Paper Navy Tiger

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We spend $600 billion on defense and this is what we get?


In the middle of the night our U.S. Navy DESTROYER crashes with a ginormous container ship.


The commercial vessel (yes it’s bigger, but it’s a civilian ship) is lightly damaged, but the U.S. Navy BATTLESHIP (after having undergone a recent $21 million upgrade) has 7 dead, the captain injured, and it can barely make it back to its port except with tugboats for extensive repairs. 


WTF!


How does an battleship with the latest sensors and technology collide with a civilian ship–how did such a foreign vessel even get close to our navy ship let alone collide with it–was someone completely “asleep at the wheel?”


This is no joke!–this is our first line of defense in our ability to project force globally. 


What if this had been a terrorist ship laden to the hilt with high explosives or an Axis of Evil Iranian or North Korean fast attack craft or even a Russian or Chinese attack submarine–surprise!


Doesn’t a battleship need to be ever-vigilant and -ready for battle? 


How can we fight sophisticated 21st century militaries with advanced ship-killer cruise missiles, torpedos, and mines, if we can’t even avoid the essential sinking of one our own fighting ships in peacetime. 


Our brave men and women who take up the uniform to serve this great nation–and this country–DESERVE BETTER!


Does this paper navy ship with a punched hole in it represent a larger forgotten or war-weary military in dire need of modernization and genuine readiness to defend the beautiful and free America? 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal via The Guardian)

I Met The Swamp And It Is Us

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So with the election came promises (and hope to some) to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C. and beyond. 


That means redefining the size, scope, and purpose of federal government.


It also means reducing regulations that stifle American business and competitive advantage, placing restrictions on lobbying, and imposing term limits on Congress.


Presumably, it also means addressing mounds of fraud, waste and abuse in the system (many examples of each are out there).  


So here is a funny true story from when I was traveling recently…


A gentleman is riding with me in the elevator and he turns to me to make chit-chat. 


He says, “Good morning. Where you from?”


I smile and respond, “Washington, D.C.,” and add proudly, “the nation’s capital!”


He then asks, “What do you do there?”


Feeling a little perky that morning and with the elevator ride about to come to a stop at the lobby, I quickly blurt out, “Oh, cleaning up the swamp.”


To which, the man responds with the sarcasm galore and probably a good dose of disdain, “Yeah right!” 


There was something so comical about this scene in which I sort of baited this guy and at the same time found the reaction that is all too likely throughout America.


Do people believe and are they committed that we really do the following:


– Change the status quo of big stumbling government


– Right the wrongs done by those who take advantage of the system, its power and big money


– Restrain the ginormous national debt that threatens to consume all of us


– Fairly and compassionately address the nation’s priorities including those for national security, prosperity, and well-being


– Drain the swamp from the horrendous creatures that dwell and thrive therein


And the capital is not built on a preexisting swamp, but it did come and grow, man-made, dark and deep, as a result of the greed and fear that drives too many, far too far. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Safeguarding Our Electrical Grid

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Popular Science (28 January 2013) has an interesting article on “How To Save The Electrical Grid.”

Power use has skyrocketed with home appliances, TVs, and computers, causing a significant increase in demand and “pushing electricity through lines that were never intended to handle such high loads.”

Our electrical infrastructure is aging with transformers “now more than 40 years old on average and 70% of transmission lines are at least 25 years old” while at the same time over the last three decades average U.S. household power consumption has tripled!

The result is that the U.S. experiences over 100 mass outages a year to our electrical systems from storms, tornados, wildfires and other disasters.

According to the Congressional Research Service, “cost estimates from storm-related outages to the U.S. economy at between $20 billion and $55 billion annually.”

For example, in Hurricane Sandy 8 millions homes in 21 states lost power, and in Hurricane Irene, a year earlier, 5.5 million homes lost electricity.

The solution is to modernize our electrical grid:

– Replace a linear electrical design with a loop design, so a failure can be rerouted. (Isn’t this basic network architecture where a line network is doomed by a single point of failure, while a ring or mesh topology can handle interruptions at any given point?)

