Cloud in government

In April Darrell West, Director of Brookings Governance Studies, authored a report on how cloud computing could cut costs for the federal government (see FR post). In the first paper of a series launched by the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings last week, West reviews current federal IT policy and discusses rules, practices, and procedures that limit innovation. Among his recommendations:
  • Public officials should develop more consistent rules on computing across desktop, laptop, mobile, and cloud platforms.
  • The use of video, collaboration, and social networking should be authorized for congressional offices. This would make legislative branch policy consistent with that of the executive branch.
  • Judicial branch computing should be modernized, with greater emphasis on cloud computing.
  • There should be a more uniform certification process for federal agencies.
  • Privacy rights should be placed on the same footing regardless of whether a person is using desktop or cloud computing.

Steps to Improve Cloud Computing in the Public Sector, July 21, 2010
      Report (pdf, 13pp/255kB)
      Executive Summary

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Just in ... on education

In The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, Diane Ravitch, Research Professor of Education at New York University (NYU), critiques current conventional wisdom about the American educational system. She herself has changed positions on what she previously advocated for reform. Her prescriptions for improving our schools:
  • Leave decisions about schools to educators, not politicians or businessmen
  • Devise a truly national curriculum that sets out what children in every grade should be learning
  • Expect charter schools to educate the kids who need help the most, not to compete with public schools
  • Pay teachers a fair wage for their work, not "merit pay" based on deeply flawed and unreliable test scores
  • Encourage family involvement in education from an early age
Some chapter titles: - Hijacked! How the Standards Movement Turned Into the Testing Movement. - NCLB: Measure and Punish. - Choice: The Story of an Idea. - The Trouble with Accountability.

LA217.2 R38 2009
283 pp.
ISBN-10: 0465014917
ISBN-13: 978-0465014910



Seniors: help for financial decisions

Noting that most retirees have acquired significant assets as well as debts, and that cognitive decline afflicts older adults, the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College in a recent brief discusses four policy responses to help seniors make effective financial decisions. The paper lists them from least to most paternalistic:
  • Disclosure. "Legislation to strengthen disclosure requirements has recently been introduced in many different domains....However, we are skeptical that improved disclosure will be effective in improving financial choices."
  • Financial "Driving Licenses." "...require that individuals pass a 'license' test before being allowed to make nontrivial financial decisions, such as opting out of 'safe harbor' investment products. Such proposals would need to overcome several logistical problems."
  • Mandatory Advance Directives. "...require older adults to put in place a financial advance directive before reaching a certain age so that the management of their assets could be transferred to a third party in the event of their incapacity."
  • Regulatory Approval. "Instead of primarily targeting individual investors, regulations could instead target the financial products themselves."

What Is the Age of Reason? July 2010
      Brief (pdf, 8pp/249kB)



Creating jobs

With the U.S. facing its worst recession in the post-WWII era, William Galston of Brookings Governance Studies has presented an agenda that "would demand both elected officials and their constituents to subordinate other objectives, however worthy, to the overriding objective of restarting the engine of economic growth and sustaining robust job creation." His proposed policies:
  • Pro-growth tax reform
  • Public incentives for larger private capital investments in public infrastructure
  • Conditional revenue-sharing by the federal government
  • Jump-starting the stalled trade treaty agenda
  • Pro-growth regulatory policy
  • Facilitating immigrants with advanced education, critical skills, or entrepreneurial capacity to enter and remain in the U.S.
  • Reducing student dropouts and using community colleges to provide skills for future jobs

Priority No. 1: Creating an Agenda to Spur Job-Creating Economic Growth, July 20, 2010, pdf (6pp/291kB), html

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Retirement readiness

In its July Issue Brief, the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) discusses the adequacy of retirement preparation, specifically the issue of retirees "at risk" of inadequate retirement income. The study uses two assessment models EBRI developed--the Retirement Security Projection Model (RSPM) and the Retirement Readiness Rating--and examines:
  • Modeling retirement income adequacy
  • "At risk" levels, by age and income
  • Future eligibility in a defined contribution plan
  • Running short of money
  • Additional savings needed
EBRI divides the "at risk" population into three age cohorts: Early Boomers (born between 1948–1954, now ages 56–62); Late Boomers (born between 1955–1964, now ages 46–55), and Generation Xers (born between 1965–1974, now ages 36–45). Among the paper's conclusions:
The baseline 2010 Retirement Readiness Rating finds that nearly one-half (47.2 percent) of the oldest cohort (Early Baby Boomers) are simulated to be “at risk” of not having sufficient retirement resources to pay for "basic" retirement expenditures as well as uninsured health care costs. The percentage "at risk" drops for the Late Boomers (to 43.7 percent) but then increases slightly for Generation Xers to 44.5 percent.

The EBRI Retirement Readiness Rating: Retirement Income Preparation and Future Prospects, July 2010
      Issue Brief (pdf, 36pp/748kB)
      Executive Summary



Spectrum policy and Congress

In March 2010 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released the National Broadband Plan (NBP), mandated by Congress to ensure every American has "access to broadband capability." It presented issues to be addressed by regulatory changes, FCC policies, and Congressional action. Last month the Congressional Research Service (CRS) published a paper discussing spectrum issues for the 111th Congress. From the Summary:
A challenge for Congress is to provide decisive policies in an environment where there are many choices but little consensus. In formulating spectrum policy, mainstream viewpoints generally diverge on whether to give priority to market economics or social goals. ...economic policy looks to harness market forces to allocate spectrum efficiently, with spectrum license auctions as the driver. Social policy favors ensuring wireless access to support a variety of social objectives where economic return is not easily quantified, such as improving education, health services, and public safety. Both approaches can stimulate economic growth and job creation.
On legislative issues, the CRS report covers spectrum inventory, the Spectrum Relocation Improvement Act of 2009, H.R. 3019 (pdf, 11pp) and Spectrum Relocation Improvement Act of 2010, S. 3490 (pdf, 11pp), incentive auctions, and the Broadband for First Responders Act of 2010, H.R. 5081, (pdf, 8pp).

Spectrum Policy in the Age of Broadband: Issues for Congress, R40674 (pdf, 36pp/324kB), June 21, 2010, from Open CRS

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Social Security options

In 2010, for the first time since the enactment of the Social Security Amendments of 1983, Social Security’s annual outlays will exceed its annual tax revenues, CBO projects. If the economy continues to recover from the recent recession, those tax revenues will again exceed outlays, but only for a few years. CBO anticipates that starting in 2016, if current laws remain in place, the program’s annual spending will regularly exceed its tax revenues, and beginning in 2039 the Social Security Administration will not be able to pay the benefits currently specified in law. If revenues were not increased by that point, benefits would need to be cut by about 20 percent to equalize outlays and revenues. (Director's Blog)
In light of this dire outlook, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) presents policy options for Social Security in a recent study. CBO analyzes 30 options in five categories:
  • Increases in the Social Security payroll tax
  • Reductions in people’s initial benefits
  • Increases in benefits for low earners
  • Increases in the full retirement age, and
  • Reductions in the cost-of-living adjustments that are applied to continuing benefits

Social Security Policy Options, July 2010
      Report (pdf, 67pp/1.8MB)
      Summary (pdf, 4pp/148kB)
      Director's Blog, July 1, 2010

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