Can the U.S. Government Get Its DATA Act Together?

By Jennifer Belissent // October 21, 2014


Jennifer Belissent is a principal analyst at Forrester Research, where she works with government CIOs.

The full promise of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act Act -- DATA Act for short -- won’t be realized anytime soon.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Many agencies are in no position to comply just yet. According to a recent US Government Accountability Office report on data transparency, agencies' track records for data quality and publication leave much to be desired.

For example, agencies failed to report nearly $620 billion in grants, loans or other assistance awards, and data reported was often inconsistent and incomplete. As a result, the GAO recommended "a more comprehensive oversight process" and "more specific guidance" on validating data.

Passage of the DATA Act came at the right time.

The law aims to improve public access to federal spending information, in part, through putting in place standardized governmentwide financial reporting standards. Ultimately, the law requires agencies to post all spending information online in searchable and downloadable formats.

But federal agency chief information officers still have a ways to go to address three areas before the law fully kicks into gear.  

1. Addressing data maturity and skills gaps

Government ...

From Off-the-Rack to Off-the-Shelf: What the Federal IT Community Can Learn from New York Fashion Week

By Winston Chang // October 1, 2014

The Ralph Lauren Spring 2015 collection is modeled during New York Fashion Week, Sept. 11, 2014.
The Ralph Lauren Spring 2015 collection is modeled during New York Fashion Week, Sept. 11, 2014. // Richard Drew/AP

Winston Chang is a director at The Ambit Group.

Surrounded by the high-speed world of models, socialites and glamor of New York Fashion Week earlier this month, I found myself reflecting on the benefit potential for government by leveraging its brand identity.

While most agencies have a small budget allocation for PR and media relations, branding can and should be used beyond managing reporters. The fashion industry grasps the importance of leveraging brands unlike any other industry.

In fashion, branding is a critical aspect of the business model, even fundamental. Pulling lessons from fashion will allow the government to use branding internally and prevent a weak brand from hindering its mission.

A brand is not the logo, color scheme or font choice used in the agency approved PowerPoint.

While most textbooks define a brand in literal terms, a brand is simply the personification of an entity.

People do not buy Burberry because of its attractive plaid pattern. They buy purses, scarves and umbrellas with the distinct gray, white, red and tan pattern because the look exudes luxury, achievement and status. Burberry spent years -- and billions -- to create and maintain these attributes, known in marketing as brand associations.

5 Fashion Lessons ...

Government, the Last Great Technology Skeptic

By Camille Tuutti // September 30, 2014

Brandon Bourdages/

Nearly a decade after late Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, described the Internet as “a series of tubes,” the famous phrase lives on as a reminder of how clueless some politicians remain about technology.

But how bad is that oblivion, really, among our lawmakers? According to Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., it’s pretty bad.

“We still have a significant number of senators or members of Congress who don’t have a computer on their desk,” he said. “That’s not the real world -- we need to bring Congress up to date.”

Traditionally, the government is at least a generation behind in technology, said McHenry, who spoke Sept. 30 at Data Transparency 2014, organized by the Data Transparency Coalition. As an example, he cited one government bureau that until 2006 used Windows 95 with a DOS prompt.

“2006,” McHenry marveled. “So government really needs to be brought up to speed.”

Although the Obama administration has taken strides in understanding and implementing technology, it remains a “lurching bureaucracy,” McHenry said. In particular, the Securities and Exchange Commission “has a great skepticism of technology,” he added.

Not all members of Congress are neo-luddites, of course. Rep. Darrell Issa, who chairs the House Oversight ...

Meet the New White House Space Buff Who Won’t Shy Away From a Challenge

By Camille Tuutti // September 22, 2014

Courtesy of Jenn Gustetic

The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy can now boast the addition of another accomplished woman -- this time, an aerospace engineer from NASA.

Last Monday, Jenn Gustetic, formerly in charge of NASA’s prizes and challenges program, stepped into her new role as OSTP’s assistant director for open innovation in the office’s technology and innovation division.

During her one-year detail with OSTP, Jenn will focus on getting more agencies on board the prize and challenge bandwagon, continuing a portfolio of work previously staffed by Cristin Dorgelo and Robynn Sturm Steffen.

“The Obama administration has taken important steps to make prizes a standard tool for open innovation in every federal agency’s toolbox,” Jenn told Nextgov. “Being offered the opportunity to help scale these tools is something compelling to me both from a personal and professional perspective and I’m excited for the next year.”

The new gig won’t be all that different from Jenn’s recent work. For the past three years at NASA, her mission has been to promote open innovation tools to advance the space agency’s mission. One of those efforts includes the Asteroid Grand Challenge, which aims -- with the help ...

Interesting, Cool and Totally Random Things the Government is Trying to Auction Off

By Caitlin Fairchild // September 8, 2014


Pinterest is typically known as a great place to find a cake recipe or a wedding idea, not so much an 89th Airlift Wing or a lighthouse in the Long Island Sound.

But that's exactly what the General Services Administration is auctioning off -- and showing off on its "Interesting Things the Government is Selling" Pinterest page

On Sept. 3, GSA had seven Black Hawk helicopters up for auction. 

These choppers don't come cheap though, with the sale requiring a $100,000 safety deposit. 

The agency displayed the goods in a recent tweet:

A quick perusal of GSA's auction shows less expensive things as well, including cameras, fur coats, iPods, jewelry and even a bag of lottery tickets. My personal favorite lower-cost item is this refrigerator, with a current bid of $5.

While the auction site is free and available to the public to user, bidding anonymously is out of the question. Users must confirm their identities during registration and use the Treasury Department's payment system if they win the ...