Fedblog FedblogFedblog
Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

State of the Union: Live Blog

10:16 p.m.

And that's a wrap. For the record, here are all of the segments of the speech I could find that addressed government operations, new entities, management reforms, etc:

"I'm announcing the creation of a Trade Enforcement Unit that will be charged with investigating unfair trade practices in countries like China. There will be more inspections to prevent counterfeit or unsafe goods from crossing our borders."

"I want to cut through the maze of confusing training programs, so that from now on, people ... have one program, one website, and one place to go for all the information and help they need."

"My administration has put more boots on the border than ever before."

"I'm proud to announce that the Department of Defense, the world's largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history - with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year."

"In the next few weeks, I will sign an executive order clearing away the red tape that slows down too many construction projects. But you need to fund these projects. Take the money we're no longer...

Joe Biden, Shredder

The Onion continues its fabulous series on the vice president's activities at the White House, with an item on his generous willingness to share his guitar skills.

FEMA's Correct Address

ABC World News with Diane Sawyer was surely well-intentioned on Monday night when it sent correspondent Steve Osunsami to tornado-ravaged Alabama. But his effort to counsel viewers on how to sign up for an e-mail alert service from the Federal Emergency Management Agency went awry. He sent his millions of viewers to "www.fema.com," a URL also repeated by Sawyer, rather than the true site at www.fema.gov.

On Retirement Processing, Even More Confusion

As the Office of Personnel Management tries to develop a plan to address longstanding problems with delays in dealing with retirement applications, the process seems to be getting even more confusing.

The Washington Post's Joe Davidson reports today that the Army is warning its civilians who are nearing retirement that they could face longer delays in getting interim payments while OPM sorts out the details of their benefits. The Army says it could take six to eight weeks for OPM to place retirees in interim status after they officially retire.

OPM says that statement is "not accurate."

Retirees are placed in interim status while OPM formally processes their retirement applications. It can take up to a year for the agency to approve final benefits.

In a recent column, our Retirement Planning columnist, Tammy Flanagan of the National Institute for Transition Planning, outlined what you can expect in the weeks and months after you retire from government. Right now, the picture isn't pretty.

A BRAC for Everything

When released in 2005, the recommendations of the Pentagon's Base Realignment and Closing Commission made a lot of people unhappy. But that didn't halt the emergence of the term "BRAC-like" among advocates of various recent proposals for reorganizing government.

Last winter, both the Office of Management and Budget and Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., offered proposals for a new BRAC-like body to tap private-sector expertise for selling off excess federal properties. In November the Energy Department's inspector general proposed a BRAC-like body to "to rationalize DOE's research and development laboratories."

On Thursday, the Center for American Progress, a think tank with the ear of the Obama administration, packaged a set of papers on how to reorganize the government's business, trade and science functions to maximize economic growth and job creation. In familiar language, it called upon the "administration and Congress to create a bipartisan commission to consider and then implement these kinds of reforms to our federal science and economic competitiveness programs. The new commission, modeled after the so-called Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission that enabled the Department of Defense to restructure our military bases so effectively, would be able to overcome congressional and executive...

If Only Everyone Wore Diapers

The Agriculture Department will herd kids who attend their day care center to new pastures this spring.

USDA intends to close the child development center available to its employees by May 31 due to "facility issues," which one employee described to Government Executive as "sewer problems."

"Part of it is sewer problems because it is an old building," the employee said. "There are some facility issues that no one really has any control over and we thought we could fix it and make it work, but it's beyond that."

According to a letter to the 68 families impacted by the center's closing obtained by Government Executive, Agriculture is working with the General Services Administration to find a new location for the center prior to May 31.

"Should they not find a new location for the center, we will work closely with you to secure an alternative location for your child's education and care; such as, at other [Children's Creative Learning Centers] or KinderCare centers nearby," center director Janis Barksdale writes in the letter. "We will also try to secure employment for our teachers and staff at nearby centers."

USDA will hold a meeting for parents Friday...

A Monumental Gift

Washington Monument.jpg

The generous donation the National Park Service announced on Thursday from philanthropist David Rubenstein adds another wrinkle to the saga of the nation's capital's 164-year-old struggle to build and maintain the Washington Monument.

Rubenstein, co-founder of the Carlyle Group investment firm, gave $7.5 million to speed repairs to the city's tallest structure after it was damaged in last August's earthquake. He has also made important gifts to maintain pandas at the National Zoo and to preserve the Magna Carta at the National Archives and Record Administration.

But it's also interesting that the window for Rubinstein's gift to repair the monument was created by today's cash-strapped Congress, which in December appropriated money for repairs only on condition that it be matched by private money.

A skim of the Park Service's history of the monument reveals one of the players in the monument's earlier funding crisis was called the Know-Nothing Party. The account reads: "In an elaborate Fourth of July ceremony in 1848, the cornerstone was laid. Lack of funds and the illegal election which placed the Washington National Monument Society in the hands of the Know-Nothings, a political party, caused delay...

OPM Sets New Plan for Fixing Retirement Processing

The Office of Personnel Management has sent a new strategic plan for improving retirement services to Congress, the Washington Post's Joe Davidson reports.

The plan, slated to be unveiled Wednesday, involves taking an incremental approach to modernizing information technology systems, acknowledging that "previous efforts to automate the entire [retirement systems] process have failed." It also proposes to take an "all hands on deck" approach to tackling lingering issues, hiring 56 legal administrative specialists and 20 customer service specialists. Higher productivity would be expected of OPM staffers who process retirement applications.

The agency has had a series of problems in trying to modernize retirement processing systems and address a burgeoning backlog of claims.

Reorganization, Restructuring and Reelection

President Obama certainly has made quite a splash with his jump-started reorganization initiative. He's succeeded in putting Republicans on the defensive when it comes to cutting bureaucracy, forcing them to come up with their own specific plans if they want to take the position that his isn't the right one.


But I wonder if in the process, the president has dug himself a bit of a hole in terms of his reelection effort. Until recently, at least, GOP candidates have been working overtime to beat up front-runner Mitt Romney over his days at Bain Capital, making the case that in some instances, the companies in which he invested cared less about jobs and more about ruthlessly cutting costs (and workers, if necessary) in the interest of improving efficiency and boosting returns on investment.

The assumption has been that the Obama campaign would pick up this line of attack if Romney gets the nomination. But listen to what Obama said to a group of small business leaders on Friday, as he made the case for overhauling government's business- and trade-related organizations and slashing thousands of overhead jobs:

No business or nonprofit leader would allow this kind of duplication...

Nominate a Top-Performing Public Servant -- Quick!

Do you know somebody in government who embodies all the best qualities of public service? If so, there's an award for people like them: the Samuel J. Heyman Service to American Medals program, sponsored by the Partnership for Public Service. But hurry, you only have until tomorrow to fill out a nomination for the 2012 awards.

Medals are awarded to career federal employees in eight categories: Call to Service, Career Achievement, Citizen Services, Homeland Security, Justice and Law Enforcement, Management Excellence, National Security and International Affairs, and Science and Environment. The medals are awarded based on commitment and innovation, as well as an assessment of the impact of the nominees' work on the nation. They come with cash awards between $3,000 and $10,000.

Honorees are feted at a gala dinner in Washington that truly is an inspiring event. The previous winners of the awards are a very impressive group.

Nominations close at midnight tomorrow, so now's the time to step up if you know of a deserving candidate.