Christina RomerJanuary 15, 2010
10:18 AM EDT
The past year has been one of enormous challenges for the American economy. President Obama took office at a time of economic crisis. The economy was losing jobs at a rate of close to 700,000 jobs a month, credit markets were functioning poorly, and real GDP was falling at a breakneck pace. The economy was at the edge of a cliff, and the possibility of a second Great Depression was frighteningly real.
Thus, the first task of the new administration had to be to be to turn around an economy in freefall. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which the President signed less than a month after taking office, was the boldest countercyclical fiscal action in American history. Together with Administration's Financial Stability Plan, its actions to aid distressed homeowners, and actions by the Federal Reserve and other regulators, the Recovery Act is generating one of the sharpest economic turnarounds since World War II. Real GDP, after falling at an increasingly rapid rate for three quarters, barely fell in the second quarter of 2009 and rose in the third quarter; and, it is widely expected that when the fourth quarter data are released later this month, they will show even larger growth. Job loss, which averaged 691,000 jobs a month is the first quarter of 2009, averaged 69,000 in the fourth quarter—one-tenth as much. A new CEA report released Wednesday found that the Recovery Act has been instrumental to this change in trajectory, and that approximately 2 million people are employed who otherwise would not be, because of the Act.
With the economy still losing jobs and unemployment at 10 percent, the economy is obviously far from healthy, and we have a long way still to go. That is why the Administration is committed to taking every responsible measure to spur job creation—measures ranging from the "Cash for Clunkers" program last summer, to the extensions of unemployment insurance and additional business tax cuts in the bill the President signed in November, to ideas explored at the Jobs Forum in December.
But, the Administration always knew that stabilizing the economy would not be enough. The problems that led to the crisis were years in the making, and even before the crisis, we faced significant long-run challenges. That is why even as the Administration has worked to rescue the economy form the recession, it was also working to build a new foundation for stronger, more balanced growth. One key part of these efforts is financial regulatory reform that will protect the economy from actions that could threaten financial and economic stability, and protect ordinary Americans in their dealings with sophisticated and powerful financial institutions. Another key step is health care reform—reform that will not only make insurance more secure for those with insurance and expand coverage to those without it, but also slow the growth rate of costs while maintaining quality, and so benefit households, businesses, and governments at every level. The Administration is also working to improve our education system, to promote the transition to a clean energy economy, and to foster faster productivity growth through greater innovation. We will continue these efforts in the new year.
It has been a critical year for economic policymaking and we have made significant progress. Despite this progress, there is much left to do. The President knows that the recession will not be truly over until the labor market has recovered. That is why he and his economic team are committed to bringing about strong employment growth and building an economy that is stronger and more secure for years to come.
Christina Romer is Chair of the Council of Eocnomic Advisers
Jesse LeeJanuary 14, 2010
03:59 PM EDT
Discussing Wall Street executives' reaction to his proposed new fees on major banks, the President delivered a simple message: "Instead of sending a phalanx of lobbyists to fight this proposal, or employing an army of lawyers and accountants to help evade the fee, I suggest you might want to consider simply meeting your responsibilities."
Specifically, the President was announcing a proposal for a new Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee to be imposed on the debt of the largest financial firms until the American people are fully compensated for the extraordinary assistance they provided to Wall Street -- read the full fact sheet. Describing TARP as "a distasteful but necessary thing to do," the President explained that despite many dire predictions, most of that money has been recouped – but that "most" is not enough:
My commitment is to recover every single dime the American people are owed. And my determination to achieve this goal is only heightened when I see reports of massive profits and obscene bonuses at some of the very firms who owe their continued existence to the American people -- folks who have not been made whole, and who continue to face real hardship in this recession.
We want our money back, and we're going to get it. And that's why I'm proposing a Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee to be imposed on major financial firms until the American people are fully compensated for the extraordinary assistance they provided to Wall Street. If these companies are in good enough shape to afford massive bonuses, they are surely in good enough shape to afford paying back every penny to taxpayers.
He explained that the new fee would only affect the largest firms, those with more than $50 billion in assets, but that it would be in place as long as it takes to make the money back.
He also explained how this fee ties into the larger new foundation he seeks to establish for our economy:
We cannot go back to business as usual. And when we see reports of firms once again engaging in risky bets to reap quick rewards, when we see a return to compensation practices that seem not to reflect what the country has been through, all that looks like business as usual to me. The financial industry has even launched a massive lobbying campaign, locking arms with the opposition party, to stand in the way of reforms to prevent another crisis. That, too, unfortunately, is business as usual. And we're already hearing a hue and cry from Wall Street suggesting that this proposed fee is not only unwelcome but unfair -- that by some twisted logic it is more appropriate for the American people to bear the costs of the bailout, rather than the industry that benefited from it, even though these executives are out there giving themselves huge bonuses.
He closed on an underlying principle: "Ultimately, it is by taking responsibility -- on Wall Street, here in Washington, all the way to Main Street -- that we're going to move past this period of turmoil."
Heather ZichalJanuary 14, 2010
03:31 PM EDT
Ed. Note: You may have missed yesterday's CEA report on the Recovery Act finding that it has saved or created 1.5-2 million jobs; Heather Zichal takes a look at the green jobs component of the data.
A report delivered by the Council of Economic Advisers today found that the clean energy investments of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)are not only creating jobs today, but for the future. The clean energy provisions of ARRA alone have already saved or created 63,000 jobs and are expected to create more than 700,000 by 2012. When we talk about clean energy jobs, we mean new work for skilled laborers who can install efficient heating and cooling systems and windows, who can retrofit homes to save electricity, who can build and install solar panels, wind turbines and other clean energy technologies. These investments are positioning the American workforce to remain competitive and keep our nation at the forefront of a new low-carbon global economy. At the same time, these initiatives are changing the way that we produce, distribute, and use energy to reduce green house gas emissions and cut our dependence on foreign oil.
