“The CoE’s work, run out of GSA’s Technology Transformation Services (TTS) office, will speed up the GAO’s authority to operate process for its new innovation lab, launched last year to develop enhanced data analytics and emerging technologies capabilities.
The partnership will also help the lab configure “flexible, scalable, and secure computational environment that is responsive to current and future needs.”
“Today’s announcement illustrates the momentum of the CoE to deliver outcomes that drive mission effectiveness,” said TTS Director Anil Cheriyan. “Putting innovation at the core of everything we do, we’re excited to engage with GAO and provide guidance along their exciting journey.”
The CoE program also works with the Departments of Agriculture; Housing and Urban Development; Labor; the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center; the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission; and the Office of Personnel Management.
“With this latest CoE engagement, we look forward to building upon our prior work transforming federal IT to improve services to citizens,” said CoE Executive Director Bob De Luca. “Leveraging the CoE modernization approach will help GAO further its mission of helping the government save money and work more efficiently.”
“This culture of techno-utopianism stands in stark contrast to the culture of American manufacturing industry. A recent episode of the New York Times podcast “The Daily” examined the way Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and various other U.S.-based tech companies are treating the current controversies, and contrasted it with Dow Chemical’s reaction to protests over their production of napalm for the American war effort in Vietnam. Despite waves of demonstrations organized by the Students for Democratic Society, the company continued to produce the controversial incendiary for years because it felt a patriotic duty.
As reporter Kevin Rose documents, this was a financial disasterfor Dow. The firm’s “reputation plummeted,” its “recruiting ability suffered,” and “its marketing department was forced to embark on a long and expensive campaign to win back the public’s trust.” In the end, “the $5 million napalm contract most likely cost Dow Chemical billions of dollars. And it was the kind of unforced error that could have been avoided if company executives had listened to early signs of opposition, done some risk analysis and changed course.”
But the company had been caught in the crossfire of change. Dow’s executives almost certainly served in uniform during World War II or Korea. And it was unusual, indeed, to question the American government’s rightness in conducting a war. But by the time Dow ceased producing napalm in 1969, the country had turned against the war. And the combination of repeated lies from the political and military leadership about America’s progress in Vietnam and the overlapping Watergate scandal turned the country much more cynical, perhaps permanently.
That attitudinal change has not been evenly spread. In Gallup’s 18 years of polling on how proud Americans are to be American, only 47 percent were “extremely proud” in 2018 compared to a peak of 70 percent in 2003. Those feelings break down in ways one might expect by political party, race, sex, and political ideology. But most significant for our discussion here is that college graduates have consistently been less patriotic by this measure than non-graduates. In 2018, only 39 percent of those with a degree felt “extremely proud” compared to 52 percent of those withG
While there’s no direct polling on this matter for those in Silicon Valley, the trend is almost certainly starker there. Surveys have shown us for decades that tech executives are quite politically liberal, albeit rather libertarian on regulatory issues. But it’s becoming clearer how much more progressive their workers are than the bosses. In the Gallup poll cited previously, a mere 23 percent of liberals were “extremely proud” to be American—compared to 46 percent of moderates and 65 percent of conservatives. Extrapolating from ideology and education, then, we can reasonably conjecture that a minuscule percentage of high-tech workers feel a strong affinity for America.
Rakich and Mehta cite as evidence a July 2018 YouGov pollshowing stark partisan differences of what counts as “patriotic.” Not surprisingly, Republicans are far less likely than Democrats to view as patriotic such actions as refusing to serve in a war they oppose or burning the American flag in protest.
There’s another reason why the tech sector is less likely to be flag-waving: it’s based in America but quite global. According to one survey, “40 percent of companies in the Fortune 500 were founded by immigrants or children of immigrants” and the rate is even higher for technology companies. A recent study of 87 privately held American start-ups valued at $1 billion or more which discovered that “more than half of them were founded by one or more people from outside the United States. And 71 percent of them employed immigrants in crucial executive roles.” Anecdotally, “One of Google’s founders is an immigrant from Russia, and its current chief executive is an immigrant from India. Microsoft’s chief executive is also from India. eBay and Yahoo were started by immigrants. Facebook’s largest subsidiaries, Instagram and WhatsApp, were both co-founded by immigrants. Apple was started by a child of immigrants.” Further, “at least 57 percent of workers in STEM jobs with a bachelor’s degree or higher were born outside the US.”
While Silicon Valley is an outlier in many regards, elites who don’t work in the national security ecosystem are increasingly divorced from it. One has to be over 50 to remember the days of military conscription, which ended in 1973, and of Social Security age to have been subject to it. For all but a handful of younger Americans, fighting wars is something other people do. They may well honor that service in the breach; but it’s hardly surprising that they want no part in the violence inherent in the enterprise.
Ironically, the best approach for sparking action in Silicon Valley may be to take a page from its counterculture roots and appeal to the humanitarian rather than the jingoistic front. “
“The Centers of Excellence are designed to produce best practices that can be used across multiple agencies, in whole or in part depending on the department’s needs and requirements.
HUD will be utilizing at least four of the centers from the first iteration at USDA.”
“The General Services Administration announced Tuesday that the Centers of Excellence (CoE) IT modernization initiative has found its next target — the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
GSA’s Technology Transformation Service (TTS), which oversees the CoEs, will partner with HUD for a “discovery sprint” to conduct a “comprehensive assessment of the IT needs and challenges facing the department.”
“I’m thrilled HUD is teaming up with GSA to transform this agency into a more effective and efficient servant on behalf of the American people,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement. “This is an important moment for HUD as we embark upon a campaign to modernize our aging technology and bring true financial integrity to everything we do.”
The process “will be led by program office experts with full IT support,” HUD CIO David Chow said.
Questions about what the second edition of the CoEs will look like have been swirling for months. Phase I at the U.S. Department of Agriculturekicked off in April with the agency hosting five teams focused (respectively) on cloud adoption, IT infrastructure optimization, customer experience, contact center services and service delivery analytics. During this phase, teams comprised of TTS employees, contractors and USDA subject matter experts did extensive user research. USDA put out requests for proposal in August for Phase II of the project, which will focus on operationalizing the research done.
GSA Press Secretary Pam Dixon told FedScoop in an email “The Centers of Excellence are designed to produce best practices that can be used across multiple agencies, in whole or in part depending on the department’s needs and requirements. At this time, HUD will be utilizing at least four of the centers [from the first iteration at USDA]. Additional capabilities will be provided based on ongoing discussions as part of the discovery sprint.”
There have been some leadership changes at GSA since the inception of the CoEs, too — Director Joanne Collins Smee, who led the Phase I work at USDA, left the agency at the end of August. Former TTS Chief of Staff Kelly Olson is now filling the role on an acting basis.
And yet now, with agency number two, the show goes on. “Today’s announcement further demonstrates the strength, success, and momentum that the CoEs have already brought to bear in less than a year,” GSA Administrator Emily Murphy said in a statement. “I couldn’t be more excited to build upon the work we have begun with USDA by implementing these best practices at an agency as customer-focused and citizen-facing as HUD.”