Monthly Archives: September 2011

Tackling Waste in Contracting

As part of the Administration’s Campaign to Cut Waste, OMB’s Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) released guidance today to reduce wasteful duplication in federal contracting.  Too often in the past, agency spending for many commonly-used items was fragmented across multiple departments, programs, and components, which means that agencies often spent time writing hundreds of separate contracts, with pricing that varies widely.  The result is a waste of limited staff time and energy, and prices that are not as good as they should be.  At a Cabinet meeting earlier this month, Vice President Biden pointed out that by leveraging their purchasing power agencies can save taxpayer dollars. He directed each agency leader to conduct a waste and efficiency review, targeting unnecessary or inefficient spending in areas like contracting. 

OFPP’s new guidance will aid agencies in eliminating waste and carrying out the reviews ordered by the Vice President by addressing concerns, raised by GAO and others, that agencies may be unnecessarily duplicating each other’s contracting efforts. This guidance requires agencies to prepare ”business cases” – analyses to ensure they aren’t duplicating an existing contract and that they are getting the best value  for taxpayers- before they establish or renew certain interagency and agency-specific contracts for commonly-used goods and services, such as office supplies and wireless services. Doing this kind of due diligence and comparison-shopping is something that many families across the country do, and it is especially important that the Federal government weigh all the options before entering into large contracts and agreements whose scope would overlap contracts that already exist.  In the business case, agencies are required to balance the value of creating a new contract against the benefit of using an existing one, and whether the expected return from investment in the proposed contract is worth the taxpayer resources. Insisting on that cost/benefit analysis in the business cases should go a long way to avoiding duplicative contracts.

The guidance will also increase information-sharing among agencies. For too long, each agency was on its own in contracting. In fact, there have been some who have said that interagency contracts are a problem. We disagree. We have seen firsthand that interagency contracting – done intelligently, and in a way that reduces duplication – can help us leverage the federal government’s buying power to get better prices, and the progress we’ve made in this area is a key reason why we think GAO should take interagency contracting off its ‘high risk’ list. It’s as part of that effort that the new OFPP guidance outlines a new process for agencies to share information with one another when they are considering creating large new interagency contracts. The way it works is like this: when an agency is considering starting a large new contract, whether just for itself or as an interagency contract, they’ll post information on a site that other agencies can review, so those other agencies can say, “Wait a minute – we have a contract in place already that might meet your needs” or “If you go forward, we’d like to use your new contract, too.” That should help agencies better determine if their needs can be met using an existing contract or – if they decide a new contract is justified – how they can accommodate other agencies’ needs under the new contract. 

Smart use of interagency vehicles and cooperation across agencies have been keys to the growing success we’ve been having with strategic sourcing and leveraging our collective buying power across the government. The best example may be the suite of ‘blanket purchase agreements’ that GSA awarded in the spring of 2010 to buy office supplies smarter. Those BPAs apply government-wide, 13 of the 15 winners are small businesses – and the savings keep mounting. Agencies are spending up to 20 percent less to buy the office supplies they need, and overall we expect to save as much as $200 million over the next few years. And most recently, agencies joined together to tackle printing, scanning, and faxing costs in a similar manner.    

Our efforts to eliminate waste and squeeze savings out of the contracting system go far beyond office supplies and print management, of course. They include our move to end excessive reimbursement of contractors’ high-paid executives, the effort to crack down on irresponsible contractors, and our push to reduce spending on management support services, to name a few key initiatives. We are committed to continuing to expand the campaign to cut waste into every aspect of our federal procurement system. The President and the Vice President are right to demand that, and taxpayers expect that of us.

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Statement by the Press Secretary on Conviction of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani

Release Time: 
For Immediate Release

The United States condemns the conviction of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani.  Pastor Nadarkhani has done nothing more than maintain his devout faith, which is a universal right for all people.  That the Iranian authorities would try to force him to renounce that faith violates the religious values they claim to defend, crosses all bounds of decency, and breaches Iran’s own international obligations.   A decision to impose the death penalty would further demonstrate the Iranian authorities' utter disregard for religious freedom, and highlight Iran's continuing violation of the universal rights of its citizens.  We call upon the Iranian authorities to release Pastor Nadarkhani, and demonstrate a commitment to basic, universal human rights, including freedom of religion. 

