Broadcasting Board of Governors Information War Lost
Losing the Information War Inside BBG
Honest – we can’t make this up:
Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) personnel were treated to this memo from BBG Chief Information Officer and Chief Technology Officer:
From: IBB Notices Admin
Sent: Wednesday, July 20, 2016 10:33 AM
To: IBB Notices Administration
Subject: PLEASE READ – A message from Andre Mendes
First of all let me thank you for your assistance in eliminating non-business and non-essential traffic on out Internet links.
As you know, today and tomorrow will be the most important nights of the Convention in Cleveland and as such your help will be again requested starting immediately.
In order to avoid any bandwidth problems and effective immediately we need you to:
• Completely discontinue non-business use of high bandwidth video sites like ESPN, YouTube, Facebook, Pandora, Netflix, Hulu, and other such services.
• Completely discontinue usage of Internet streaming of convention feeds that are available over broadcast TV in the office.
• Avoid installation of Mobile Phone application updates from 12 PM through midnight.
• Refrain from any large Internet downloads of server or workstation upgrade packages.
• Be extremely thoughtful of overall non-business Internet capacity usage.
We will be actively monitoring bandwidth both in total utilization and for heavy consumption workstations.
Thank you in advance for your collaboration as we go about covering the most important conventions in quite a long time.
Andre V. Mendes
What’s wrong with this memo?
To the outside observer, it would appear that the agency’s Information Technology (IT) environment that the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), its International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), BBG CEO John Lansing and BBG CIUO/CTO Andre V. Mendes are responsible for is not up to the task of full operability. In short, it seems the BBG’s and by extension the Voice of America’s (VOA) IT world is on the verge of overload.
Whether or not the agency overcomes this latest manifestation of being:
- “Dysfunctional” (Heritage Foundation scholar Helle C. Dale)
- “Practically Defunct” (Hillary Clinton)
- “Broken” (US statesmen, diplomats, media experts and journalists interviewed by former BBG member S. Enders Wimbush and former Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty executive Elizabeth M. Portale)
- “Truly Rudderless” or Leaderless (Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ed Royce)
The end result still is:
- “This Broken Agency is Losing the Info War to ISIS & Putin,” House Committee on Foreign Affairs Blog, February 23, 2016.
There is a larger issue at play here:
Lack of Planning = Mismanagement
When was the last national political convention?
Four years ago, right?
One would have to be asking the question: was anyone paying attention to the agency’s IT usage and requirements over the last four years and trying to anticipate the agency’s needs come 2016 and beyond?
Apparently, not, as this memo appears to attest.
It reminds us of the huge power failure the agency encountered some time ago when a contractor hit a major power conduit knocking out the Cohen Building for in a substantial outage lasting many hours and preventing many Voice of America journalists and broadcasters from doing their jobs and sending out their programs.
No schematics on file?
At the time, the upper BBG/IBB management suggested that “institutional memory” (allegedly not committed to documentation and kept on file) took a walk with a series of retirements over a number of years.
This is strange because IBB has been on a hiring binge in recent years that should have been more than enough to compensate for any retirements. At the same time programs and programming positions were being cut by BBG boards on recommendation of BBG/IBB executive staff.
Where is the $777 million BBG annual budget being spent on?
One has to believe that explanations from BBG/IBB senior staffers are a major credibility fail.
The answer is: larger and larger chunks of taxpayers’ money are going each year to support the constantly growing BBG/IBB bureaucracy.
Yes, BBG/IBB executives produced “letters of apology” from the General Services Administration (GSA) and a contractor for cutting an electrical wire, but does anyone really believe that GSA, an outside contractor, or anybody else other than BBG/IBB senior staff are responsible for inability to bring on emergency power supply or inability to solve bandwidth problems?
So now we have BBG/IBB executives pleading/begging with agency staff to reduce their use of technology which represents one of the cornerstones of the agency’s media efforts: its “Digital First” initiative, if you want to call it that.
Figuratively speaking, the effect is that agency employees have their hands tied in just how much technology is at their disposal.
Oh! And please make special note:
“We will be actively monitoring bandwidth both in total utilization and for heavy consumption workstations.”
We see this as a veiled warning: You’re being watched. Woe be to the person whose workstation is seen to be a guzzler of bandwidth. Typical of this agency: looking to place consequences anywhere and upon anyone other than where and with whom it rightfully belongs.
As we see it, BBG/IBB executives from BBG CEO John Lansing downward have a lot of explaining to do as to why the agency is in the situation it finds itself. John Lansing has already been there since September 2015; other BBG/IBB executives have been with the agency for many years.
Here’s another thing:
Isn’t this supposed to be an international broadcasting and media agency?
What that means is the sending and receiving of information. Not only do agency employees have to generate content, one would also think that they have to monitor international reaction to the US political process in this national election season.
And just as important, this is not the only game around. The rest of the world isn’t taking a break from its day-to-day to follow the US political conventions. There is plenty of action around the globe that (one would think) has to be monitored, recorded, stored, processed and reported on via use of the agency’s IT systems.
One would think the folks at any top tier international broadcasting multimedia operation (of which this agency has long slipped from) would find this kind of memo appalling.
One would also think that this kind of admission from a senior IT official in another environment, private or public, would be ample incentive to any oversight board to start looking for “new direction” in senior positions.
But not so with the BBG!
In this case, the operative philosophy is to reinforce everything that makes the agency’s collapse just keep rolling along.