As we have seen across the portfolio of Recovery Act clean energy programs, demand is in some cases exceeding expectations with programs receiving far more qualified applicants than there is currently funding available. That is why, as part of the jobs package on which the President is urging Congress to act, he has called for additional clean energy investments – including home weatherization and advanced energy manufacturing tax credits - which could put even more Americans to work right away.
The global competition to develop the technologies of a clean energy economy is happening right now. We do not want to lose that competition and see the technology and jobs of tomorrow built overseas. The Recovery Act investments are a good start, stimulating the American innovation and investments necessary to be the leader of a new energy future, but ultimately, to ensure the U.S. leads the world in the production of clean energy and to induce the necessary private investment, we must also pass comprehensive energy reform. This will help unlock the true potential of the millions of jobs needed for the clean energy economy of tomorrow.
NOTE: In case you missed it, this week Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, held a live chat. You can watch the video here. Also, get some additional perspectives on the President's record on clean energy and climate change from the Center for American Progress and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Heather Zichal is Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change
Secretary Kathleen SebeliusJanuary 14, 2010
02:39 PM EDT
Ed. Note: We regret that Secretary had to cancel her chat yesterday due to an extended health reform meeting, but thank her for agreeing to draft a post summing up the year in health care from an HHS perspective:
Last January, President Obama set a clear course for his administration when he said "we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin the work of remaking America." A year later, there’s a lot of work left to be done. But as we look back at last year, we can be encouraged by the significant steps we took to improve America’s health and strengthen opportunity for the people who need it most.
Here are nine ways the Obama administration kept Americans healthy, delivered critical services, and began the work of remaking America in 2009.
We brought the voices of everyday Americans to the health care reform debate.
From the regional forums we held across the country last spring to our new website healthreform.gov, the administration reached out to tens of thousands of Americans over the last year to get their questions, concerns, and ideas about how to fix our health care system. Whether it was the man who told us health care costs were a "noose" around the neck of his small business, or the father who explained that he was paying over $30,000 a year for health care because his son had a preexisting condition, these voices propelled historic health reform legislation through both houses of Congress.
We helped contain the H1N1 flu pandemic.
As soon as the H1N1 flu was identified in April, we sprang into action. We developed a safe, effective vaccine in six months – three months less than it usually takes. Working with state and local partners, we were able to vaccinate more than 60 million Americans in the three months after the first dose of vaccine came off the production line, the vast majority of them in high-priority, at-risk groups. We also launched an aggressive outreach campaign, using television, radio, print, and web communications to educate Americans about how to prevent the spread of H1N1. Last Sunday, we kicked off National Influenza Vaccination Week – and with more than 135 million doses of vaccine available across the country, we’re encouraging all Americans to go get vaccinated and help us save lives as we approach the worst months of flu season. To find out where vaccine is available in your neighborhood, visit www.flu.gov.
We helped Americans weather the worst recession in 70 years.
When President Obama took office, foreclosures were skyrocketing, credit markets were frozen, and the economy was shedding 700,000 jobs a month. As America’s families have struggled to get back on their feet, HHS has reached out to give them a hand. Under the Recovery Act, we made almost $44 billion in enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage funding available so that qualified Americans could keep essential health services. And as part of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, we released more than $2.6 billion to help low-income Americans pay their heating bills.
We began the transformation to a high-quality, evidence-based, patient-centered health care system.
It’s been said before, but it’s worth saying again: we spend twice as much per person on health care as other wealthy countries but only get average health results. In 2009, our department supported a range of reforms that will help Americans get more bang for their health care buck. For example, we invested $80 million to reduce healthcare-associated infections, the infections you get once you’re already in the hospital that kill tens of thousands of Americans a year. We also announced two new “medical homes” demonstration projects that will support the kind of coordinated care models where patients are treated by teams of health care providers. Doctors are more satisfied, patients get better care, and costs go down. Our goal is to spread these successes.
We got serious about Medicare fraud.
With more than a billion claims totaling $425 billion paid out each year, Medicare is an inviting target for criminals. In 2009, HHS and the Justice Department created a new partnership dedicated to protecting our health care dollars: the Healthcare Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team or HEAT. Under HEAT, we’re attacking fraud with new resources, a new spirit of collaboration, new high-tech approaches, and most important, new urgency. We’ve also more than tripled the number of Medicare fraud Strike Forces around the country from two to seven. Later this month, our department and Department of Justice will host the first-ever national healthcare fraud summit in Washington, DC, a gathering that will bring together federal and state officials, private sector executives, and law enforcement leaders to share ideas about the best ways to keep our health care dollars safe.
We focused on health outside the doctor's office.
How healthy we are depends on more than the care we get from doctors and nurses. It also depends on the food we eat, the air we breathe, the neighborhood we live in, and how much exercise we get. Last year, our department got serious about promoting health outside the health care system. Under the Recovery Act, we invested $650 million that will support the most proven strategies for reducing obesity and smoking in communities around the country. To help consumers, we developed a new food-labeling initiative that makes it easier for shoppers to get quick information about how healthy a product is. And building off the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which President Obama signed in June, we’re establishing a comprehensive tobacco regulation program.
We put kids first.
One of the first bills President Obama signed after he took office was the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act. It gave more than four million previously uninsured children access to affordable health insurance. But expanding access to insurance was just the first step. Since then, we’ve invested $40 million to reach out to eligible children and their parents and make sure they’re enrolled in CHIP or Medicaid, and have access to the care they need. To give families relief, we also invested $2 billion to help states increase their number of child care slots.
We made investments to create jobs today – and tomorrow.
When President Obama signed the Recovery Act, he said there were two goals: to help America recover from the current economic crisis and to lay the foundation for future growth. Last year, we made several investments that served both purposes. For example, we invested over $1 billion in Recovery Act funds to help doctors around the country adopt electronic health records, which can reduce paperwork, medical errors, and health care costs. We also gave out more than $5 billion in new NIH grants to help bring us closer to the cures and treatments of the future for diseases from cancer to autism. And we invested more than $1 billion to expand community health centers around the country, add new services and providers, and give millions more Americans access to high-quality primary care.