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Suskind – Same People Attacking Me For Writing About Obama Praised My Bush Books

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Kansas City Mayor: Jobs Are at the Forefront of People’s Minds

Kansas City Mayor Sly James can tell his city is in trouble by looking up at the sky. "There are no more cranes. When there are no more cranes in the city, that’s not a good sign. Because that means not much is getting done. The ripple effect of not being able to build has a huge impact on all sorts of other subsidiary industries. We have roads that are in need of repair and rebuilding, we have bridges that need work, we have water systems that are in desperate need of reworking.  And we need the assistance of the Federal government in order to get those big-ticket items done."

The American Job Act will help James answer the one question he says the residents of his Missouri city ask any time he leaves the office, “'Mayor, where can I get a job? Mayor can you help me get a job? Mayor can you help my brother or my mother get a job?”'Jobs are at the forefront of people’s minds."
 

See how other American mayors say the American Jobs Act will impact their cities

Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, California
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore, Maryland
Mayor Michael Hancock of Denver, Colorado
Mayor Mark Mallory of Cincinnati, Ohio
Mayor Greg Fischer of Louisville, Kentucky

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A Dynamic Approach to Federal Cybersecurity

At the 2010 RSA Conference, I issued a rallying call for the cybersecurity community to collectively evolve from previous static, compliance-based metrics programs to a more dynamic approach that utilizes continuous monitoring. Since then, we’ve seen the public and private sector respond with innovative approaches to this challenge. 

In line with that call, recently the Office of Management and Budget released its reporting instructions for agencies under FISMA. In that memorandum, the federal government takes a significant step forward in our efforts to use continuous monitoring to more effectively and efficiently ensure the security of federal systems and networks:

Rather than enforcing a static, three-year reauthorization process, agencies are expected to conduct ongoing authorizations of information systems through the implementation of continuous monitoring programs. Continuous monitoring programs thus fulfill the three year security reauthorization requirement, so a separate re-authorization process is not necessary.  

Agencies can now use continuous monitoring to better ensure that their systems are secure, freeing resources that were previously spent on static compliance efforts and can now be devoted to improving security. 

Along those lines, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday (September 26, 2011) that the American business community is proactively seeking out the Department of State for its security scanning dashboard software – a solution that gives letter grades to senior decision makers and actionable information to security specialists – both of whom are provided updated information with a frequency that more appropriately matches the dynamic cyber landscape. More than 300 businesses and local, state and federal organizations across the country have contacted the State Department for information on starting their own continuous monitoring program. 

Gone are the days when cyber security is the sole preserve of specialists.  Protecting sensitive information impacts our society from Main Street to Middle America – from people shopping in a store downtown or on the web, to the doctor utilizing digital devices to diagnose a patient, or to the collaboration occurring with an overseas colleague on a research and development project. We must all work together, in both the public and the private sector, to ensure that our computers and networks are secure against cyber threats.

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C Money Barack Obama

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Obama Joke

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Readout of the President’s Call with President Karimov of Uzbekistan

Release Time: 
For Immediate Release

President Obama spoke with President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan earlier today by phone. President Obama congratulated President Karimov on Uzbekistan’s 20 years of independence, and the two leaders pledged to continue working to build broad cooperation between our two countries.  The President and President Karimov discussed their shared desire to develop a multi-dimensional relationship between the United States and Uzbekistan, including by strengthening the contacts between American and Uzbek civil societies and private sector.  President Obama expressed our view that a more prosperous and secure Uzbekistan benefits both countries, and that advancing democracy supports that goal.  The two presidents also discussed their shared interests in supporting a stable, secure, and prosperous Afghanistan and discussed the efforts we are undertaking together to further that goal.

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Arne Duncan: The President’s Plan for the Economy and Education

This oped by Arne Duncan was originally published in the Denver Post

Imagine Steve Jobs trying to design the next generation of tablet computers using mainframe hardware from the Eisenhower administration. Or American automakers trying to out-engineer foreign competitors on an assembly line with equipment from the 1960s.

Unfortunately, just such antiquated facilities and barriers to innovation exist today in precisely the institutions that can least afford it: our nation's public schools. The digital age has now penetrated virtually every nook of American life, with the exception of many public schools.

The average public school building in the United States is more than 40 years old. Nationwide, cash-strapped school districts face an enormous $270 billion backlog of deferred maintenance and repairs.

