December 2009, and the agency expects to issue an RFP for the system in the second quarter of 2010. Early estimates put the project at $30 million. While REAL ID requirements may being passed on by some states, it is important to note that states are still looking to increase the security surrounding license issuance and licensing systems.

Over the course of the past month, GovWin uncovered several new projects, including a number of radio projects, and 9-1-1 projects, along with a number of others. Here are some of those projects:

As we look to the final month of the year, many localities have a number of projects awaiting decision on contract awards. Many of these projects are reliant on grants and other funding. Just like in any other down economic time, localties rely on that federal money to purchase both their necessities and projects that may have been constantly on a backburner for years. The latter is still going to have to wait, but states will continue to issues solicitation, in the hope that four or six months down the road, and next fiscal year, the money will be available to bring more radio capacity, more 911 coverage or strengthen the security of drivers licensing.

Bringing radio communications to cell phones

Last month, CEOs from a number of different radio and other communication companies met with the Federal Communication Commission to discuss the possibility of putting FM radio receivers in cell phones. While this may seem like something that is an obvious technology for the future, this could add to the ways public safety communications officials and first responders handle emergencies.

While detailed specifics of these meetings are not fully known, radio executives apparently argued that FM radio transmitters on cell phones would enhance public safety as well as enable future updates of emergency warning systems through the use of radio and cell phone text messaging. The apparent cost of including such a 'chip' in cell phones would cost no more than $1 per unit, a very minimal cost for even more possible benefit.

Radio manufactures and other communications companies need not fret. Despite the possibility of phones including radio transmitters, there has not been enough evidence to show that a public safety official could replace his handheld digital radio with a cell phone with radio. While this type of communications would not replace radio communications, it could be coupled with Emergency Notification systems and other tools. Being able to send a message from a police or 911 center to all public safety officials cellular phones would be a huge benefit should other channels be disrupted. The enhanced cell phone radio would merely bring redundancy and allow for additional channels to initiate emergency warnings beyond TV and other means.

As cities, counties and states reband their radio channels in accordance with FCC regulations, new technologies were bound to emerge and provide additional protection and security. Rebanding efforts should continue and public safety agency should remain steadfast in their use of handheld and mobile radio devices despite this new unapproved, technology. If these cell phone radios are approved and become viable, then vendors can begin to speak with localities about the technology and move toward even more interoperable and redundant communications.

A Land of Legacy: New Findings Show California May Be in Need of Several Computer Upgrades

California, known for pumping copious amounts of money towards innovation, is currently working on a $6.8 billion plan, to overhaul their state computer systems. Numerous agencies across the state are experiencing increased difficulty in the functionality of various legacy systems. The outdated features of these systems, has led to not only increased expenditure in the areas of maintenance and upgrade efforts, but intricacies in money management as well. The slow-nature and lack of integrated databases, is perpetuating complications in financial decision-making. It has been reported that several replacement projects have been delayed or completely terminated due to competency issues.

There are several systems that are in dire need of replacement. For that, vendors are positioned at an opportune place in respect of upcoming request for services. According to officials, California's 1970 legacy workforce system is in danger of failing. The system is so old that state employees are unable to obtain electronic statements of their payroll history. A project known as the, 21st Century Project, and worth $130 million was supposed to have launched two years ago, but has been hindered by a lawsuit with the contractor. State Legislature is now considering termination of the project, and completely starting from fresh, however is hesitant due to the burden that may be placed on taxpayers as result. A project aimed at integrating state budget and accounting databases across agencies has also taken a backseat, as reported by the state Finance Department.

In 2008, California faced a $987.8 million penalty from the federal government due to failure in completing their Child Support Payment System on time. The project cost the state $1.5 billion, yet California still holds a collection rate of only 53.1%, according to the federal government. The state's child support database is expected to be part of the $6.8 billion plan. According to former Chief Information Officer, John Thomas Quinn, state bureaucrats show a continuous pattern of awarding contractors vowing to satisfy state requests and for the lowest price. Quinn exemplified how this often leads to a higher need of funding for projects, in the end.

California has recently received $60 million in stimulus funding, in which $20 million is expected to go towards a much needed upgrade to their Unemployment Benefits System. Though the 23-year old legacy system was expected to be completed last year from federal funding the state received seven years ago, the state will not face any sanctions from the federal government. GovWin is currently tracking the Unemployment modernization project here.