We found new partners inside the Cabinet.
The President's Cabinet has 15 separate departments, but our country’s challenges can often only be addressed by partnerships. That's why in 2009, we made an unprecedented effort to build new, interdepartmental relationships that help us do our job more effectively. One example is our antifraud partnership with the Department of Justice. Another is the new Food Safety Working Group I co-chair with Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, which is updating the rules that keep our food supply safe. A third is the early education initiative we launched with the Department of Education that will allow us to coordinate early childhood services across the federal government and make sure our kids get all the support they need during their most formative years.
These are nine highlights from 2009, but it’s just the beginning of the list of investments and initiatives we began last year. Among other achievements, we taught Elmo how to sneeze, introduced the country to a rapping doc, and helped our Olympic athletes get ready for the Vancouver Games. And that’s just from our work on one issue.
As we look forward to President Obama’s second year, we’re humbled by the significant challenges that remain for our country. But we’re also excited to build on the progress we made in 2010.
Kathleen Sebelius is Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services
Secretary Hilda SolisJanuary 14, 2010
02:26 PM EDT
The Department of Labor has teamed with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to create a new website that brings together more than 600 online job search and career advancement tools.
The Job Tools for America's Job Seekers Challenge is using the power of crowd-sourcing to get your input on what tools work best, and what you would like to see improved.
During December we recruited businesses, entrepreneurs, non-profit groups and others to share their online job tools with us at www.dol.gov/challenge. And the response has been terrific.
From national job boards, to industry and occupation-focused niche tools – the Challenge has attracted nearly resources from across the spectrum.
Now, it's your turn.
Through Friday, January 15, we are asking you to review the tools posted on our Challenge site, recommend the ones you like best, and give feedback on what works when it comes to online career resources. But, just as important, use this site as a resource to apply for openings at companies and organizations that are seeking talented workers now.
Also, pass the link on to others who might be interested in taking part in the challenge, or to those who just want a one-stop online resource bursting with useful job information.
We are already seeing this become a great competition among a number of the sites, and are looking forward to seeing which tools rise to the top in the different categories. At the end of January we’ll publish which tools received the most recommendations.
And the best part is this website will remain active as a source for information about all of the resources that took part in the Challenge -- an easy-to-access online gateway to jobs in nearly every occupation and location nationwide.
I encourage you to visit the site, try out some of the resources, and let us know what you think. Together we can help get America back to work.Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.
Hilda Solis is Secretary of Labor
Peter OrszagJanuary 14, 2010
02:12 PM EDT
In May, we released our Terminations, Reductions, and Savings volume. It put forward more than 120 cuts and reductions, totaling $17 billion, to programs that were duplicative, ineffective, or outdated. At the time, cynics said that we’d never be able to eliminate these programs – some of which had been around for decades. And it’s true that every one of the programs has a supporter, and there have been – and will continue to be – vocal and powerful interests that oppose almost any budget cut.
But with the 2010 appropriations process now over, the Washington Times ran the numbers and came away impressed with what the Administration was able to accomplish: "President Obama notched substantial successes in spending cuts last year, winning 60 percent of his proposed cuts and managing to get Congress to ax several programs that bedeviled President George W. Bush for years."
Citing data from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the newspaper noted that the 60 percent success rate was better than the prior administration’s best year (40 percent in Fiscal Year 2006), and well ahead of the under 15 percent success rate in 2007 and 2008.
I'm proud of what we were able to accomplish in conjunction with the Congress, but it's just a start in what we need to do to streamline programs that work, end those that don’t, and make government more efficient and effective. That’s why this fall we ran the SAVE Award contest, receiving more than 38,000 ideas from frontline workers on how to save money. We undertook contracting reforms that will save $19 billion this year, and $40 billion by next year. We’ve put forward an ambitious effort to reduce the $100 billion in improper payments – money that the government pays out by mistake – each year. And we initiated a rigorous process of evaluating program effectiveness – including funding whole new studies – so that we can find out what works and what doesn’t, and make budget decisions accordingly.
In a few weeks, we will release the President’s Fiscal Year 2011 Budget. There will be more proposals for terminations, and we will hear the complaints from the special interests. But programs that are unnecessary, duplicative, or ineffective should not continue, and we look forward to building on the successes from last year in ending programs that don’t make sense.
Peter Orszag is Director of the Office of Management and Budget
Jesse LeeJanuary 14, 2010
12:25 PM EDT
This morning the President gave another update on relief efforts in Haiti, promising the people of Haiti that "you will not be forsaken; you will not be forgotten." Again, while the US Government is doing all it can, you can also help immediately by donating to the international fund of the Red Cross to assist the relief effort.
- Donate $10 to the Red Cross to be charged to your cell phone bill by texting "HAITI" to "90999."
- Contribute online to the Red Cross,
- Find more ways to help through the Center for International Disaster Information.
And of course families of Americans living in Haiti should still contact the State Department at 888-407-4747.
Read the transcript or watch the video of the President's remarks this morning:
Rick WeissJanuary 14, 2010
12:00 PM EDT
We hear a lot about Nobel Prize-winning scientists, and there are kudos galore for those august winners of the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, such as those honored by President Obama in October. But where do these great innovators come from? How did they get to their vaunted stations in life?
That’s the focus of a prestigious Presidential award that was in the spotlight Wednesday in the East Room of the White House, when the President honored 100 winners of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest award bestowed by the U.S. Government upon scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers.
