December 23, 2012 By Dan Lohrmann
As we head into the heart of the holiday season, our thoughts and prayers still turn towards the families and devastated communities following the horrible events in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012.
As expressed so well in the comforting speech by President Obama, our hearts go out to everyone impacted.
“… Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation. I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts.
I can only hope it helps for you to know that you're not alone in your grief, that our world, too, has been torn apart, that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you. We've pulled our children tight.
And you must know that whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide. Whatever portion of sadness that we can share with you to ease this heavy load, we will gladly bear it. Newtown, you are not alone….”
Since that speech, there has been a steady stream of articles discussing various aspects of gun violence and the need for better school security following the tragic events in Connecticut. The stories of the families and children have dominated the news, as they should. But as we head into 2013, many are starting to ask about next steps.
Everyone wants to know: Can we make our schools safe? How far should we go towards metal detectors, armed guards and more?
What seems different is that this new discussion is occurring regarding schools that were considered safe havens by many. Few thought Newtown, a quiet community, would become a target. For this reason and many others, I suspect real change is coming for school security across America.
But I’d like to pose a related question: what about local and state government buildings? Is new or added security needed for these workplaces as well? How about private companies? How will they react?
Change After 9/11
I remember the changes that occurred in Michigan after 9/11. We went from virtually no physical security in state office buildings to guards, cameras and much more over the past decade. Security changes were seen all over the nation from airports to subways to federal government buildings.
Earlier this year, The New York Times asked: How resilient is post-9/11 America? Here’s an excerpt:
“Federal law enforcement and homeland security experts are advising corporate America to build better security into their business practices — to safeguard their goods and services, to recover from attack and, from the companies’ perspective, to boost their brand. ‘When you think of El Al, it’s not for on-time performance, it’s that you’re safe,’ said a senior law enforcement official, referring to the Israeli airline renowned for its security procedures.”
There is little doubt that many things have already changed regarding state and local government building security. Emergency Management Divisions around the nation are familiar with raising threat levels and the readiness state for state emergencies of all types.
Is Workplace Violence on the Agenda?
In addition, a new level of attention has been directed towards workplace violence. Here’s an excerpt from the US Department of Labor website:
“Nearly 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence each year. Unfortunately, many more cases go unreported. The truth is, workplace violence can strike anywhere, anytime, and no one is immune. Research has identified factors that may increase the risk of violence for some workers at certain worksites. Such factors include exchanging money with the public and working with volatile, unstable people. Working alone or in isolated areas may also contribute to the potential for violence. Providing services and care, and working where alcohol is served may also impact the likelihood of violence. Additionally, time of day and location of work, such as working late at night or in areas with high crime rates, are also risk factors that should be considered when addressing issues of workplace violence. Among those with higher risk are workers who exchange money with the public, delivery drivers, healthcare professionals, public service workers, customer service agents, law enforcement personnel, and those who work alone or in small groups.”
As all of the attention (rightfully) addresses school security following Newtown, we need to remember that schools are only one part of this vital discussion in America. How much is too much? Will we lose our national character by over-reacting? What about mental illness and other related topics that can lead to tragic events such as this?
At the same time, we need to be addressing a much wider list of potential government security threats – from cyberattacks to critical infrastructure protection. No doubt, the schools will certainly come first, as we struggle with the tough questions regarding what we can afford.
What are your thoughts on physical security topics at school and work as we head into 2013?
December 9, 2012 By Dan Lohrmann
Ever since the Western States Contracting Alliance (WSCA) was formed in the October 1993 by the state purchasing directors from fifteen states, governments have been saving millions of dollars through cooperative purchasing. By working together on developing contracts with a lead state, the savings can be huge. Joint purchases, on items such as laptop and desktop computers and much more, can ultimately save time and resources by working together with other like-minded government officials from around the country.
Many of these excellent contracting relationships and procurement opportunities have developed over the years at meetings held by the National Association of Purchasing Officers (NASPO). WSCA is now used by many states besides the initial fifteen members. For example, this chart shows over 50% savings on desktop PCs when you use the discounts from the “Premium Savings Packages” available to certain WSCA-participating states from numerous vendors.
And while you are looking at these charts and adding up the savings possibilities, you will see a change in the names that resemble a marriage. That’s right, the graphics for “WSCA” have now become “WSCA/NASPO” on most of their websites. In fact, this development was explained to me this week when I was on a teleconference which discussed multi-state opportunities to save money and be more efficient in our contracting work.
A Huge Infrastructure Opportunity
So why bring up this contracting topic in an infrastructure blog? Because evaulatings vendors and contracts, developing statements of work (SOWs), and managing provisions is a big part of what we do and how well we do it!
On topics ranging from smartphones, byod and mobile device management to cloud computing to consolidating data centers, contracts wording is vital. Of course, we all want to get the best deal possible, while at the same time taking advantage of the experiences of those who have gone before us. There is certainly wisdom with a multitude of advisors, and working with other states to understand their requirements is usually a best practice.
In addition, more and more states are working to provide shared technology services across traditional government boundaries. As we heard at the National Association of Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) conference in October, states are jointly offering services in such areas as cybersecurity, disaster recovery, GIS and more.
What Can You Do Now?
My understanding is that details for specific contracts still need to be worked out with WSCA/NASPO on a case by case basis. This fact sheet on their cooperative purchasing services is a great place to start to learn more about ways to engage WSCA.
Additionally, here is some wording from their FAQ website, if your state has chosen not to participate so far:
“WHAT IF MY HOME STATE HAS CHOSEN NOT TO PARTICIPATE, BUT WE WANT TO USE A WSCA CONTRACT? That question is not as easy to answer. Each state and governmental entity has different statutory, legal and procedural requirements. WSCA contracts are solicited to allow the broadest possible participation, but the real answer depends on your individual legal and procedural requirements. You should check with the Lead State contact listed on the contract page or contact Paul Stembler (contact information below) if you have questions.”
In conclusion, times are changing, and state procurement practices are changing as well. Partnering with WSCA/NASPO on large contracts (and even on some small purchases) makes a lot of sense. Hopefully, the joint buying power of all of the states can make a substantial difference and enable even better products and services to be delivered at lower prices moving forward.
Just as important, CIOs, CTOs, CISOs, IT Directors and other technology professionals need to be aware of what is going on around the country in regards to contract terms and conditions, the latest security and privacy wording in contracts, provisions for getting in (and out) of the cloud and how we can work together to influence vendor product and service roadmaps.
Over the years, we have often heard sales executives from major corporations ask me: Have you looked at what WSCA has to offer?
Now we can answer: I think you mean the cooperative purchasing arm of NASPO. And yes, we’ll give them a call.
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