– Install “fault-current limiters” as shock absorbers so when there is a surge in the grid, we can “absorb excess current and send a regulated amount down the line” rather than causing circuit breakers to open and stop the flow of electrical power altogether.

– Create backup power generation for critical infrastructure such as hospitals, fire stations, police, and so on, so that critical services are not interrupted by problems on the larger grid. This can be expanded to installing solar and other renewable energy resources on homes, buildings, etc.

– Replace outdated electrical grid components and install a smart grid and smart meters to “digitally monitor and communicate home power” and automatically adjust power consumption at the location and device level. Smart technology can help manage the load on the grid and shift non-essential use to off-hour use. The estimated cost for modernizing the U.S. grid is $673 billion–but the cost of a single major outages can run into the ten of billions alone. What will it take for this investment to become a national priority?

I would add an additional solution for safeguarding our electrical grid by beefing up all elements of cyber security from intrusion detection and prevention to grid protection, response, and recovery capabilities. Our electrical system is a tempting target for cyber criminal, terrorists or hostile nation states that would seek to deprive us of our ability to power our economy, defense, and political establishments.

While energy independence has become feasible by 2020, we need to make sure that we not only have enough energy resources available, but also the means for reliable and secure energy generation and distribution to every American family and business. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

>Wake Up To Advanced Technology

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Yet another air traffic controller asleep on the job today–OMG.
Everyone is upset–as they should be–safety and lives are at stake.

Hello.

Come in…

Is anyone down there?

We need to land.

We have an emergency on board (someone is sick or perhaps the plane is in imminent danger or maybe it’s been hijacked).

I guess we need to call back later.

That’s CRAZY!

Silence is not golden, in these cases.

In the government (as in private sector control rooms), there are a lot of round the clock duty stations–watching our airports, our borders, and critical infrastructure.

We rely on people to be alert for any problems and be prepared to step up to the plate to take necessary action to safeguard our nation.

When people are “asleep at the switch,” they are not only abrogating their basic duty (for which they are getting paid), but they are endangering others and this is obviously unacceptable.

We know this intuitively.

Why has this gotten so out of control lately–Is this a new phenomenon or just one that is coming to light now? Are people taking advantage of the system, genuinely exhausted, or disillusioned with their jobs and giving up–so to say?

There are a lot of questions that need to be explored and answered here and I would expect that these answers will be forthcoming.

Because it is not just a matter of reacting with a doubling of the shift or clamping down on the people involved–although that maybe a good first step to stop the proverbial bleeding; but obviously more needs to be done.

For decades, air traffic control (ATC) has relied on controllers on the ground to guide planes on the ground and in the air, despite new technologies from autopilot to Global Positioning System (GPS) and from on-board transponders to advanced cockpit displays.

Many hardworking government and commercial sector employees have been working to change this through modernization of the processes and systems over the years.

By increasingly leveraging advances in technology, we can do more of what people–like the ATCs and many other of our hardworking watchstanders–are currently being asked to do manually.

This doesn’t mean that there is no human (AWAKE! is the expectation) watching to make sure that everything is working properly, but it does mean that the people may be in some instances an augmentation, rather than the primary doers.

In the end, people have got be in control, but technology should be doing as much of the heavy lifting as it can for us and perhaps, as we are a failsafe for technology, technology can in some instances be a backstop for human error and frailty.

It doesn’t make us weak to admit our limitations and look not only for people and process changes, but also for technology solutions to help augment our personal capabilities.

(Credit Picture: PN.PsychiatryOnline.org)

>EA Can Do It

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A number of weeks ago, I was at a CTO Event in DC and got to hear from colleagues about their thoughts on various technologies and IT trends. Overall the exchange was great, and as always, I was deeply impressed with the wisdom and experience of these IT leaders.

However, one particular set of comments set me back in my chair a little. And that was on the topic of Enterprise Architecture. Apparently, a number of CTOs (from a relatively small number of agencies) had not had great success in their organizations with EA and were practically questioning it’s very existence in our IT universe. Yikes!