The President’s meeting with the PECASE winners showcased this Administration’s recognition that America’s global leadership in science and technology is not automatic, but depends on constantly cultivating new generations of ambitious and dedicated explorers in the sciences and engineering. And of course that national nourishing of curiosity starts even earlier than that, in the way we teach children about science, technology, engineering and mathematics. That’s why this event resonates strongly with those of last week, when the President announced an expansion of the “Educate to Innovate” campaign to encourage and inspire young students to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Nine Federal departments and agencies join together annually to nominate the most meritorious young scientists and engineers for PECASE -- researchers whose early accomplishments show the greatest promise for strengthening America’s leadership in science and technology and contributing to the awarding agencies' missions. The awards are coordinated by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, with awardees selected on the basis of two criteria: Pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and a commitment to community service, as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach. Winners receive up to a five-year research grant to further their study in support of critical government missions.
This year’s recipients were first announced over the summer and received their awards and met with the President Wednesday. Their names and Federal Departments and Agencies can be seen in the official White House press release.
Rick Weiss is Director of Strategic Communications and a Senior Policy Analyst at the Office of Science and Technology Policy
Peter OrszagJanuary 14, 2010
10:30 AM EDT
This afternoon, I will participate in the White House Forum on Modernizing Government. More than 50 of the nation’s leading CEOS are attending today’s forum, bringing their ideas for how the government can use technology to save money and improve performance.
Chief Performance Officer Jeff Zients, a key member of our OMB team, has been focused on making government more effective and efficient by closing the technology gap between the public and private sectors. Zients has been working together with Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra on getting a better return on the government’s technology spending. This is not just about cool gadgets and launching new websites— information technology has the power to transform how government works, and revolutionize the ease, convenience, and effectiveness by which it serves the American people.
Twenty years ago, people who came to work in the federal government had better technology at work than at home. Today, that’s no longer the case. The American people deserve better service from their government, and better return for their tax dollars. This forum is part of our efforts to modernize government and bring us into the 21st century.
Tomorrow, the White House will seek ideas from the public about how government can improve its use of technology at www.whitehouse.gov. I encourage everyone to contribute their ideas on how to make government perform better and help us deliver on the President’s commitment to change how business is done in Washington.
Peter Orszag is Director of the Office of Management and Budget
January 14, 2010
09:00 AM EDT
Americans chose Barack Obama to be President of the United States to change the way Washington works. To do just that, on his first full day in office, the President signed two critical documents that have shaped the Administration: the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government and the Executive Order on Ethics. As a result of the Memorandum on Transparency, we have since Day One, worked to empower the public – through greater openness and new technologies – to influence the decisions that affect their lives. And as a result of the Ethics Order, we have since that same day worked to reduce special interest and lobbyist influence in Washington so the voices of the American people can be heard.
The results have made history. Don’t just take our word for it--earlier this week, respected independent government reform groups issued a report card that deemed this Administration’s work the “strongest and most comprehensive lobbying, ethics, and transparency rules and policies ever established by an Administration.” You can read the report card here. You can also learn more about our efforts over the past year in these critical areas by exploring our Open Government Initiative website, and by reading our recently released Progress Report to the American People.
Here are just a few examples of the Administration's progress to date:
Reducing Special Interest Influence
Closing the Revolving Door: President Obama has prohibited former lobbyists from joining the government and working in agencies they lobbied or on the issues they lobbied about. And when members of his Administration leave government, they cannot lobby the government for as long as he is in office. These are by far the toughest rules of their kind ever adopted and earned an “A” grade from the outside experts in their report card.
Removing Lobbyists from Government Boards and Commissions: The White House informed executive agencies and departments of our aspiration that registered lobbyists should no longer be appointed to agency advisory boards and commissions. These appointees to boards and commissions advise the federal government and shape policy in a wide variety of areas. We have actively recruited average folks from across America to replace the lobbyists on these boards – a dramatic change in the way business is done in Washington.
Opening Up the People's House: For the first time ever, the White House began publishing the names of those who visit the White House—registered lobbyists, unregistered lobbyists, and everyone else. Each month, tens of thousands of records of visitors from the previous 90-120 days are now made available online. This gives the public an unprecedented look at whose voices are being heard in the policymaking process.
Tracking Taxpayer Dollars: Mitigating the risk of fraud, waste, and abuse, the Administration is tracking how the government uses the moneywith which the people have entrusted it with easy-to-understand websites like Recovery.gov, USASpending.gov, and the IT Dashboard. These websites allow American taxpayers to see precisely what entities receive federal money in addition to how and where the money is spent.
Listening to the Public's Voice and Serving Their Interests
Instructing all Agencies to Open Up to the American People: In December 2009, the White House issued an historic Open Government Directive, instructing every agency to take immediate, specific steps to open their operations up to the public. The product of an unprecedented outreach effort to tap the public’s ideas, the Directive instructs agencies to place high-value information to the public online in open, accessible, machine-readable formats. It also aims to instill the values of transparency, participation, and collaboration into the culture of every agency by requiring each agency to formulate - in consultation with the American people - an Open Government Plan and website.
Tapping the Expertise of the Public and Front-Line Workers: As knowledge is widely dispersed in society, the President has called on agencies to offer Americans increased opportunities to participate in policymaking to enhance the Government’s effectiveness and improve the quality of its decisions. For example:
- Education Secretary Arne Duncan embarked on a Listening and Learning Tour to hear ideas on how to strengthen schools.
- The VBA Innovative Initiative enabled 19,000 employees of the Veteran Benefits Administration (VBA) to submit ideas, through a web-based “idea management tool,” on how to better serve the nation’s veterans. Thousands of ideas were vetted and over ten were selected by Secretary Shinseki to help those who defended our freedom.
- The Health IT Online Forum drew on the expertise of health-care stakeholders to uncover new strategies to accelerate the adoption of Health IT and bend the healthcare cost curve.
- Using the same free software behind Wikipedia, the Wikified Army Field Guidehas invited military personnel– from the privates to the generals - to collaboratively update the Army Field Manuals in real time so our servicepeople have access to the best possible information when they need it most.
Democratizing Data to Improve the Lives of Everyday Americans: We launched Data.gov in May with 47 data sets but ended the year with over 118,000 – all freely available in machine-readable format. For example, by making nutritional information available, the Administration empowered parents to plan smarter meals for their families. By making information on the status and causes of airport delays available, the government enabled travelers to better plan their days. By making workplace safety information available, we helped employers keep America’s workers out of harms way.
