TOPIC: Information Technologies

New math at work in California stimulus jobs count

Math and accounting errors have led several state agencies in California to exaggerate the number of jobs created or saved as the result of  federal stimulus funding.

A California State Bureau of Audits report found errors in figures submitted by five different state agencies totaling 617 phantom jobs, reports Deio de Brito of CaliforniaWatch.

It’s unclear from the story how many existing jobs were saved or new jobs created at the various agencies, though according to the story, the American Reinvestment and Reconstruction Act, known more commonly as the stimulus bill, created or saved a total of 54,000 jobs statewide. (more…)

Broadband access: American public not so broad minded

Some people who don’t use broadband think they’re not missing much. But for those whose homes, libraries, public safety networks and healthcare facilities will have broadband access because of the $1.8 billion the government awarded last week, it will make a huge difference.

One of the larger of the 94 broadband projects funded last week – $28.8 million to Peoples Telephone Cooperative (PTC) in eastern Texas – will connect as many as 190 community institutions to broadband, benefitting as many as 241,000 people and 10,300 businesses, and creating an estimated 100 jobs.

The grants and loans announced last week are only a portion of the $7 billion (more…)

ATM error not in your favor

They are still pointing fingers in Sacramento two months after a story, tailor-made for cable TV foamers, emerged that welfare beneficiaries could cash out their aid grants at California gambling parlors.

According to a San Francisco Chronicle story by Marisa Lagos, a state commission appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger knew all about the issue four years ago, issued a ruling last year to end the practice, and then proceeded to not enforce it. (more…)


This just in over the transom from a concerned U.G. reader about the shockingly bad condition of the White House’s IT infrastructure on Day 1 of the Obama Administration (from Anne Kornblut’s piece in the Washington Post):

I kind of got the impression that the Post and NPR were making a snarky kind of comparison about those Obama "whiz kids" who can’t even plug in their phones.

But the article underscored how technologically dysfunctional our government is and why there should be an apolitical WH staff that serves any administration that comes in. Why should top WH officials have figure out how to send email on their first day? Shouldn’t there be assistants ready to serve them? Shouldn’t there be an apoliltical civil servant staff with technical expertise, as the have in the UK, that serves whatever administration that takes power?

The army has quartermasters, right?  The navy has pursers.  When you come in, you get your kit and you’re ready to do your job.  How can it be that the White House has no procedure for getting computers and cell phones ready for the next administration?  If Ted Stevens were president, this might make sense.  If John McCain had become president, he might not even have noticed it.  But since it looks like President Obama’s goal is to leave this country better than he found it, his staff should take charge of this issue and create an IT policy that guarantees an "orderly transition" for White House staff as well.  What if something disastrous happened on January 21?  What were Bush Administration staffers doing with such ancient computers?  (not much, apparently).  How is all this even possible a generation into the Information Age?  How could Obama’s staff not know about this problem ahead of time? I don’t even have enough question marks in my computer to take this issue on. -NH


Another White House "czar" is being proposed — this one to monitor and stop threats to the nation’s computer networks in a "battle we are losing" thus far to international hackers, possibly including state actors.  The Wall Street Journal’s Siobhan Gorman looks at a problem that could explode into crisis with dimensions yet unknown.  As Gorman notes, the Department of Defense and the Dept. of Homeland Security have been hit hard by hackers, and private contractors working for them as well — to the tune of "multiple billions of dollars."  Another case for editors and journalists willing to look around the corner. -NH


Commerce Department Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez admitted yesterday that a plan to  digitize the collection of Census Bureau information is a bust. The Census Bureau gave $600 million given to Florida-based Harris Corp to make tiny, snazzy computers that would collect information from citizens who don’t fill out census forms.

But the Los Angeles Times’ Ben DuBose reports that the computers won’t be ready by the 2010 count. That means 600,000 temporary workers will walk door-to-door across the nation collecting the information needed to determine federal and state funding as well as Congressional representation. A private contract has yet to rewarded for their rental cars and sneakers.  Read DuBose here.  MB


Federal bureaucracies are often accused of being a step slow in integrating new technology. But as the Washington Post’s Stephen Barr reports, the Office of Management and Budget has done much with the information-sharing technology used to create Wikipedia. Last year, OMB worked with other federal agencies to create a database of all Congressional earmarks. The Wiki has since expanded from earmark information to a place where agencies can exchange information and ideas. And they’ve even changed the name from “Budget Community” to the relatively more exciting, and inclusive, “The Max Federal Community".   Read Stephen Barr’s article here.


An invaluable public resource may disappear in the next few days.  The FCC is preparing to auction off radio spectrum at a key moment in communications history — when wireless and web-based technologies could finally converge to allow you, wherever you are, to do all your Internet and voice communications from one device, with a dependable signal, on whatever phone or laptop or PDA you want to use, and at a lower price.  But then again, maybe not — the FCC has structured the auction in a way that may prevent all this from happening.  (more…)


The federal-state board that oversees a $7 billion industry-provided fund for low-income and rural telephony has proposed splitting the fund into three different applications, Corey Boles of the Wall Street Journal reports.  One-third would be used to increase broadband Internet accesss in rural areas, with the remainder devoted to funding wireless services and traditional land-line access.   The FCC will make final judgment within one year.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lacks IT Staff

As the expression goes, you can’t make chicken soup without a chicken.

At the Army Corps of Engineers, it appears as though the workers have flown the coop.

Check out Jenny Mandel’s account in Government Executive about the turn of fortunes at the Corps.  It seems as though the OMB A-76 Circular-guided process to determine who can best perform the work — private companies or in-house resources – has tied the agency’s IT support resources up into a knot.