Government Executive posted an article on President Bush's call for the creation of a "Civilian Reserve Corps" "...to ease the burden on the military...". It was mentioned in his State of the Union address, Tuesday.
"Such a corps would function much like our military reserve. It would ease the burden on the Armed Forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them. It would give people across America who do not wear the uniform a chance to serve in the defining struggle of our time. "
There are many ways a person can serve his country. Federal Depository Librarians, for example. Or just an ordinary citizen taking up an issue, commenting on Rulemaking, and so on. Serving or supporting the military often is made out to be the primary way "to serve your country' but it's not. The military is just one of many --and certainly has the greatest sacrifice and risk. What would happen if we mobilized a "Citizen's Government Oversight Corps", asking people to serve 3-4 years engaging in executive and legislative branch activities?
I wonder if there are any implications of international military "law" involving civilians in harms way. If your adversary is using the tactic of terrorism, the theatre is anywhere. We already have a great deal of commercial interests involved in supporting military. This is just not enough, certainly in our present foreign adventures, and this initiative confirms our military's lack of resources to accomplish all its aims (at the direction of the current executive). I wonder where this initiative will go and whether it is wise.
Supposedly, the new policy is being driven by CRS management fearing "that the agency may come to be perceived as having an institutional agenda of its own or that its impartiality will be questioned by members of Congress".
That's a legitimate concern, perhaps driven from wanting to manage their reputation and the quality of their work. But, the author of the FAS blog entry suggests the new policy may have a negative effect on the employees --which may affect the quality of their work after all.
The Resource Shelf had an entry about â€œMerriam-Websterâ€™s Word of the Year for 2006â€, truthiness. This word is not new as it was voted the 2005 word of the year by the American Dialect Society.
My favorite new word for 2006 came from my work (I work for an aerospace company on a big defense program). A year-end communication from Program Management cautioned us to be wary of mosiacing our presentation content (read: Power Points) prior releasing them to the public. That is, we canâ€™t just re-use content that had already been approved for public release; rather, anything and everything must be submitted to a public release process.
Mosiacing? Was April Fools day coming in December? At my first reading, and after I stopped laughing, I tried to make sense of what mosiacing was and what the authors of the memo had against using plain speech in their communication --instead of introducing this strange, unfamiliar word for a simple concept. I also wasnâ€™t sure if they spelled mosiacing correctly. Could they mean mosaicing, with the â€œiâ€ and the â€œaâ€ reversed? And were they borrowing, re-purposing, a word used in a different context (in this case, art and design â€“as far as I can tell). And does the use of such a word help clarify the meaning of what theyâ€™re trying to say? Who knows. I doubt even the authors of the memo even know. The expressionationing of my truthiness over my confusionation to my management was high over their use of mosaicing. The use of the word mosaicing applied to public release of information also cannot be clarified by simple googling (another top word in 2006 according to M-W this year).
It seems making things â€˜clearâ€™ or to â€˜clarifyâ€™ something is a recurring goal for governments, corporations, and big defense programs (my program spends over 3 billion a year). I come across statements about clarifying or making clear something very often in my work. In fact, my work is all about making things clear: I am a policy analyst and deal primarily with Department of Defense IT and information management policies. I read the policy documents (memorandum, DOD Instructions, Directives, etc.) and try to make clear to my managers what is important of those policies in relation to our program.
We strive for clarity: work statements have the word â€˜clarityâ€™ appearing often enough to be elevated to the status of a 'power word' --its concept has importance but no 'clear' way to attain it. It seems that just by saying weâ€™re going to be clear, or say we intend to strive for clarity (suggesting that things are currently unclear and not moving toward clarity), weâ€™ll somehow arrive at it, becoming, perhaps, a CMMI Level 5 of Clarity Maturity Organization (that's a joke; there is no CMMI for Clarity that I know of).
