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A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

The GS System Cannot Be Fixed

The General Schedule salary system has become an impediment to good government. The annual analysis to compare federal and nonfederal salaries has lost credibility. No president has accepted and approved the increases to close the pay gap since the Federal Employee Pay Comparability Act was enacted in 1990. Salaries for high-demand, critical occupations are not competitive. And in light of the budget battles, there is no reason to believe government will ever fund the classification system at the level to administer it as expected when the Classification Act of 1949 was enacted.

No component of the GS system is functioning today as originally intended. Bureau of Labor Statistics pay surveys do not make it possible to state that a job is paid at market, above market, or below market. Nor can the Office of Personnel Management assure employees they are paid fairly relative to others working in the same office (that is to say, each job is in the correct grade). The funding is not adequate to study these issues. The anecdotal evidence makes it clear the components of the system deter applicants and impede agency operations.

When FEPCA was enacted, the expectation was that the gaps across the country...

Why Some People Can Get Away With So Little Sleep and Others Can't

In a crazy sleep experiment a few years ago, I reduced my sleep from eight hours to a little more than four. I managed to do it by following a polyphasic sleep schedule, where I got a few hours of sleep at night and took short naps during the day. I was quite proud of myself—but then I discovered that some people can get by with even less sleep, without major difficulties.

For many decades scientists have been aware that some humans—byone estimate as much as 1% of the population—seem to be resistant to sleep deprivation. Despite their drastically reduced hours of sleep, these exceptional people show no apparent symptoms of sleep deprivation and often lead healthy, successful lives. From Winston Churchill to Marissa Mayer, there are plenty of examples of successful people who manage to get by on four hours of sleep a night. But how?

The Enigma of Sleep

Despite our ability to understand biological processes in great detail and even though a sleep-like state is observed in nearly all animals, the inner workings of how we sleep remain poorly understood. What we know is that sleep is critical to our well-being: Sleep-deprivation studies...

What the Private Sector Can Teach Us About Open Government

The buzzword of the moment among local leaders is “open government,” and chief information officers are attempting to make the hype a reality. In the Center for Digital Government’s 2014 Digital Cities and Counties surveys, one of the top priorities for CIOs at the local level was “open government/transparency/open data.”

Yet, despite the strategic focus on open data, a recent Pew survey on views about open government found that only 7 percent of Americans think local governments share data effectively.

So why the failing grade? And where is the disconnect? The answers lie in the evolution of open data in local government.

Where We Are

Until recently, open government was synonymous with transparency, which emphasizes government accountability in informing citizens about public operations. For example, local governments can achieve transparency goals by sharing public documents via a Web portal or sharing video footage of government meetings on the organization’s website.

Transparency, of course, is important, but it is more about pushing information to the public than collaborating with citizens.

Local governments that go beyond transparency can often be described as participatory. Participation occurs when government opens mechanisms for feedback so that policies can be informed by...

The Fantasy of a Four-Day Workweek

Essays about the fantasy of a four-day, 32-hour workweek seem to follow a certain formula: Start with an eminent thinker’s starry-eyed prediction of how many hours we’ll be working at some point in the future—sometimes it’s John Maynard Keynes, who said there’d be a 15-hour workweek by 2030, though other standbys are Herman KahnBertrand Russell, and even, occasionally,Richard Nixon—and then remind the reader that America remains stuck in the 40-hours-a-week mindset, despite the fact that workers would be happier and more productive if Fridays were grafted onto the weekend. End with a sigh: If only companies were wise enough to see that everyone can, and should, work just four days a week.

But, in truth, mandating a four-day workweek is the dream of a limited set: well-educated, highly-paid workers who manipulate symbols all day—not the nation’s workers as a collective whole. "It's very easy for folks sitting back in their chairs to say, ‘Yes, you need to be on a part-time schedule, or a four-day, 32-hour schedule,’ without thinking about the extent to which such folks want the income and are willing to put up with the hard hours...

When Do Most Americans Think They'll Actually Retire?

The ideal age to retire falls somewhere between the ages of 60 to 65, according to a new Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll. Retiring then works best, poll respondents say, because it’s the sweet spot for both age and finances. People are young, healthy, and financially secure enough to enjoy their time.

“You’ve got at least 20 good years after that to pursue whatever else would make you happy,” says Barbara Arganbright, 60, of Parma, New York, who plans to retire within the next five years.

But poll respondents split on the question of whether they’ll be able to get to a secure retirement. Only 29 percent of those surveyed expect to retire within that ideal 60-65 age range, and those differing expectations fall mostly along class lines, especially when it comes to education and income. Half of those who describe themselves as middle class and two-thirds of those in the upper class expect to retire at their ideal retirement age. About a third of those who identify in the lower or lower-middle class expect the same.

Retirement Age: Ideal vs. Expected

National Journal/Allstate Heartland Monitor Poll XXIII

Respondents making at least $100,000...