Relationship Building to Encourage Data Sharing at DHS

This guest post is written by Dr. Vinti Agarwal, candidate for the MS in Government Analytics.

The Government Analytics Breakfast forum, held on April 8, 2015, featured Kirsten Dalboe, Program Manager at the Department of Homeland Security.  In her talk titled "Strategies and successes at DHS in persuading data owners to share data for analysis via the Management Cube," Ms. Dalboe made a strong pitch for the role of relationship building in developing the integrated data platform at DHS.

Developing the data platform was essential to deal with multiple queries by Congress and the White House, especially in the areas of human capital, contracting, asset quality and security.  Business intelligence also needed to be increased in the areas of investments, workforce planning, budgeting, security, contracting and real estate on the basis of portfolio, function or mission rather than just organization-specific needs.

There were, however, multiple constraints operating at the same time.  Unlike in the private sector, a profit motivation to share data could be not used.  Further, within DHS there were a number of independent organizations that, although working under a common umbrella, had their individual systems, styles and platforms that they had been working with for various lengths of time.  The complete overhaul of existing systems was infeasible due to limited time and financial resources.

To address all the concerns that stakeholders had with regard to the sharing of data, a set of relationship building initiatives, along with an executive structure, was implemented.  The entire model was built on the three pillars of governance, quality and confidence.  Some of these measures included:

  1. Creation of a three-tiered executive team headed by the Deputy Undersecretary for Management and the Management Cube Joint Program Team with due representation from all the business units handling the operational aspects. The representatives, who met with the program team every two weeks, were expected to give a dedicated involvement of at least 25% in terms of collaborative discussions and following up with data sharing tasks within their respective organizations.
  2. Signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by all lines of business for the sharing of data and agreement on certain data sharing principles followed by data interface control documents to ensure continued commitment.
  3. Harmonization and standardization of different business terms and the creation of a logical and conceptual data model so that everyone was on the same page as to what the terms meant.
  4. Continued use of the existing Oracle platforms, with which certain businesses had built business intelligence tools early on, to avoid any data transfer issues.
  5. Avoidance of the need to recreate data and to stick with what one had. A clear communication of the need to include summary and not transactional data from different business units was made.
  6. Emphasis on the need to have a data-sharing relationships based on team spirit, teamwork and non- competition.   
  7. Creation of a simple, 6-question taxonomic structure to give a basic understanding of how data needed to be structured so that all relevant questions could be answered.  Further, as long as the basic data architecture was in place, and the time stamping of the data was there, no demands were made to make the data conform to a particular reporting cycle.  
  8. Emphasis on the principle of not making any judgement calls on account of the data being submitted. To address any caveats on the quality concerns of data being submitted by the business units, a 100 character communication of their subjective assessment of the data was permitted that would be published along with the respective data used in any report.
  9. Provision of an opportunity for review of the data by an analyst specialized in that line of business to address any concerns by various organizational units about whether the data was being used properly.
  10. Frequent and continued communication with stakeholders and participants.

The success of the exercise demonstrated that it is important that stakeholders' concerns are addressed not only to avoid resistance but to make them active partners.  The vital ingredients to get the task accomplished at DHS was a combination of clear and continued communication at all levels, the justification of the importance of each task, due opportunity to understand and appreciate the respective stances and efforts of all stakeholders and, finally, the right degree push efforts.  That is a model worth duplicating across most organizations involved in building data sharing platforms.


The Honorable Henry Waxman Addresses Symposium

The Honorable Henry Waxman addressed Wednesday night’s symposia as part of the JHU Leadership Lecture series. 

 Mr. Waxman recently retired from Congress, after having served for 40 years representing the 33rd Congressional District in California.   Mr. Waxman was a prolific leader on the Hill in the areas of the environment, healthcare, energy, and technology.  He served as Chair of the powerful House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, as well as the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. His legislative accomplishments are numerous, but some of the highlights include: the Infant Formula Act, the Ryan White CARE Act, the Drug Price Competitition and Patent Term Restoration Act, the Clean Air Act, the Food Quality Protection Act, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program,  the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, and most recently the Patent Protection and Affordable Care Act. 

Mr. Waxman shared that he entered government with the conviction that there are two essential roles for government:  to provide all citizens with the opportunity to succeed and to provide a safety net that recognizes the humanity of all citizens.   Thus, he decided to focus early in his career on domestic issues, and in particular health care and environmental policy.

Mr. Waxman discussed how as a liberal Democrat, he sought out the support and opinions of Republicans, not simply for the sake of compromise, but with the  main goal of sharpening and improving policy.  He noted that he had to battle with a fellow Democrat John Dingell over automobile emission levels in the Clean Air Act amendments and that the bill passed because a Republican president, George H.W. Bush, made it a priority.  Some of his proudest legislative accomplishments, Mr. Waxman recounted, came under President Reagan with the expansion of Medicaid, and his bipartisan collaboration with pro-life Republican Henry Hyde, who became his close ally on prenatal care legislation.  He also worked closely with Republican Senator Orrin Hatch on the Orphan Drug Act.