Stating a goal of clarity but then getting the opposite result seems typical in all bureaucracies (government, corporate, and that weird hybrid, defense programs). I confess i have made statements like 'we need to clarify the refinement of requirements' or â€˜our architectures are made to clarify user needsâ€™ in my email and presentations. The 2006 report on government responses and preparation for Katrina, â€œFailure of Initiativeâ€ has a lot to say about clarity in language and intentions between government to government, and government to citizen.
Are we hopeless? I don't think so. PlainLanguage.gov , started around 1994-95, defines â€˜Plain Languageâ€™ as
Plain language (also called Plain English) is communication your audience can understand the first time they read or hear it. Language that is plain to one set of readers may not be plain to others. Written material is in plain language if your audience can:
â€¢ Find what they need;
â€¢ Understand what they find; and
â€¢ Use what they find to meet their needs.
In the world of digital government information, the kind I use and enjoy, I seem to get at all three of these bullet points: when I find what I need, it's usually understandable and it usually meets my needs. In the corporate experiences Iâ€™ve had, the opposite is true. As corporations do more work in place of government (literally, doing the work of government for a fee), can initiatives like PlainLanguage.gov help? Perhaps. Certainly, a resource like it take us a long way.
Although not a government info resource, this site may be of use to researchers, students, and teachers. George Mason University's History News Network (HNN) features articles and excerpts by professional (scholarly?) historians.
The authors range from left, right, and center. The siteâ€™s motto is â€œBecause the Past is the Present, and the Future tooâ€. They describe their mission in part being
â€œ(t)o expose politicians who misrepresent history. To point out bogus analogies. To deflate beguiling myths. To remind Americans of the irony of history. To put events in context. To remind us all of the complexity of history.â€
The lead editor is Richard Shenkman of George Mason University, author of several books of history --notably â€œLegends, Lies, and Cherished Myths of American Historyâ€.
The current Most Popular Article: Richard K. Neumann Jr.: "The Myth That "Eight Battleships Were Sunk" At Pearl Harbor". The All-Time Favorite is "What Is the Difference Between Sunni and Shiite Muslims--and Why Does It Matter?" (written in 2002).
One of the documents included in the presidentâ€™s FY 2004 budget declared â€œâ€¦we are no closer to measurable accountability than in President Johnsonâ€™s dayâ€(48). In the budget for that year, the OMB (Office of Management and Budget) showed how they were addressing this problem with something called the Program Assessment Rating Tool, or PART.
PART was initially developed in 2002 (from what Iâ€™ve been able to determine). By 2004, its performance rating assessments were growing in numbers of programs assessed and in influencing budgeting decisions.It is a questionnaire executed by the OMB and the agency whose program is being assessed. The questions are in weighted into four categories: Program Purpose & Design (20%), Planning (10%), Management (20%), Results (50%).
PART questions are designed for short answers and are to be accompanied with supporting evidence (or other details when applicable). Lack of supporting detail for an answer may result in a disfavorable score for a particular question. PART answers determine a programâ€™s overall rating. An important objective of the PART assessment process is to help an agency develop an improvement plan for a program â€“which is then used to evaluate performance in subsequent evaluations. A PART assessment should help clarify a programâ€™s purpose, design, planning, management, results, and accountability and help decision makers (and citizens) determine its overall effectiveness.
There are seven types of programs eligible for PART, including Direct Federal, Competitive Grant, Block/Formula Grant, and Capital Assets and Service Acquisition (like big-budget defense acquisitions). Programs were initially to be assessed every five years. The FAQ on the OMB page has more detail.
Citizens can get PART assessments from Expectmore.gov. The site was launched formally by the OMB in April of this year(the site was initially launched in February). By making assessments of Federal programs based on PART results available to the public, it is believed such public accountability for performance increases transparency and help us judge whether a program is using resources effectively.