These are just a few examples drawn from what has been a very busy first year for all of us who are privileged to work in government at this historic time. We know we are just getting started in the fight to promote the public interest. We very much welcome your continued help this year and in the years to come to continue to make the promise of change a reality.
Norm Eisen is Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform, Aneesh Chopra is U.S. Chief Technology Officer
Jesse LeeJanuary 14, 2010
08:45 AM EDT
Note: The opening session of the forum will begin at 1:45, the breakouts at 2:20, and the closing session at 4:00.
Today we're convening the White House Forum on Modernizing Government to bring private sector and federal government leaders together in a discussion about new ways to use technology to streamline government operations, improve customer service, and maximize returns on information technology investments.
It should be an interesting event, designed to genuinely harness creativity and technological innovation to make government work better and make it more user-friendly. Of course the opening session with the President will be live-streamed, as will the closing session, but so will all five breakout sessions in between. You can catch it all at WhiteHouse.gov/live, but we thought it might be a helpful viewing guide if we laid out who’s who and who’s talking about what on what stream:
Stream #1: Streamlining Operations
- Deputy Secretary Moderator: Scott Gould, Department of Veterans Affairs
- CEOs: Sam Allen, Deere and Company; Peter Darbee, PG&E; Jeff Fettig, Whirlpool; Sam Gilliland, Sabre Holdings; Bill McComb, Liz Claiborne; Harold Mills, Zero Chaos; Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo; Greg Page, Cargill; Ron Sargent, Staples; Michael Thompson, Fair Oaks Farms
- Deputy Secretaries and Other Senior Administration Officials: Chris Lu, Cabinet Secretary; Dan Poneman, Department of Energy; John Porcari, Department of Transportation
- From Labor: Greg Junemann, International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers
Stream #2: Streamlining Operations
- Deputy Secretary Moderator: Bill Lynn, Department of Defense
- CEOs: Steve Ballmer, Microsoft; Jeff Bewkes, Time Warner; Scott Davis, UPS; Al Fuller, Integrated Packaging; Charles Harrington, Parsons Corporation; Dan Hesse, Sprint Nextel; Sal Iannuzzi, Monster; Andrea Jung, Avon; Jim Kennedy, T. Rowe Price; Klaus Kleinfeld, Alcoa
- Deputy Secretaries: Lori Garver, NASA; John Berry, Office of Personnel Management; David Ogden, Department of Justice
- From Labor: Colleen Kelley, National Treasury Employees Union
Stream #3: Transforming Customer Service
- Deputy Secretary Moderator: Tony Miller, Department of Education
- CEOs: Tom Adams, Rosetta Stone; Carl Camden, Kelly Services; Mickey Drexler, J.Crew; Angie Hicks, Angie’s List; Debra Lee, BET Networks; Punita Pandey, netCustomer; Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp; Dan Weirich, GW Micro
- Deputy Secretaries: Seth Harris, Department of Labor; Kathleen Merrigan, Department of Agriculture
- From Labor: Bill Dougan, National Federation of Federal Employees
Stream #4: Transforming Customer Service
- Deputy Secretary Moderator: David Hayes, Department of Interior
- CEOs: Dan Bane, Trader Joe’s; David Dougherty, Convergys; Chris Hughes, Facebook; Jeffrey Jordan, OpenTable; Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines; Wendy Lea, GetSatisfaction; Cheryl Milone, Article One Partners; Andrew Mason, Groupon; Craig Newmark, Craigslist; Pam Nicholson, Enterprise; David Segura, Vision IT
- Deputy Secretaries: Bill Corr, Department of Health and Human Services; Ron Sims, Department of Housing and Urban Development
- From Labor: David Holway, National Association of Government Employees
Stream #5: Maximizing Technology Return on Investment
- Deputy Secretary Moderator: Jack Lew, Department of State
- CEOs: John Chen, Sybase Inc.; Jim Crowe, Level 3 Communications; Ping Fu, Geomagic; Dan Fulton, Weyerhaeuser; Rob Glaser, Real Networks; Jeff Joerres, Manpower; John Lee, Lee Technologies; John McGlade, Air Products & Chemicals; Shantanu Narayen, Adobe; John Riccitiello, Electronic Arts; Glenn Tilton, United Airlines
- Deputy Secretaries: Bob Perciasepe, Environmental Protection Agency; Neal Wolin, Department of The Treasury
- From Labor: John Gage, American Federation of Government Employees
Jesse LeeJanuary 13, 2010
09:53 AM EDT
The President has been receiving updates on the urgent situation in Haiti late into last night and throughout the day, and top members of his team have been convening to formulate the government response.
You can also help immediately by donating to the Red Cross to assist the relief effort. Contribute online to the Red Cross, or donate $10 to be charged to your cell phone bill by texting "HAITI" to "90999." Find more ways to help through the Center for International Disaster Information.
Families of Americans living in Haiti are encouraged to contact the State Department at 888-407-4747.
Update: Watch the President's remarks from Wednesday morning below, or read the transcript.
Jesse LeeJanuary 12, 2010
11:05 PM EDT
The President gave the following statement tonight:
"My thoughts and prayers go out to those who have been affected by this earthquake. We are closely monitoring the situation and we stand ready to assist the people of Haiti."
The White House also put out this background information: The President was informed of the earthquake at 5:52pm. The President asked his staff to make sure that embassy personnel are safe, and to begin preparations in the event that humanitarian assistance is needed. The Department of State, USAID and the United States Southern Command have begun working to coordinate an assessment and any such assistance.
The State Department has a post up as well, with remarks from Secretary Clinton and ways to help:
As Secretary Clinton said earlier, the U.S. government will offer assistance to Haiti and others in the region in the form of civilian and military disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.
For those interesting in helping immediately, simply text "HAITI" to "90999" and a donation of $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts, charged to your cell phone bill.
