It was a really tough week in Washington DC. We came into the office Monday morning to learn that in addition to facing a possible government shutdown, that about 30% of the workforce in our department at the VA was moving on, due to a change in contract. While these folks had an idea the contract was being renegotiated, they only learned they would be leaving that morning.
These folks had been here two years and held quite a bit of knowledge, so their exit represented a serious knowledge drain for the organization. Sure we will get new bodies, but that's all they'll be until they get up to speed, are warm bodies. This type of contracting has to play a significant role in keeping government being from being as efficient as it could.
Then on Tuesday the news came of the government shutdown. While our part of the VA was declared to have funding through Friday. One by one other groups within the VA, and other agencies across government went silent, with furloughed workers heading home, turning off the lights and agency servers as they left.
As I tried to stay working I was faced with numerous challenges, people gone that I needed to talk to, and websites that I depended on were reduced to splash pages, including frequently used data.gov. I was dependent on this site for data sets, in my daily work, but more importantly for an upcoming hackathon for veterans in NYC.
With this fresh in my mind, I set out downloading and scraping data from existing VA sites, in hopes of preparing them and publishing via Github, so that hackers have some resources to build web and mobile applications for veterans at The Feast Hackathon in NYC. Not only will the hackathon have limited access to data, VA leadership that was planning on going won't be able to attend, and any press support the VA was going to provide won't be going out. WTF!
Supposedly Monday is our last day, then we face furlough along with the hundreds of thousands government workers. For right now I will just drink a beer, and think deeply about why I'm in Washington DC. More to come...