Programs have two categories of ratings, â€œPerformingâ€ (broken down into three sub-categories of â€œEffectiveâ€, â€œModerately Effectiveâ€, or â€œAdequateâ€) and â€œNot Performingâ€ (as either â€œIneffectiveâ€ or â€œResults Not Demonstratedâ€). Currently, according to PART assessment results of about 800 programs,
- 72% of Federal programs are â€œPerformingâ€:
- 15% of Federal programs are Effective (meaning these programs set â€œambitious goals, achieve results, are well-managed and improve efficiencyâ€).
- 29% of Federal programs are Moderately Effective.
- 28% of Federal programs are Adequate.
- 28% of Federal programs are â€œNot Performingâ€:
- 4% of Federal programs are Ineffective (meaning these programs have been judged to be â€œunable to achieve results due to a lack of clarity regarding the program's purpose or goals, poor management, or some other significant weaknessâ€). Some examples of â€œIneffectiveâ€ programs are the â€œEPA Ecological Researchâ€ and Amtrak .
- 24% of Federal programs are Results Not Demonstrated. Includes those programs which were not able to collect adequate data.
The answers to PART questionnaires for an individual program are available on expectmore.gov. From the main page click on either â€œShow me the programs that are Performingâ€ or â€œNot Performingâ€. These results you have to scroll thru as these query results are not downloadable to Excel for quicker sorting (however, you can get a dump of all programs, ratings, and recent funding information based on FY 2007 requests on the â€œFunding information for each programâ€ link). Next, select a program and bring up its assessment page; at the bottom of the page is a â€œLearn Moreâ€ link on the left and a â€œAssessment Details, Funding, and Improvement Planâ€ link to the right of that. Each assessment has a link to a â€œProgram Performance Measuresâ€ and â€œProgram Improvement Plansâ€ (every program has an improvement plan regardless of its rating being â€œEffectiveâ€ or â€œNot Effectiveâ€).
The Resource Shelf posted an item today about a tutorial for web research by Intute (UK). It has a variety tutorials for researching certain topics but with free web-based resources. These short tutorials are by subject experts from colleges in the United Kingdom.
I took a look at the one for "Government and Politics". It was fun because it took me to resources I didn't know existed! One of which was "House of Commons Library Research Papers" (which reminded me of CRS reports). I scanned the titles and found "The WTO Doha Development Round: where next for world trade?".
At first, it kind of made me think of it being a kind of dmoz.org with a shopping cart. That is, as I went thru the tutorial screens, I was supposed to click on icons next to a resource name thus adding the links to a shopping cart to look at later. I found an Index of Political Blogswith about 800 links to blogs from UK, US, and Australia. I guess now I have something to look at while I am on Christmas vacation!
The tutorial hints and guides are appropriate for students. It's also a nice tool to get folks who maybe use only google or other search engines for research.
A friend of mine in the military, who served recently in the â€œEastern Theatreâ€ (Afghanistan/Iraq), told me about a potential personnel crisis for the Army due to its extended mission in Iraq and Afghanistan. My friend said:
"The Army is increasingly turning over duties to civilian contractors, which would normally do routine duties (recruiting, mentoring, military advisers, maintenance, food service, security, etc.). Some even wear the same uniform, although they don't get the same pay, no retirement points, just a civilian job in military uniform. If we counted our civilian hire into military numbers, I suspect the numbers would be approaching previous Desert Storm levels, although at a higher price. Lower pay for the personnel, although higher administrative costs."
What my friend is pointing out may be part of the effects of some of the latest transformation of DoD policy. According to the 2006 issuance of the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), Contractors and Civilians are critical to the 21st century warfighting capabilities. The QDR defined the â€œTotal Forceâ€ as â€œActive Component, Reserve Component, civilians and contractorsâ€. This may be nothing new as private companies have often supported military operations in the theatre. But many of us may not be aware that Civilians and Contractors are now factored in as part of our war plans. The Defense Instruction â€œContractor Personnel Authorized to Accompany U.S. Armed Forcesâ€ (Oct 3, 2005) explains the implementation of this policy.