We'll provide more details and opportunities to help as we learn more. To stay up-to-date, follow us on state.gov.
Update: Further background from the White House: The President received another update on the situation in Haiti at approximately 8:30 PM from members of his National Security Staff. The President told them that he expects an aggressive, coordinated effort by the U.S. government. Deputy National Security Advisor Tom Donilon convened a meeting in the White House Situation Room at 10:00 PM this evening with senior representatives from: State, USAID, USUN, DOD, SOUTHCOM, JCS, DHS, Coast Guard, and National Security and White House Staff to coordinate the government-wide response, per the President’s request. The President will receive an additional briefing on the situation early tomorrow morning as more information becomes available. Each agency is working overnight to ensure that critical resources are positioned to support the recovery effort, including efforts to find and assist American citizens in Haiti. Both the White House and the State Department are facilitating donations to the International Red Cross through their websites.
Update II: Yet more background, released in the morning: At 7:15 AM today, the President received two memorandums updating him on the earthquake in Haiti. The President received an update from the DHS National Operations Center (NOC), as well as a memo from the National Security Advisor which described further background, key decisions that have been made, and actions that have already been taken. Currently, the President is receiving an additional update from his National Security Staff. The President will speak about the situation in Haiti at approximately 10:00 AM this morning.
Dan PfeifferJanuary 12, 2010
05:42 PM EDT
A new report today confirms one of Washington's worst-kept secrets – that big insurance companies are fighting tooth and nail to kill health reform that will wrest power from their hands and give it to American families.
According to the National Journal, the nation's largest insurers funneled between $10 million and $20 million dollars through the Chamber of Commerce to fund television ads perpetuating their favorite scary myths about health insurance reform.
The article also exposes that the effort was well underway – and carefully planned to avoid detection – even as the insurance companies were publicly claiming to support reform:
In late October, [insurance lobby President Karen] Ignagni wrote in a letter to the Washington Post defending a health insurer-funded study critical of congressional cost estimates, "Let me be clear and direct, health plans continue to strongly support reform." However, by that time money was already flowing through AHIP to the chamber to fund its negative ads.
The fund raising started last September and continued through December using AHIP as a conduit to avoid a repeat of the political flack that hit the insurance industry after it famously ran its multi-million dollar "Harry and Louise" ads to help kill health care reforms during the Clinton administration.
"AHIP wanted to do this through a third party because of what happened with the Harry and Louise ads," said a lobbying source. "The goal was to get a message out there to make sure the public understood the serious shortcomings of the legislative proposals."
It’s no surprise that the insurance companies who profit from the broken status quo would oppose fixing the system. After all, reform will end insurance industry practices like denying coverage based on preexisting conditions, capping total benefits, and dropping coverage when you get sick and need it most. But this article should serve as an important reminder of the powerful forces standing in the way of change and of whose bidding opponents of reform are doing.
Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director
January 12, 2010
04:15 PM EDT
Serve.gov and the Corporation for National and Community Service continue to spotlight innovative ways that people across the country are answering the call to participate in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service on Monday, January 18th. The MLK Tech Challenge is working to connect IT and web professionals who are willing to volunteer their time with local schools to help them meet their technology needs. Learn more about the MLK Tech Challenge or visit serve.gov/MLKDay to find other Day of Service projects in your community.
Here's the post from Serve.gov's Stories of Service blog:
Everyone has a wish list – we know that many schools have tech wish lists – nagging projects that just never seem to get completed; or fun, new and innovative projects that you need just a bit more capacity to get off the ground. The MLK Tech Challenge is here to help. The aim is simple: to connect schools that have technology needs with IT and web professionals, developers, graphic designers and new media professionals who are willing to volunteer their skills for good, by taking on these technology projects and giving back to a school in need.
Together with Aneesh Chopra from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Department of Education, and Learn and Serve America, we are asking developers to donate their skills for good on the MLK Day of to help schools check off some of those lingering projects.
Suggested projects include:
- Create a tech advice online forum for your school, and help answer questions on it.
- Create an anonymous web form to report bullying.
- Enhance the school’s website by creating blogs or discussion groups for various student groups, such as student council, chess club, drama group, dance troupe, or varsity and intramural teams.
The list is potentially endless. One of the primary goals of the King Day of Service has been that it kicks off a year of service – and along this vein, the MLK Tech Challenge can be a great time to start ongoing projects with members of the tech community.
Getting involved is easy. To learn more, create and register your tech need, or to find a project to get involved in, visit serve.gov/MLKTech. If you are on twitter, we are using the #MLKTech hashtag for this initiative, so tweet away.
Ben RhodesJanuary 12, 2010
11:59 AM EDT
President Obama inherited unprecedented challenges at home and abroad. Facing a global economic crisis, two wars, and diminished American standing in the world, the President immediately went to work refocusing our efforts against al Qaeda, restoring our alliances, renewing our moral leadership, and reinvigorating our efforts to address challenges like nuclear proliferation and climate change.
A year later, America is stronger because of the President’s leadership. The global economy has been pulled back from the brink of catastrophe. We are responsibly winding down the war in Iraq, and increasing our focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan. We have increased the pressure on al Qaeda and struck blows against its leaders and affiliates. The world is more united in addressing the threat from nuclear proliferation, including Iran and North Korea. Important progress has been made in enlisting nations to address the threat of climate change. And the President has strengthened our armed forces, our enduring alliances and our standing in the world.
There is much more work to be done. Difficult challenges remain, and many of the initiatives that have been launched will take years to fulfill. But we have moved forward on a number of fronts since January 20, 2009, and are poised to make more progress in the years to come.
The Global Economy
The President has played a leading role in securing unprecedented global coordination through the G-20, which has helped pull the global economy back from the brink of catastrophe. At Summits in London and Pittsburgh, he worked together with other nations to provide stimulus to the global economy; to coordinate efforts to prevent another crisis from occurring again; and to lay the groundwork for job-creating growth that can be balanced and sustained. And to ensure that there is a broader base for prosperity and development, the United States has helped launch an ambitious new food security initiative that helps combat hunger abroad, while giving people around the world the increased capacity to feed themselves over time.