I believe some of the comments were to the effect (and this is not verbatim—I will put it euphemistically) that these individuals had never seen anything valuable from enterprise architecture—EVER—and that as far as they were concerned, it should be discontinued in their organizations, altogether.

In thinking about the stinging comments from some of the IT leaders, I actually felt bad for them that they had had negative experiences with a discipline like EA, which is such a powerful and transformative planning and governance framework when implemented correctly—with the value proposition of improving IT decision making and the end-user as the focal point for delivering valuable and actionable EA information and governance services—generally what I call User-centric Enterprise Architecture.

Right away after the negative comments, there were a number of CTOs that jumped up to defend EA, including me. My response was partially that just because some EA programs had not been successful (i.e. they were poorly implemented), did not mean that EA was not valuable when it was done right—and that there was indeed a way to build an organizations enterprise architecture as a true beacon for the organization to modernize, transform, and show continuous improvement. So please hold off from dismembering EA from our organizations.

Recently, I was further reassured that some organizations were getting EA, and getting it right, when I read a blog by Linda Cureton, the new CIO of NASA who wrote: NASA CIO: How to Rule the World of IT through Enterprise Architecture.

In the blog, Ms. Cureton first offers up a very nice, straightforward definition of EA:

“Let me step back a bit and offer a simple definition for Enterprise Architecture that is not spoken in the dribble of IT jargon. In simplest terms, it is a planning framework that describes how the technology assets of an organization connect and operate. It also describes what the organization needs from the technology. And finally, it describes the set of activities required to meet the organizational needs. Oh, and I should also say it operates in a context of a process for setting priorities, making decisions, informing those decisions, and delivering results called – IT Governance.”

Further, Ms. Cureton draws some parallels from a book titled How to Rule the World: Handbook for an Aspiring Dictator, by Andre de Gaillaume, as follows:

“· It is possible to manage IT as an Enterprise.

· You can use the Enterprise Architecture to plan and manage the kinder, safer, more cost effective IT world.

· Transformational projects will successful and deliver desired results.

· IT can be a key strategic enabler of NASA’s [and other organizations] goals.”

Wow, this was great–an IT leader who really understands EA and sees it as the tool that it genuinely is for–to more effectively plan and govern IT and to move from day-to-day organizational firefighting to instead more strategic formulation and execution for tangible mission and end-user results.

While, I haven’t read the dictators handbook and do not aspire to draw any conclusions from it in terms of ruling the world, I do earnestly believe that no organization will be successful with their IT without EA. You cannot have an effective IT organization without a clear vision and plan as well as the mechanism to drive informed decision making from the plan and then being able to execute on it.

Success doesn’t just happen, it is the result of brilliant planning and nurtured execution from dedicated and hardworking people.

Reading about NASA’s direction now, they may indeed be looking to the stars, but now, they also have their eyes focused on their EA.

>What Stops Us From Going Cashless

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How many of you ever wondered why we continue to use dollar bills and coins when we have credit and debit cards that make cash virtually obsolete?

I for one have long abandoned cash in lieu of the ease of use, convenience, orderliness of receiving monthly statements and paying electronically, and the cleanliness of not having to carry and handle the cold hard stuff.

Not that I am complaining about money at a time of recession, but seriously why do we not go dollar-digital in the “digital age”?

Before debit cards, I understood that some people unfortunately have difficulty getting the plastic because of credit issues. But now with debit cards, everyone can shop and pay digitally.

Even government run programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP aka food stamps) now uses an electronic card for purchasing no money paper stamps.

It seems that credit/debit card readers are pretty much ubiquitous—stores of course, online—it’s the way to go, even on the trains/buses and candy machines.

From the taxman perspective, I would imagine it is also better and more equitable to track genuine sales transactions in a documented digital fashion than enabling funny “cash business.”

So why don’t we go paperless and coinless and fully adopt e-Commerce?

