D.C. Lawmakers Approve "Living Wage"
Lawmakers in D.C. pushed through the final approval on Wednesday for a new bill requiring some large retailers to pay their employees a 50 percent premium over the city’s minimum wage. This decision was made in light of Wal-Mart’s warning that the law would jeopardize its expansion plans in the city.
The big box retail giant linked the plans for three new stores in the District to the proposal. But the ultimatum in no way changed the legislators’ minds. The 8 to 5 roll call matched the outcome of an earlier vote on the matter, taken before Wal-Mart’s warning.
Council member Vincent B. Orange, a lead backer of the legislation says, “The question here is a living wage; it’s not whether Wal-Mart comes or stays,” he goes on to say, “We’re at a point where we don’t need retailers. Retailers need us.” He also added that the city did not need to kneel to threats.
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Wal-mart has spent the last three years desperately wanting to enter the city. Activists celebrated the decision made by lawmakers on Wednesday’s, saying the company, which reported a net income of $17 billion on sales of $470 billion in its most recent fiscal year, could absolutely afford to pay higher wages. But the council action threatens to halt several developments anchored by Wal-Mart in neighborhoods long underserved.
After the vote, Wal-Mart spokesman Steven Restivo says, “Nothing has changed from our perspective.” His statement reiterates that the company will abandon plans for three un-built stores and “review the financial and legal implications” of not opening three others under construction.
How innovation is transforming government
According to Washington Technology’s Top 100 list, Leidos is the largest IT provider to the government. But as Lieutenant General William J. Bender explains, “that barely scratches the surface” of the company’s portfolio and drive for innovation.
Bender, who spent three and a half decades in the military, including a stint as the U.S. Air Force’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), has seen action in the field and in technology during that time, and it runs in the family. Bender’s son is an F-16 instructor pilot. So it stands to reason Bender Senior intends to ensure a thriving technological base for the U.S. Air Force. “What we’re really doing here is transforming the federal government from the industrial age into the information age and doing it hand-in-hand with industry,” he says.
The significant changes that have taken place in the wider technology world are precisely the capabilities Leidos is trying to pilot the U.S. Air Force through. It boils down to developing cyberspace as a new domain of battle, globally connected and constantly challenged by the threat of cybersecurity attacks.
“We recognize the importance of the U.S. Air Force’s missions,” says Bender, “and making sure they achieve those missions. We sit side-by-side with the air combat command, intelligence surveillance, and reconnaissance infrastructure across the Air Force. There are multiple large programs where the Air Force is partnering with Leidos to ensure their mission is successfully accomplished 24/7/365. In this company, we’re all in on making sure there’s no drop in capability.”
That partnership relies on a shared understanding of delivering successful national security outcomes, really understanding the mission at hand, and Leidos’ long-standing relationship of over 50 years with the federal government.
To look at where technology is going, Bender thinks it is important to look back at the last 10 to 15 years. “What we’ve seen is a complete shift in how technology gets developed,” he says. “It used to be that the government invested aggressively in research and development, and some of those technologies, once they were launched in a military context, would find their way into the commercial space. That has shifted almost a hundred percent now, where the bulk of the research and development dollars and the development of tech-explicit technologies takes place in the commercial sector.”
“There’s a long-standing desire to adopt commercial technology into defense applications, but it’s had a hard time crossing the ‘valley of death’ [government slang for commercial technologies and partnerships that fail to effectively transition into government missions]. Increasingly we’re able to do that. We need to look at open architectures and open systems for a true plug-and-play capability. Instead of buying it now and trying to guess what it’s going to be used for 12 years from now, it should be evolving iteratively.”