As a candidate, President Obama pledged to responsibly end the war in Iraq. Shortly after taking office, he put forward a plan to remove our combat brigades from Iraq by the end of August 2010, while transitioning responsibility to the Iraqis for security and governance. That plan is being implemented, with US troops already pulled back from Iraqi cities, a reduction in the total number of US troops in the country, and preparations that are in place for Iraqi elections early this year. There is much work to be done in Iraq, and there will be difficult days ahead. But thanks to the extraordinary service of our troops and civilians, we are leaving Iraq to its people.
Afghanistan and Pakistan
When the President took office, the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan had grown increasingly perilous. Despite being the launching point for the 9/11 attacks, our effort had been under-resourced, and al Qaeda and its extremist allies posed a growing threat. The President’s review of our policy resulted in a new strategy with the goal of disrupting, dismantling and defeating al Qaeda and its extremist allies. The President recently ordered the deployment of 30,000 troops to Afghanistan who will target the insurgency, break its momentum, train Afghan Security Forces, and begin a transition to the Afghans in July 2011. The President has also reached out to our NATO allies, who have provided more than 7,000 additional troops to support this international effort. In Pakistan, we have strengthened our partnership with the Pakistani people and government, which recently launched its biggest offensive against the violent extremists within its borders in years. Huge challenges remain, and our troops are bearing a remarkable burden. But we have a strategy in place that provides the resources that this urgent challenge demands.
Pressuring Al Qaeda Worldwide
President Obama has also intensified our efforts against al Qaeda worldwide. Our increased partnerships in South Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, and Africa have degraded al Qaeda’s leadership. By prohibiting torture and working to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, we are denying al Qaeda a recruiting tool. At home, thanks to the work of our intelligence and law enforcement agencies, plots have been disrupted and terrorists have been apprehended. Yet as we learned over Christmas, more work has to be done. And in the wake of the recent attempted attack over Detroit, the President has ordered specific improvements to strengthen intelligence and aviation security, and he has made it clear that he will insist upon accountability.
President Obama has reinvigorated global efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and to prevent them from being used by terrorists. In April, the President delivered a landmark speech in Prague where he stated America's commitment to seek the security of a world without nuclear weapons. He has restored a relationship with Russia that had become adrift, and signed a Framework Understanding with President Medvedev to reach a new treaty to reduce our nuclear stockpiles and delivery vehicles. As the first American president to chair a meeting of the UN Security Council, his leadership resulted in a unanimous resolution to take a range of steps to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. And he has taken action to meet the ambitious goal of securing all loose nuclear materials around the world within four years, so they cannot fall into the hands of terrorists.
Iran and North Korea
President Obama’s policy of engagement has strengthened our efforts to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, and to seek a denuclearized Korean peninsula. When he took office, the international community was not united, and Iran was in a strong position in the region. After a year of American engagement, the international community is more united than ever before in calling on Iran to live up to its obligations, while Iran is more isolated. Meanwhile, the United States secured the strongest UN Security Council Resolution to date to prevent North Korea’s proliferation activities. In both cases, President Obama continues to present a clear choice: if nations abide by their obligations, the door is open to a better relationship with the international community; if they don’t, they will be isolated.
Energy Security and Climate Change
Through the largest investment in clean and renewable energies in American history, President Obama has begun to reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil, while also beginning to create the clean energy jobs of tomorrow. He has also jumpstarted American leadership to confront global climate change. At the G-20, agreement was reached to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. In Copenhagen, for the first time in history, all major economies embraced their responsibility to reduce emissions, and to stand behind their commitments in a transparent manner. This breakthrough was made possible by steady diplomacy throughout the year with countries like China and India.
Restore our Alliances and Standing
The President believes that America needs strong alliances and partnerships to meet the challenges of the 21st century. To build a new basis for cooperation that lessens the burden on the American people, he has renewed our transatlantic and Asian alliances, pursued more cooperative relations with countries like China, India and Russia, and sought new partnerships from Latin America to Africa. And to restore America’s standing, he has engaged the peoples of the world directly. In a major address in Egypt and a town hall with students in Turkey, the President advanced a new beginning with Muslim communities around the world, which has been followed up with specific partnerships to combat disease and advance opportunity. In a major speech in Ghana, he initiated a new partnership with Africa focused on strengthening African capacity. And in an unprecedented town hall in China, he took questions via the internet and promoted an open internet and society. Around each of these stops, the Administration amplified the President’s message with technology, from online video to social networks to text messaging, connecting with people using the means of communication they use most.
This progress represents the beginning of the Administration’s efforts – not the end. For as the President often says – he has no greater responsibility than the safety and security of the American people. Each of these steps is dedicated to advancing that goal, while supporting the prosperity upon which our security depends.
Ben Rhodes is with the National Security Council
Nancy SutleyJanuary 12, 2010
09:59 AM EDT
Last week I had the opportunity to visit the Everglades and the Kissimmee River region in Florida along with Jo Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Sam Hamilton, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Tom Strickland, Assistant Secretary at the Department of the Interior. Despite unusually chilly temperatures, I had a fascinating visit to a dynamic network of sawgrass prairies, hardwood hemlocks, mangrove islands and cypress forests that make up the largest wilderness east of the Mississippi River and the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. We saw a vibrant and diverse landscape, but also one that is fragile and threatened. The Everglades are critically important to both the State of Florida and the Nation as a whole.
On Thursday I attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the Picayune Strand Restoration project, that will work to preserve and enhance native Florida wetlands by restoring the natural hydrology of the area, and improving the water quality of downstream coastal estuaries. On Friday, I participated in the Everglades Coalition Conference and discussed ways to meet the challenges that growth and climate change place on the long-term sustainability of the Everglades. I enjoyed speaking with so many of the people who are working to preserve this region and was happy to have the opportunity to recognize incredible accomplishments of those dedicated to Everglades restoration and applaud their energetic advocacy.
