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Government, the Last Great Technology Skeptic

By Camille Tuutti // September 30, 2014

Brandon Bourdages/Shutterstock.com

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

Maxx-Studio/Shutterstock.com

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 ...

Unlocking Government Data Poised to Create Whole New Industries -- And Make Washington Work Better

By Robert A. Runge // September 3, 2014

Maksim Kabakou/Shutterstock.com

Robert A. Runge serves on the board of directors at Socrata, a cloud software company focused on freeing access to public sector data.

Let’s start with the obvious -- government data is unique in the world of data.

The data that’s garnered the most attention over the past generation -- a generation, by the way, that has witnessed the revolution of information technology -- has obsessively focused on running, managing, automating and organizing enterprises in an effort to wring out every last drop of business transaction and process efficiency.

We’ve also seen scientific data in the spotlight, especially in the realm of database management and, more recently, big data.

But government data is completely different.

Why?

Because it’s about running society -- not a business unit or a scientific research inquiry.

And given this vast social context, I believe we need an operating system for government data that will unlock this long-sequestered information and open it to the public -- to citizens, communities and companies all over the world.

This is the driving force behind today’s open data movement.

Open Data Bridging the Chasm from Old World to New

In the end, the net result will be startling, because open ...

Federal Network Security: 4 Easy Steps to Get the Basics Right

By Greg Kushto // September 2, 2014

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Greg Kushto is director of the security practice at Force 3.

In federal IT, it’s easy to want to focus on protecting your organization from the next big security threat, whether it’s the Heartbleed flaw, advanced persistent threats or even the next Edward Snowden. Every time there is a major public incident like these, it seems everyone’s focus goes toward preventing it from happening again.

And that’s a good thing.

But these types of attacks are sophisticated, complex and require a tremendous amount of time, energy and resources to prevent and protect against. With so many resources focused on these types of attacks, are we leaving our networks vulnerable to all of the other threats out there?

In other words, when it comes to securing our federal networks, are we getting the basics right?

The Pareto Paradox

You might be familiar with the saying that “80 percent of your sales comes from 20 percent of your customers.” Often referred to as the 80/20 rule, it’s based on a paradox called the Pareto principle, which basically states that for a given event, 80 percent of the outcome stems from 20 percent of the effort.

But ...