The Defense Acquisition University (DAU) has some interesting resources on this. Check out the training module, "CLC 112: Contractors Accompanying the Force" (recently modified October 16, 2006). It â€œâ€¦addresses the roles and responsibilities of the Commander in planning for the use of contractors authorized to accompany the U.S. armed forces, with a focus on the guidance in DoDI 3020.41, Contractor Personnel Authorized to Accompany the U.S. Armed Forcesâ€.
Also on the DAU site is the paper â€œContractors in the 21st Century "Combat Zoneâ€ by Richard L. Dunn for the Center for Public Policy and Private Enterprise School of Public Policy, (uploaded to the DAU site on Wednesday, April 27, 2005). This resources is 117 pages and concludes
"The research found there had been a lag in updating policy and doctrine based on lessons learned and that on occasion a â€œbusiness as usualâ€ approach has decreased the efficiency of contracted contingency support. Serious deficiencies in organization and training for contingency contracting in support of joint operations persist. Contracting in a stressful environment has demonstrated the inadequacy of certain government contracting procedures."
As the presence of Civilians and Contractors grows in military operations, especially in support of Iraq missions, how to find out about the policies governing their roles and expectations may become more important. For that, a very rich resource on this topic is the "Contractors on the Battlefield Resource Library" available on the Army Sustainment Command: "The purpose of this site is to accumulate and offer materials helpful to the resolution of legal issues arising from the in-theater use of contractor support to military operations."
What is the â€˜Global Information Gridâ€™, what is â€˜Net Centricityâ€™ (or â€˜Network Centricâ€™), and why is it important to the Department of Defense? A starting point to answer those questions is the DoD CIOâ€™s Strategic Plan, released in October of this year, and The DoD Chief Information Officerâ€™s (John G. Grimes) home page. (I went to the Publications and Articles page to find the things I am sharing, today.) From these two resources you can get at the basics of the DODâ€™s IT transformation -- perhaps the biggest and most ambitious e-Government transformation ever undertaken.
In one sense, the Global Information Grid (or â€œGIGâ€) can be thought of as an organizing concept, an abstraction, enabling the DOD CIO to frame and communicate the departmentâ€™s plans, architecture, and policies for the transformation of its information technology of the future. The GIG consists of everything that DOD IT touches: Capabilities (including weapons systems and programs), Portfolio Management, Governance, Funding and Policy.
A DoD Directive from September 2002 established the Global Information Grid Overarching Policy (available on the DTIC site). That policy statement implements Section 2223 of title 10, United States Code, (b) Section 1401 et seq. of title 40, United States Code, and applies to all DOD components, IT operations, and DoD Acquisitions and procurements of â€œGIGâ€ assets. It contains the formal definition of the GIG as â€œThe globally interconnected, end-to-end set of information capabilities, associated processes, and personnel for collecting, processing, storing, disseminating and managing information on demand to warfighters, policy makers, and support personnel.â€ The GIG is not just the "Global Information Google" for the DOD: it is a Big Deal to the department and it affects how it does its business.
â€œNet Centricityâ€ has taken on a kind of buzz-word status. But what it was intended to be was a transformational way of doing things with information in the DOD. Net Centricity is to the GIG what a frame is to a building: it should enable all the parts of the house to connect together. The DoD CIO vision of net centricity is based on the assumption that information is a force multiplier, a source of power. If shared effectively, â€œ(i)nformation can be leveraged to allow decision makers at all levels to make better decisions faster and act sooner. Ensuring timely and trusted information is available where it is needed, when it is needed, and to those who need it most is at the heart of the capability needed to conduct Network-Centric Operations (NCO).â€ Net Centricity should move the department from dependency on systems and operations â€œbased on individually engineered and predetermined interfacesâ€ to an enterprise that â€œensures that a user at any level can both â€˜take what he needsâ€™ and â€˜contribute what he knowsâ€™â€. (See â€œThe Power of Information â€“ Overviewâ€).