Friday, November 26, 2021

Something to Know - 26 November

This very short article from today's WAPO caught my attention this morning.  We currently have a collage of military services which are in place to address specific needs and physical areas of our national defense.   If we agree that times do change and that it is a good idea to think "out of the box", maybe we should kick around this proposal to set up a service academy to address the needs related to our understanding of technology, how it affects our everyday lives, and what we need to do to address matters of national security.   Every sector of our federal government has some department involved with technology concerns, and some are more related to efficiency, and others are on the lookout for hackers and weaponized methods.   I see a good need for a central point to bring most or all of those various departments under one roof, and utilize an academy to attract and keep the best to serve the community.   I, for one, saw something similar, at a business where I worked.   Each corporate department had its own technology group, its own method of data collection, and its own separate word processing application.   It was a giant mess.  In trying to operate efficiently, it could not.  Different departments could not transfer information from one to the other because each one had different data collection terms for the same thing, and some had different word processors, and could not even share written documents. There was no central system, and many operated on a databases on personal computers.   It was a technological disaster.   New blood came in and immediately saw the problem, but it took years and a lot of gnashing of teeth as all the various departments were yanked out of their own virtual private networks, and were all morphed into one homogeneous system of technology.   Can you imagine that this giant corporation operated for many years with people on different floors and departments sharing little floppy discs....(remember those 3.5 inch gizmos....and maybe you don't)?.   It really did not have to happen.  Had there been a central force that brought in talented candidates, and created a place where all systems of technology and new developing systems could be taught.   This "place" could study and bring forth the best methods under a unified branch for learning how to best meet and protect our information and technology needs.

Opinion: Does the U.S. need a West Point for tech-savvy civil servants?

The U.S. government has a lot to learn about modern technology. That means our federal agencies need teachers, and a new Government Accountability Office report suggests a way to develop a corps of them.

A GAO study released last week responds to the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence's endorsement of a national academy to train future civil servants in digital skills. The challenge, which the GAO had identified already, is enormous and urgent: Technological know-how is essential for everything from smooth interaction with the public to effective internal organization to robust cybersecurity. Clunky legacy systems need updating; artificially intelligent tools need developing. As far back as 1997, the GAO designated information security as a government-wide high-risk area. In 2021, that vulnerability remains on the list — and the threat looms ever larger.

The solution, however, is less clear. The civil service is aging. Right now, 6 percent of the national government workforce is under 30 years old, and for IT professionals that percentage is halved. Industry offers better pay, and it also offers faster hiring of eager soon-to-be graduates. The onboarding process for one government employee, the GAO found, took 19 months. Then there's the matter of what happens once you've managed to make it into the building. So-called digital-ready hires may be wasted if agencies aren't ready for them — which happens much too often in government workplaces that haven't spent any time figuring out how technologies relate to their missions.

Certainly, standing up an academy modeled after the military institutions could help with some of these problems, if the education were paid for and the hiring process streamlined. Forging a digital culture at these agencies, as the GAO notes, will also be essential; appointments for political leaders and promotions for career ones should take tech-savviness into account. It is also worth considering another possibility: With so many excellent STEM schools already out there, investing more in them may be in order before crafting from scratch a separate, siloed entity to foster civil servants. ROTC-esque scholarships at existing universities, for instance, could draw in a bigger, broader group of interested individuals while focusing on the expertise they'll need to work in government.

The good news is that by requesting the GAO report, Congress is asking the right questions. Now, lawmakers and federal agencies alike must look for — and prioritize — the right answers, instead of continuing to allow the government to lag where it ought to lead.

Stupidity and Ignorance based on cultural defiance, hatred, and fear is not, and cannot be, our destiny.  So those Republicans who are MAGAneers should follow their requested destiny and not vote in 2022 or 24.

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