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The Real Agents of Change

July 25, 2011
By Christine Robinson

We presently are experiencing intense pressure not to raise the debt ceiling, prophecies about the downfall of government IT, more legislators considering reducing the once-sacred defense budget, and prophecies of gloom and doom relating to government programs in general. Despite this, a number of leaders and real change agents both in government and outside government offer us some real hope and shining examples.

A number of senior government and former government leaders are helping lead the Citizen Enabling Open Government initiative intended to make government responsive to the citizens who know what they need from government. Among its advisors are Dennis Wisnosky, DoD Chief Technology Officer and Chief Architect of the DoD Business Mission Area, and Mark Forman, co-founder of Government Transaction Services and the first Federal Chief Information Officer. Mike Dunham, chair of the Enterprise Architecture Shared Interest Group of the American Council of Technology and Industry Advisory Council, has made the observation that these leaders "have really taken the bull by the horns."

Some people's eyes glaze over when you mention the term Enterprise Architecture (EA), may have misconceptions about what it truly means, and others think it is a colossal waste of money that produces negligible results. EA, regardless of whether it is the Federal Enterprise Architecture, the Department of Defense (DoD) Architecture Framework, or some other model, provides frameworks within which experts working with business and technology leaders and other specialists can categorize, inventory, and prioritize a current state of existing lines of business functions along with those technologies and programs that support them, then develop a future state.

Mark Forman was recently interviewed on EmeraldPlanet; the show ran on a Northern Virginia public access cable channel in June and is now available as a webcast. One of the foremost advocates of the Citizen Enabling Open Government initiative, Forman titled his segment "An Alternative Approach for Reorganizing the Federal Government." He stated early on that "Government exists to service the people," and over the longer term, "government must change structures and accelerate its responsiveness ... over the last 30 years, this has gone the other direction." He also added that it was important to engage the public because programs and the federal Government are so complex, and because citizens know what they need from government.

Forman advocated that the "real redundancy is in the programs and not the IT," explaining that GAO found that 45-50 programs may be providing the same services under different agencies. A GAO report states, "eight of cabinet departments are involved in water resource management." Forman said that people involved in EA have proven EA's value through consolidation. "We know currently government is unaffordable; we need to refocus government efforts, streamline and focus and do that in a way that changes the traditional deficit reduction focus," he said. "We must match up cutbacks in funding with improvements in performance" such as by using cloud computing.

During the same program, Dennis Wisnosky described how the DoD is looking for different ways in which to conduct its business, especially since 51 percent of its money spent on managing backroom operations such as how to pay soldiers and logistics. Wisnosky has championed defining business process and technology components into their simplest form and creating patterns of usage to save money and modernize the DoD. The DoD is, he said, "supporting the troops by not inventing new technologies"--but instead using other capabilities. The DoD is creating a common language, interoperability between systems, a Service Oriented Architecture, and using cloud computing to reduce costs and increase efficiency. As a result, the DoD Business Mission Area and DoD have a successful track record in modernizing business functions.

The Citizen Enabling Open Government initiative intends to make government more responsible to citizens. To that end, your participation personally and professionally would be welcome through the American Council of Technology and Industry Advisory Council and the LinkedIn CEOG group.

Christine Robinson is president of Christine Robinson & Associates, LLC; an enterprise architect with a security background; advisor to Arlington County; and advisory board member to EmeraldPlanet and its global television show. Robinson writes extensively and speaks about security to audiences worldwide.

The views expressed by our guest bloggers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of AFCEA International or SIGNAL Magazine.

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