An interesting article in the Wall Street Journal, 11 Sept. 2009, described a trendy NYC restaurant that was doing just that.

“The high-end New York City restaurant said goodbye to dollars: Tip in cash if you like but otherwise, your money is no good here.”

Others have been going cashless for some time now.

“In the world of online and catalog retailing, credit and debit cards have long been king. And in recent years, a handful of airlines have adopted ‘cashless cabins.’”

As the NYC restaurant owner said, “Suddenly, it struck me how unnecessary cash was…[moreover,] the convenience and security of going cashless are well worth the added cost.”

Further, from the customer perspective, using a debit or credit card lets users optimize their cash flow and earn reward points.

I believe that the day is coming when bites and bytes are going to win over paper and coins.

This is going to happen, when the IRS requires it, the government stops printing it because it always has (i.e. inertia), when retailers recognize that the benefits of digital money outweigh the fees, and when resistance to change is defeated by common sense of modernization.

>Health Care Reform is Technologically Deficient

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The debate on the news, in the streets, and on the Hill these days is health care reform—getting insurance coverage for those who lack it. And while this is an important and noble pursuit, there is something extraordinary absent from the health care reform discussion—and that is technology—in terms of how we get better care to everyone, the uninsured and insured alike?

We are living with a health care system that is functioning devoid of the most basic technology aids—such as electronic medical records, electronic scheduling, e-appointments with doctors using IM or video, electronic prescription handling, and much more.

If the finance industry is at the advanced end of the technology spectrum, the medical industry is at the extreme low end—and how sad a commentary is that: is our money more important to us than our health?

An article in Fast Company in May 2009 called “The Doctor of the Future” states: “This is a $2.4 trillion industry run on handwritten notes. We’re using 3,000 year-old tools to deliver health care in the richest country on the planet.”

The health care system is broken for sure, but it goes way beyond the 45 million American’s that lack insurance.

  • “Health care accounts for $1 in every $6 spent in the United States.”
  • “Costs are climbing at twice the rate of inflation.”
  • “Every year, an estimated 1.5 million families lose their homes because of medical bills.”
  • “Although we have the word’s most expensive health-care system, 24 counties have a longer life expectancy and 34 have a lower infant-mortality rate.”

Based on these numbers, the medical industry in this country is overcharging and under-delivering, and part of the reason for this–as Fast Company states is the lack of technological innovation: one of the paradoxes of modern medicine is that it demands continual innovation yet often resists change.”

New medical technology programs are available that provide for a vastly improved patient experience.

For example, using the Myca platform the user-experience is simpler, faster, and cheaper. Here’s a view of how it would work: “your profile shows your medical team…to make an appointment, you look at the doctors schedule, select a time slot or at least half an hour and the type of appointment (in-person, video, IM), and fill out a text box describing your ailment so the doctor can start thinking about treatment. Typically follow ups are e-visits. A timeline doted with icons representing appointments lets you review the doctors comments, read the IM thread, watch the video of an earlier electronic house call or link t test results.”

Using other technological advances, we could also benefit the patient by being able to:

  • Send electronic prescriptions to the pharmacy and automatically check for drug interaction.
  • Enter a patient’s symptoms and test results and get a comprehensive software generated diagnosis along with the probability of each result as well as other pertinent tests for the doctor to consider.
  • Provide electronic medical records that can be shared securely with medical providers including medical history, exam notes, tests ordered and results, and drugs prescribed.
  • Utilize telemedicine for consultation with medical providers anywhere and anytime.
  • And even apply robots to surgical procedures that result in less invasive, more effective, quicker recovery rates, and with less chance of infection.

None of this is science fiction…and this is all possible today.

Therefore, if we are going to call for a revamp to our health care system, let’s go beyond the coverage issue and address the logjam on quality of care for all Americans.

Absolutely we need to address the 18% uninsured in this country, but while we do that and figure out how to pay for it, let’s also deal with providing 21st century care to all our citizens through the modernization of our medical industry benefitting both the patients and medical providers through more efficient and effective care-giving.