I conveyed to the people of Florida a simple message: we are committed to the conservation and restoration of this iconic ecosystem and it is a key priority for the Obama Administration. I look forward to continuing to work with this region in the future.
Nancy Sutley is the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality
January 11, 2010
04:16 PM EDT
This past weekend, the President issued a proclamation identifying the week of January 10-16, 2010, as National Influenza Vaccination Week. He encouraged Americans to observe the week by getting the H1N1 flu vaccine, if they have not yet done so, and by asking their families, friends, and co-workers to do the same. Here’s an excerpt from the proclamation:Every American has a role to play in fighting the H1N1 flu. Expectant mothers, children, young adults, and all those under the age of 65 with chronic health conditions are at high risk for H1N1 flu-related complications and should get the vaccine as soon as possible. Those not at high risk can protect themselves and prevent the virus from spreading to more vulnerable members of their families and communities by getting vaccinated as well.This week presents a window of opportunity for us to prevent a possible third wave of H1N1 flu in the United States. I strongly encourage those who have not yet received the H1N1 flu vaccine to do so. Visit flu.gov to find vaccination sites in communities across our country and to stay informed. Together, we can all fight the H1N1 flu and help protect our families, friends, and neighbors.
Read the full proclamation.
In support of National Influenza Vaccination Week, there are a number of national and regional vaccination activities happening this week, including: school-based H1N1 vaccination clinics in Alabama; a day-long vaccination event for the Navajo Division of Health employees in Arizona; a "Spread the Word, Not the Flu" media campaign in Florida; Medical Reserve Corps volunteers coordinating with local health departments, town emergency planners, local police, and emergency medical technicians to provide vaccinations in Massachusetts; free immunizations for children without health insurance in Washington; and a live appearance by the ‘Flu Bug’ at a vaccination clinic in Wyoming.
With so many ongoing activities, it is easy to get involved. Read the blog post from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for additional details about National Influenza Vaccination Week and visit Flu.gov to locate a vaccination clinic in your area, learn more about this week’s events, list your community event, or access online tools and a media kit.
January 11, 2010
12:53 PM EDT
Today, the Associated Press published an article skeptical of transportation stimulus spending's effect on employment. Now, I'm all for a vigilant press to help keep our government effective. But this story is missing the point. This Administration's transportation stimulus spending is putting people to work.
According to AP's analysis, "a surge in spending on roads and bridges has only barely helped the beleaguered construction industry."
That's what my math teachers used to call comparing "apples and oranges." Referring to the "construction industry" when transportation stimulus spending is only designed to help the transportation construction industry.
You see, the highway and road construction industry totals about 258,000 jobs out of an overall national work force of 132 million jobs. If you're keeping score at home, that means only two-tenths of one percent of the American employment is in highway and road work.
And, not only is transportation construction less than a percent of all employment, it's also only a tiny sliver of the total construction picture.
The same can be said of transportation's role in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Transportation stimulus dollars make up only 7% of that nearly $800 billion package.
But, when we drill down to the transportation construction industry, the most appropriate basis for analysis, we find Recovery Act spending making a real difference in people's lives.
Just last week, the Census Bureau reported that highway and street construction spending in November was 5.7% higher than it was in November a year ago, and other public transportation construction spending was up 18.8% from a year ago. By contrast, overall construction spending was down 13% from a year ago, to the lowest level in six years.
And even that rise in public spending conceals the fact that states, counties, and municipalities have all cut their transportation construction budgets drastically.
In absolute terms, overall public construction rose by $8.3 billion in November 2009 from November a year ago. All of that (more than all of that) was accounted for by highways, streets, and other public transportation construction projects, which rose by $9.2 billion.
So, on top of tens of thousands of laid-off workers back on the job, Federal stimulus spending is reducing that drastic shortfall in other public transportation spending, making it possible for tens of thousands of workers to retain their jobs and never even hit the unemployment rolls.
Indeed, DOT-administered stimulus spending is the only thing propping up the transportation construction industry.
I dont' know about the AP, but where I come from, we call that helping.
Ray LaHood is Secretary of Transportation
January 11, 2010
11:38 AM EDT
Here at the White House, we think the Administration has had a remarkable first year making our government more accessible and accountable, including reducing special interest influence in Washington. Today, a group of government reform organizations issued a report card on our first year– and they agree that "President Obama deserves recognition and high praise for the ethics, lobbying and transparency rules put in place for the Executive Branch during his first year in office."
The authors of the report are Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters and U.S. PIRG. They write that "The cumulative effect of the Administration’s actions has been to adopt the strongest and most comprehensive lobbying, ethics and transparency rules and policies ever established by an Administration to govern its own activities." The report recognizes the following milestones (among others):
- The President's revolving door lobbying ban for officials leaving government is "the most-far reaching ever adopted." Grade: A
- The President's "reverse" revolving door rules for officials entering government are the "first-ever" and "innovative." Grade: A
- The President's open government initiatives are "unprecedented" and "go well beyond any efforts undertaken by previous administrations." Grade A.
That’s not to say we agree with everything in the report (or for that matter, that the authors of the report agree with every single thing we have done). There is plenty of room for honest debate about how best to fight special interests and make government more open and accountable. But the President has made doing that a priority, the entire Administration has worked very hard to deliver, and we are pleased that folks can see that “These new rules and policies have begun the difficult process of changing the way business is done in Washington.”
There is of course much work yet to be done--and we will continue working for real change in 2010 and beyond to make government truly accessible and accountable. We welcome the participation and collaboration of the American people in that vital work.
Incidentally, Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra and I will be holding a live video chat on Thursday to talk about the last year and to look ahead regarding the President's efforts to change the way Washington works. We hope you'll come back to WhiteHouse.gov and join us.
Norm Eisen is special counsel to the President for ethics and government reform
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