On Tuesday, President Obama spoke at Abraham Lincoln High School in Denver about the need to urgently modernize public schools, and the importance of keeping teachers in the classroom, instead of in unemployment lines.

In the American Jobs Act, President Obama proposes to invest $30 billion to repair and modernize public schools and community colleges, putting hundreds of thousands of unemployed construction workers, engineers, boiler repairmen, and electrical workers back to work. He proposed an additional $30 billion to keep hundreds of thousands of educators facing potential layoffs and furloughs on the job.

Modernizing and repairing our schools is a classic win-win solution. It benefits everyone — children, communities, and construction workers who need work.

Tragically, children in the nation's poorest school districts often attend schools with crumbling ceilings, overcrowded classrooms, and facilities that lack basic wiring infrastructure for computers and other modern-day technology. That's no way to provide a world-class education — and in today's global economy, a country that out-educates America will out-compete us.

Abraham Lincoln High School opened in 1960. Some of its science labs lack sinks — and have had only minor plumbing renovation in the last 51 years. Despite district and school efforts to upgrade equipment and software, the school's computer lab — like many in the Denver Public Schools — is not designed to support small-group learning and the acquisition of 21st century skills.

Denver Public Schools has already identified $425 million in major repair and modernization projects districtwide that could be started within the next year, from replacing aging boilers and leaking roofs to improving educational technology.

This is not a partisan issue. The physical conditions at some aging schools today are unacceptable. They are no place for children to learn.

The president's jobs bill would modernize at least 35,000 schools, or about one out of every three public schools in the United States. In Colorado, the jobs bill would provide $265 million to put as many as 3,400 construction workers back on the job modernizing Colorado's schools. Denver Public Schools alone would receive up to $75.5 million.

Nationwide, $25 billion would go to upgrading existing public school facilities (including charter schools), with $5 billion invested in modernizing community colleges. The federal government will not fund new construction or pick the schools to modernize. Those decisions will be left entirely to states and districts with knowledge of local needs.

Projections from proposals similar to the president's plan suggest it could create as many as 300,000 jobs in the construction trades nationwide.

While modernization could put a small army of Americans back to work rebuilding and upgrading our schools, looming teacher layoffs could have a devastating impact in the classroom.

As many as 280,000 education jobs may be on the chopping block in the upcoming school year due to multibillion-dollar state and local budget shortfalls. But under the jobs bill, Colorado would receive $478 million to support and protect up to 7,000 educator jobs.

As the bar for educational success rises worldwide in the knowledge economy, this is no time to be laying off scores of teachers and early childhood educators.

Already, financially pinched school districts are reducing class time, shortening the school calendar, cutting after-school programs and early childhood education, and reducing top-notch arts and music instruction.

President Obama recently shared the story of Jason Chuong, a Philadelphia music teacher who uses plastic buckets to teach his students to play percussion — because he only has a $100 out-of-pocket budget to cover music instruction at seven schools.

The path to prosperity, the way to win the future, is to invest wisely in schools, remembering that children get only one chance at an education.

That's why the president's plan to modernize our schools for the 21st century and minimize teacher layoffs is the right plan, at the right time. We cannot afford to do less.

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White House Tweetup: Arrival Ceremony for Republic of Korea President Lee Myung-bak

On October 13, 2011, President Obama will host President Lee Myung-bak of the Republic of Korea at the White House for a State Visit. This State Visit will highlight the strong alliance, global partnership, and deep economic ties between our two countries, and celebrate the strong bonds of friendship between the American and Korean people.

The Visit begins with an arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, a tradition that started during the Kennedy Administration to formally welcome a visiting head of state. We’re excited to announce that the arrival ceremony for the Republic of Korea, one of the most wired nations in the world, will mark our largest White House Tweetup yet.

The Republic of Korea is on the cutting edge of digital technology. Its citizens are active users of social media and the Blue House, the Republic of Korea’s Presidential office and residence, utilizes social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, as well as mobile technology for public outreach. The White House invites its followers on Twitter and Facebook to attend the arrival ceremony.

Apply to attend this special White House Tweetup today!

Be sure to follow @WhiteHouse on Twitter and/ or “Like” us on facebook. Then, apply for your chance to attend the arrival ceremony at http://www.whitehouse.gov/tweetup.

View photo galleries of past State Visits.

 

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