Acknowledging the increasing partisanship in Congress, the origins of which Mr. Waxman traces back to Newt Gringrich, he concluded that he still holds an optimistic view of Congress, especially in its capacity to educate the public through hearings.  He recalled holding the first ever hearing on what was then a new epidemic, AIDs, in the early 1980s as well as on Big Tobacco in the 1990s.  He also reiterated the positive role of Congress in stepping in to fill in the gap of market failures, such as what we saw most recently in the passage of the Affordable Care Act.



Paid Internship Opportunity NADA

Ivette Rivera, a member of the Alumni Advisory Board, shared an opportunity for a paid internship at NADA.  Please apply online, mention your JHU affiliation and Ivette's name.  




Public Management's Nomzana Augustin was on the winning team of the 2015 NASPAA Student Simulation Competition. See Below:

The National Winner of the 2015 NASPAA Student Simulation Competition is Team CRAB that competed at the National Capital Region in College Park, Maryland. The team is comprised of:


•             Nomzana Augustin, Graduate Program in Public Management, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University

•             Zachary Blackburn, Frank Batten School at the University of Virginia

•             Christophe Combemale, Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University

•             Mark Rucci, School of Public Policy & Administration at the University of Delaware


These teammates showed exemplary understanding of health care challenges and current policy concerns and showed a mastery of the technical simulation and displayed sophisticated reasoning to craft composite policies that substantially benefit health care for the long-term which have maximum potential to be implemented in a politically charged world.


The team understood the technical model, but instead of trying to obtain the highest score on the model, they aligned their thought process with stakeholder concerns and the current policy environment to affect actual change. They made sophisticated tradeoffs that would allow their policies to be organizationally and politically feasible.


To be considered for the national winner, each of the 5 regional winners showed mastery of the technical simulation, but this team combined their understanding of the model, with their knowledge of systems, organizational dynamics, and political will. This confluence of factors created a scenario that fixed bottlenecks in the system, balanced public and private funding and created solvent hospitals. This team used a technical model to view the universe of the health care challenges and identify a realistic and possible solution to the problem.



JHU Panel Addresses "Do Jews Have A Future in Europe"

Fro L to R: Geoffrey Harris, Justin Geist, Benjamin Ginsberg, and Robert GuttmanThe question of whether Jews have a future in Europe is an, unfortunately, timely one, as anti-semitic attacks are increasingly taking place on European soil, most notably in Paris and most recently in Denmark.  A panel convened at JHU this afternoon to discuss what is happening in Europe and, if indeed, European Jewry should considering leaving Europe.  Benjamin Ginsberg, the Chair of the Center and David Bernstein Professor of Political Science at JHU, opened the discussion by reframing the question, noting that it is perhaps better to ask, "do Jews want to have a future in Europe?" because a lot of cities in Europe have become increasingly uncomfortable for Jews. That is, while the situation for Jews is nowhere near the level of say, the days preceding Kristallnacht, it is becoming abundantly clear that it is harder for Jews to be openly Jewish in Europe without being harassed.  Ginsberg offered three reasons behind the growing anti-semitism in Europe:

1) The rise in the Muslim population, the majority of which, as surveys show, dislike Jews.  The root of most of the anti-Jewish violence in Europe is done by Muslims, who are not as well integrated in European countries, as say, immigrants in the United States, thus they highly identify with causes from their home countries.

2)  The emergence of anti-zionist discourse, principally from the Left in Europe.  At the end of WW II, socialists in Europe supported the creation of the state of Israel, seeing it as the embodiment of the socialist vision.  There was a major shift among the European Left after the 1967 War, when Israel emerged as a regional power and as part of the US security empire.  The Left saw the arrival of Muslim immigrants in Europe as a source of power, mobilizing new voters by capitalizing on the one thing they had in common, anti-zionism. 

3) European welfare states have difficulty confronting violence, whereas radicalized Muslim groups make violence their recruiting tool.  Europeans in charge of police and security forces are unable to respond to serious violence.

Dr. Ginsberg concluded that he thinks Jews probably don't want to have a future in a Europe which requires that they hide their Jewishness to stay safe.  

Justin Geist, a professor at George Mason University, believed that you can't address the problem of Jews in Europe without connecting it to a broader question of do immigrants have a future in Europe?  By isolating attacks against Jews as primarily anti-semitic in nature, he argued, Europeans lose sight of the larger problem that they all must face.  For Geist, Europe may be uncomfortable for Jews, but it is also uncomfortable for all minorities, who are not absorbed and assimiliated into the culture.  Similarly, Geoffrey

A full room of over 45 attendees listened to the panel discussion

 Harris, the Deputy Head of the European Parliament Office with the US Congress believed that all minorities are experiencing difficulties in Europe.  He noted that anti-semitism is hardly new but is part of the Jewish experience in Europe.  The inoculation against anti-semitism of the post war years has now worn off, and Jews do have every reason to feel threatened he argued.  That said, he finds anti-semitism in Europe to be part of a larger problem or question:  "Is multiculutural Europe going to survive?" as he put it.  

The panel discussion was followed by a lively question and answer period in a room filled to capacity -- a very good exchange of views took place, led by moderator Robert Guttman, who teaches at both JHU and George Mason University.